Thursday, April 21, 2011

For the Ladies: DEMO

It’s been a week since an update. Sorry about that. I’ll try to update more regularly from now on.

Anyway, here’s the DEMO review:

FOR THE LADIES: I feel that this next series’ concentration on characters and relationships, as well as Cloonan’s spin on the manga style art, make it a good fit for women interested in comics. But there’s still a lot in it that boys will enjoy as well.

DEMO is a 12 issue mini series by Brian Wood (DMZ) and Becky Cloonan (American Virgin) that was released between 2003 and 2004. Wood’s description in the back of the DEMO collected edition really embodies what DEMO is all about. So I’ll let him explain it:

“I thought up DEMO back in 2002 in a car in upstate New York. I had spent some time a few years before writing teen superheroes for Marvel Comics, and I wanted to take a stab at something similar, but something I would have more control over; to interpret the concept of “young people with power” the way that I wanted to. My first ideas weren’t too far removed from standard comic book stereotypes, but as I sat down and began to write the scripts, the concept evolved. My definition of “superpowers” changed to more universal ideas about power and control, the characters grew up from rebellious teenagers to complex people in their twenties and thirties.”
Apart from the writing, Becky Cloonan’s art has “incredible range and versatility” as Wood puts it. Every story has a different art style that compliments the storyline. Her art is so versatile that, on first glance, you might believe the story to be drawn by a completely different artist.

A second collection of DEMO (this time only 6 issues) was released in 2010. Let me say right off the bat that if you’re interested in DEMO and don’t have the money to buy both collections I would read the second one. Its shorter ands shows the growth of both the writer and artist in the 6 years between the two collections. (Since it’s a collection of short stories there’s no continuity from one issue to another). The second collection (in my opinion) has much stronger composition and storytelling than the first. Not that the first collection is terrible. The second is just better. Or, if the whole collection doesn’t interest you, browse your local comic store and see if they have back issues you can buy individually. (The stories were meant to be read as a single issue anyway).

Now that you know what DEMO is about, let’s take a look at the individual stories.

DEMO Vol. 1 Story Breakdowns

1: NYC – I feel like this story was a great introduction to the types of stories that the creators were trying to tell: “young people with power.”
2: EMMY – Cute manga style art mixed with a simple story told with a minimal amount of words.
3: BAD BLOOD – I liked the idea, but I found the story to be far to explanative in the writing. Instead of finding a creative way to show the back-story, Wood just had the characters talk about it. (Which just felt very unrealistic.)
4: STAND STRONG – I liked it. Great story about growing up, in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for manner.
5: GIRL YOU WANT – Interesting idea, but it took me a couple of reads to really get the most out of it. (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)
6: WHAT YOU WISH FOR – Very creepy. Love the art. The story has a great Steven King feel to it.
7: ONE SHOT, DON’T MISS – My least favorite. Which is weird because it was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2005 for best single issue. (An Eisner is the award for excellence in the comic medium). It’s a war story, so maybe it’s just me.
8: MIXTAPE – Very pretty story. My only problem with it was the use of suicide as a problem solver.
9: BREAKING UP – It’s a break up story (go figure. It’s a pretty good one non-the-less). This is where the collection starts to lose its supernatural-ness. Not that I’m opposed to comics that don’t have super anything, but the supernatural-ness really tied the collection together. According to Wood, this is just a spontaneous creative evolution, with the concept of “super powers” changing with each story, but in my opinion, to totally abandon the supernatural qualities really disconnects the collection.
10: DAMAGED – It starts off with super powers and ends without them. I didn’t really get this one. Another break in the theme.
11: MIDNIGHT TO SIX – No supernatural qualities that I could see. It was a good story, but I just didn’t feel that it had a reason for being in this particular collection.
12: MON DERNIER JOUR AVEC TOI (MY LAST DAY WITH YOU) – A story told with a poem and comic art. I loved the idea, but the poem just didn’t work for me.

DEMO Vol. 2 Story Breakdowns

*Some of these stories took the super power theme and instead turned them into amplified disorders (issues 2 and 3), which I thought was an interesting creative twist on the super power theme.

1: THE WAKING LIFE OF ANGELS – A tad predictable, but the last two panels make up for that.
2:  PANGS – Not for the faint of heart.
3: VOLUME ONE LOVE STORY – Cute. I loved it. ‘Nuff said.
4: WATERBREATHER – Interesting concept, but I found this to be the least interesting of the stories in this collection.
5: STRANDED – Again, great story concept, but I thought the actual writing could have been sharpened. The fantastical aspects of the story got a bit too out of hand. (Though I think this story is still stronger than some in the previous collection.)
6: SAD AND BEAUTIFUL LIFE – My favorite of all 18 stories. Perfect combination of the supernatural “powers” with an emotional story about a young relationship.

These are just my opinions. As you saw above, my least favorite story was the only one nominated for an Eisner Award. Which could mean that my least favorite might become your favorite story. If you’re interested in stories about “young people with power” or stories that focus on people, relationships, and emotions then do yourself a favor and pick up a volume, or even just a single issue.

Again, you might be wondering why I included this in my blog, which is supposed to focus on comics that lie outside of the superhero/superpower realm. But what you have to understand about comics is that the superhero is more than just a cliché – it’s what sells. As a comic creator, the easiest way to show people (especially people that already read comics) that comics can be more than superheroes is to modify the superhero theme, rather than jump into something completely new. Baby steps. And that’s what DEMO does. It bridges the gap between what works and what could be. So give it a try. With 18 stories, even you skeptics might find something worth reading.

P.S. Leave a comment if there is anything in particular you want me to review on the blog. 

1 comment:

  1. Great concept on drawing comics slowly away from the superhero cliche.
    I'm going to have to pick up a few of these issues... Thanks for the review!