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Subj: Praising Otis Framton's Oddly Normal...
Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 02:38:18 am EST (Viewed 244 times)
Over the course of the last 20 years the creative renaissance unfolding in the Independent sector of US comicbooks has seen new publishers arise to take inspiration from the growing success and potential to be found in finding and promoting talented creators who are capable of bringing forth fresh and distinctive storytelling concepts. At the forefront of this modern wave of independents is Image Comics, set up inthe early 90s by a ramshackle conglomerate of ego this publisher bears little resemblance to that clique of Marvel groomed talent. Today Image Comics has slowly evolved away from the derivative and exploitative fare of Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee to instead cultivate an array of refreshingly unusual and daring concepts and creators. If one wanted to demonstrate the publishers commitment to finding and supporting the new and the destinctive then a look to Otis Framton's Oddly Normal would serve as no better example.
Oddly Normal isn't like anything a DC or Marvel comics would print. There are no capes or tights, no soldiers or square jawed law enforcers. No threats. No danger. Instead there is just a day in the life of a teenage girl and her life of embittered loneliness. The world of Oddly Normal is dictated not so much by the charming playful art design from Writer/artist Otis Framton but by how Oddly herself perceives it.
With all of the problems specific to teens and their perception of self-image and worth when your name is as distinctive and absurd as Oddly Normal the odds are going to be all that more set against you in terms of fitting in and living out life at school anonymously. Oddly Normal passes through her days lost in her own fog of self-pity and bitterness for the world around her, a source of ridicule from her peers when in school, and of mollycodddled love as the only child in a huge house. The world Sucks. Or so she likes to think.
At home what should be sanctuary from the world is a prison. Never mind that her parents are in fact concerned, loving, and responsible, no, Oddly cannot accept such a reality, as nobody can possibly understand Oddly Normal. As a commentary on the self-centered ego of youth Otis Framton's story is well observed, as writer and artist his is a vision filled with minor detail and a skilled perceptive grasp of just how great the comicstrip medium can be. One page flows into the next as we follow the trajectory of Oddly from a gray day at school to an equally colourless arrival at home and a huge empty house. The isolation she feels is transferred to the page in the form of skewed perspectives and a clever use of colour - we are experiencing the world as Oddly herself perceives it, cold, crual, and filtered as many children do through the lens of her loneliness and and adolescent selfishness.
Most books elsewhere present the world their character lives in as an escapist one, a fantastical place, filled with friends and adventure. The setting and tone for this debut issue of his first look at a half-blood teen Witch is at the opposite end of wonder however, Framton's world is certainly distinctive thanks to his sense of design and fun layouts, but it is the character herself who sets the tone of the piece, not the setting. Comicbooks tend to be reactionary in content, believing action and adventure are what should drive a plot, as such the notion of a character engaging in rather more earthly concerns, such as a walk down the street and meeting people, is anthema. The relative tedium and lack of incident in a story about one girl's day of peer rejection and quiet desperation could never fill the pages of a Marvel or DC publication. And yet this fear of the ordinary, of giving a character and audience simple everyday experiences, works against what that audience might actually want to read.
Peter Parker is the obvious example of a very successful character built on the foundation of a common human experience, but consider a fantastical character like Thor, Thor who's greatest periods of popularity came from writers who understood the appeal and importance of grounding a character in the mundane of the everyday man. Whether it be Sigurd Jarlson's attempts to maintain a life as construction worker interacting with his boss and kids, or the concern of Thor over the wellbeing of the citizen's of Broxton of whom he covertly walked and lived amongst, both Walt Simonson and JM Stryzinski understood the appeal and benefits of everyday human expriences for a character.
And in Oddly Normal Otis Framton uses normality as the selling point for something which, by issues end, promises to become something altogether different come next issue.
The story of an introvert. An outcast. A normal everday tale of teen-angst and isolation. Told in a charming and remarkably fluid succession of gorgeously designed pages which flow from one to the next. Oddly Normal is one more offering in a very crowded marketplace, a mere minnow amongst whales and sharks, and yet for me this unassuming book takes its place as one of the most distinctive and compelling reads of this year.
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