Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Craftiest Comic You'll See Today

There are some people in this world who are so industrious that they make me feel unaccomplished just by going about their daily lives. Kristen Shirts is one such person. A ukelele player with a degree in costume design, Shirts not only has had the enviable task of backing the illustrious Jonathan Coulton with her bitty four-stringed instrument, she also makes Stricken Pot Pie, the handcrafted tale of a bird named Marjorie and a bear named Emory.

Whereas many comic creators are using increasingly digital processes, making comics that exist exclusively inside computers and servers, Shirts has taken the opposite approach. Each panel of Stricken Pot Pie is an embroidered piece of muslin, right down to the stitched-in letters. The panels are then photographed, preserving their sculpture-like nature, and arranged as full strips. That each panel is made from scratch -- Shirts never rips the characters or backgrounds from one panel to form the next -- is both a testament to her badassery (each comic takes no fewer than five hours to assemble) and reinforces the idea of the strips as keepsakes, something you might want to frame and hang on your wall.

This would all be interesting enough as a gimmick, but Shirts really owns her medium. In the few strips she has posted, we can already see how she delights in playing with textures and visual language, sewing twists into a tree trunk to suggest gnarled bark, embroidering the sky with streams of light and curls of wind, and drawing humor from the notion that traditional comic book visuals like "Pow" starbursts and bad mood storm clouds are something that the characters can actually see. The results are visually complex scenes that keep me returning to the strips for a fourth or fifth look and make me more than a little sad that I can't simply reach through the screen and touch them.

[Stricken Pot Pie via mental_floss]

21 comments:

Ping @ Phalanx said...

Wow! I thought I had seen comics that transcended their mediums, but this one takes the cake! Nice find!

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