zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ochre Ellipse #3 by Jonas Madden-Connor


via The Daily Cross Hatch by smorean on 11/19/09

Ochre Ellipse #3
by Jonas Madden-Connor
Family Style

jmcIt's difficult to say something new about the simplicity and preciousness of youth, but in Ochre Ellipse #3, I believe Jonas Madden-Connor has done it.

Childhood is such a primitive, potent time in a person's life; it's no wonder that memories from that time eventually become lore.  In the hands of a capable storyteller, otherwise common occurrences like bullying become rich, comedic, thought-provoking tales that offer a "new" perspective on growing up.

But that's not what I mean when I say that Madden-Connor's latest mini-comic offers unique take on youth.  What I mean to say is that, while most authors weave wisdom into chaos, they are still showing us a familiar thing that, ultimately, we relate to because those things have happened to us.  Most stories operate on the need for audience projection — people seeing themselves in the work, empathizing and liking it — but this is a device that Ochre Ellipse #3 cleverly sidesteps.  It finds other interesting ways of making its point about youth, memory and nostalgia.

Ochre Ellipse #3 is set in a world where time travel is commonplace.  So much so that, for a fee, you can time travel as an invisible observer to any point in history, and for a higher fee, you can create your own time line.  It's a business that operates about as casually as a sandwich shop, so the fact that the protagonist uses the service often isn't really surprising.  Time travel as entertainment.  At least, that's the idea.

Instead, the main guy continues to travel back to his childhood.  Repeatedly.  Over and over.  He goes back to the same memory, looking for clues that will lead him to where he went wrong in his life.  He once was a solitary happy kid, but now he's a solitary unhappy adult.  Why?  How could he learn to be happy again?

He's only paid for the standard travel package, which merely includes watching and not interacting with the past, but even so, he begins to feel more and more like an integral part of his surroundings the more he visits.  Each time he returns, he plays a new part in his boyhood self's imaginary world.  He's having fun, and it's the most touching transformation that I have seen in a comic all year.

I've been thinking for a long time about the formula for popular children's movies (underdog rises high and gets the girl) and whether or not kids actually like that stuff.  I don't know any kids, but rely on the wisdom of King Mini (father of one) who recently, unintentionally, laid it out for me.  Kids need to use their imagination, and that's what most kids movies don't permit.  Using your imagination is kind of the antithesis of being shown a formulaic film, or training yourself to behave in a way that will get girls or boys to like you.  Having an imagination can be a very isolating experience at times, but that doesn't mean it and happiness are mutually exclusive, as I re-learned in Madden-Connor's book.

Plenty of stories have been written about adults learning to believe again, or whatever the adult version of "play" and "imagination" may be, but those plots are often over-stuffed with hokey love stories and bit roles for funnymen.  After awhile, they all look the same.  Madden-Connor's book is just so purely about this one thing that it feels remarkably unlike its counterparts in the genre.  No matter what your own experience has you read into this book, you're guaranteed to be swept up in its spell.  For me at least, the experience was really rare.

Ochre Ellipse #3 is excellent.  Hands down one of the best books I'll read all year.  Add it to your Holiday Wish List.  It's 40 pages long, black and white pages, displays an awesome library sci fi sticker on the cover, and can be purchased for $5 through Global Hobo or $4 through Family Style.

- Sarah Morean


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