We live in a pretty amazing time for comics, as my previous post on SVA’s graduating class suggested. You could spend the whole day doing nothing but looking at mind boggling art on Tumblr. And once in a while something clicks. One young cartoonist who crossed my radar of late is Talya Modlin, whose webcomic is called Blimpakind!
According to her bio, Modlin was born in South Africa and then moved to Chicago, where she attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago has a pretty strong indie comics scene that’s I’ve only been able to process second hand (High time for a trip to CAKE!). Besides the AIC there’s Ivan Brunetti holding the fort at the Columbia College of Art and Design, and I’ve really liked the student anthologies his classes put out. I think there may be some kind of Chicago “school” emerging, but I haven’t been able to put y finger on it. Many themes of current comics are there, a mixture of narrative and grotesquerie.
At first Modlin’s comics seem random and chaotic, but there is a strong narrative voice going through them. Her first comics, which is up at Ulli Lust’s Electrocomics site, is Mad Monk, a pretty straightforward account of the murder of Rasputin. The drawing is a little rough and the story a bit stagey, but I have to say, the Electrocomics interface—horizontal frames and moving forward by the arrow keys—is so damned easy that every website should use it!
With Blimpakind, Modlin’s style really explodes into absurdly complex compositions that still place and environment with keen observation. The first story, Drinking Buddies, started as a 24 hour comic and has that slapdash feeling of not knowing where it’s going to end. The story involves two layabouts, Chief and Udall, who arrange to go visit a friend so Chief can reconnect with the love of his life. Hijinks ensue. Despite the randomness of the art, it’s really just a sweet story about grotesque yet sympathetic weirdoes. They could be Mutt and Jeff of another era.
The next story, which I don’t think has a title, is even weirder and better. It’s about an astronaut, Agent Amos, stranded with his dog, Popka, and the strange entities they meet. A tale as old as comics, but Modlin’s version is jammed with detail and energy. I guess that’s what I like most about her work: the busy crayon lines crackle on the page and even when the stories are meandering a bit, the art style just drives you on.
Modlin’s crafted a very original style, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she develops. She’ll be at TCAF this weekend, which is what got me off my butt to write this after having it in drafts for ages. Anyway, check her and Blimpakind out!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.