5.09.2008

Spotlight on Ryan Claytor Concludes

And Then One Day #6 – Autobiographical Documentary (Elephant Eater): This is my favorite issue of Ryan Claytor’s ATOD series to date – in which interviewees answer questions about the author in comic form – for a couple of reasons. First, I feel that in the span of a couple years worth of work, his line work has stretched and grown. It was always solid, but here it seems to take a dramatic leap forward. There’s a crisp confidence to the lines that comes off a bit more intensely. I’m impressed how his lines are relatively simple, yet carry an emotionally charged complexity to them. The second reason I enjoyed this issue is because it remains a bit unresolved. Claytor has bordered on creating a new sub-genre, and in doing so, is able to ask many thought-provoking questions that he doesn’t have the answers to. It takes some bravery to do something like that. Can an autobiography or a documentary ever be truly objective? Are they any more valid or truthful than fiction? What sort of biases do different points of view naturally bring to the party? Can comics ever reach the level of “fine art?” (My current boss actually asked me this question in one of my interviews, so this was a surprising treat that resonated with me). Of course, those of us in the industry, even on the fringe, agree that they exist in “a veneer of being unimportant or non-threatening, but in reality it’s a potent source of commentary.” But if the population at large is unaware of this, is that still valid? Claytor’s work wrestles with the question, what creates identity? Is it our opinion of ourselves, how the opinions of those around us inform our own, or the intersection of the two? I picked up on another interesting question from the work, and I’m not sure if this was intentional or ever considered: If Ryan is the abyss that these interviewees are staring into, does he stare back and influence them as well? It certainly appears that way. This process that he invented is bidirectional. Not only do we learn about the author, but through the course of their answers we seem to learn just as much about the respondents. If he can be defined, in part, by their responses and knowledge of him, so too are they defined by the portrayal of their reactions to his questions. This is a very interesting dynamic that was put into motion. The third component of this work that I found such joy in was a two page (146-147) sequence from pal David describing his view on the beauty of the medium and the convergence of text, images, time lapse, and interactivity with the reader. It serves as a brilliant little sound byte of analysis that I’d proudly show my non-comic friends to deftly explain the nuances, value, and uniqueness of the medium. Man, I want to own those two pages! This was a unique experience from a talented creator. Ryan Claytor is now in that select strata of creators whose work I purchase on sight. Here’s to more work deserving of Grade A+.

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