Friday, May 22, 2015

Retrospective: Leisuretown

When I started thinking of the Retrospective on Perchance to Dream, I started thinking about other comics I'd like to go back to.  Retrospectives tend to be comics that recently ended, but expanding it out and covering older strips seems like a good idea, and would separate them away from the Not-So-Wild Reviews that are more for active comics.

And the first comic I thought of for this treatment, after Perchance to Dream, was Leisuretown.

Much of it is the fact that I have, until this day, haven't found anything quite like Leisuretown.  I suppose Cat and Girl kind of comes close, but it's only kind of a glimpse that is Leisuretown.  It feels completely unique, and it's probably one of my favorite comics of all time.

The uniqueness starts with the art.  It's a photocomic, which isn't strictly rare, but uncommon enough to make note of, but it's more than that.  It's entirely made up of those gumby like rubber toys with the holes behind every joint that bends every which way.  ALL of the characters are these, and there is quite a variety.  Yes, it will repeat them over the course of the various stories, but they always seem different.  It really is a testament to the artist's skill that emotion and movement can be show with such strangely static figures.

But static figures on a static background would just be pretty good, Leisuretown goes one step more.  They are photoshopped into complex, real world scenes.  Layered images that often feature multiple of the same character puttering about, sound effects that help push the idea of movement and more than a few of the props makes the entire thing almost unbelievable.  It's hard to remember that this is just a photo comic, and an example of an artist's hard work pushing something so simple beyond what most others would.  And not just for one image per page, but several, and for hundreds of pages.

All that hard work produces a, um, interesting comic.  It looks like it should be a humor comic.  The whimsical character designs, the visualized sound effects and the exaggerated movements all point in that direction.  There's even a strain of, well, crass humor, focusing on the words and phrases that would make George Carlin proud.  It's very similar to It Hurts! in that way, but it's not sincere about it.  In fact, most of the time the joke is that the person using this language is, well, an idiot.  Or at the very least, overestimates their worth.  It's more like it's making fun of the people who use this kind of crass humor to try to be funny, or shock, or whatever.  It's funny because they aren't and don't quite know it.

It's also part of the many themes of the comic that the various stories and shorts play with.  Often main characters find themselves with few prospects for the future, often turning to crime, drugs, violence and suicide to ease the pain.  It's dark in that sense, but there's almost always an odd hint of hope in their lives.  Not always, of course, there are some stories that don't quite fit the mold, but they work well in their own ways.  Much of the comic is more like the "best rants" one reads, at least as one reviewer put it.  There is an art form to such amazing rants, and my formative internet years were exposed to it regularly, which is probably why I enjoy it so.

In the end, I recommend it because I do so enjoy it and consider it great, but I know it's not quite for everyone.  If you think you can handle the more rantish nature of the comic and the pre-facebook days of the internet, I do have a couple things to comment on.  One:  The comic was designed for back when 640x480 was still considered standard resolution, so the images might be a bit small, especially with that frame around them (you can open them in a new window without the frame).  Two:  Scroll to the bottom of the list of stories, down to the giraffe hanging itself, and start from the bottom up.  Not because QA Confidential isn't the best story, it is, but because it is the best story and the rest of the comic will feel a bit of a let down if you start there.  Start at the bottom and work your way up.  If you can get through the essays, then you should be able to stand the rest of it, and you're in for a treat.

One last thing.  Last week, I mentioned that this was an "other project," well it is, as the creator of Leisuretown is one of the forces behind Jerkcity's creation and continuance.  I'm amazed that comic is still updating, but seriously, no reason to go back, read one Jerkcity strip, and you've seen most of them.

Next time, um, not sure.  We'll see.  Until then kiddies.

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