I must admit that webcomics are something of an undiscovered country for me. I used to read a fair amount back when I was in university, but that was back in the early 2000s, when the medium was new and taking many of its cues from newspaper comics. Since then, of course, the medium has blossomed in every conceivable way, with the only limits being the imaginations of the creators and the technology available. As for me, I drifted away from the medium after university and have only begun dipping my toes back in again rather recently. Indeed, at the moment there are only two comics I read regularly: Drugs and Wires, Cryoclaire and Black Io’s pessimistic comedy about post-Soviet life in the dystopian cyberpunk future of 1995, and the subject of today’s review.
The Out-of-Placers is a fantasy webcomic written and drawn by Sal Valia (or Valsalia…I’m not quite sure myself). The comic started sometime around late 2013 and over the past few years has developed a small but loyal following. While the subject matter it handles is perhaps a little unorthodox, there is a charm and humor to the comic that just makes me want to ramble on about it for several paragraphs.
Marcel Dzama, Grand presentiments of what must come, 2012
I haven’t talked about art as much as I’ve wanted to on this blog. Art is something I have a great appreciation for, but it’s an appreciation that I have found particularly difficult to translate into words. Most of my knowledge of art comes from the handful of art history classes I took as an undergrad, and that was almost a decade ago. As a result I often find I don’t have the proper vocabulary to discuss painting or sculpture the way I can write about novels and film. In fact, if I may let a private embarrassment come to light, when I visit an art gallery I will spend more time reading the placard explaining the meaning of the work than I will taking in and appreciating the work on an aesthetic level.
Still, there are some artists whose work manage to penetrate this barrier and hit me directly on an emotional level, to engage me in ways words can’t entirely explain. As part of my new “forget your insecurities and just write whatever you want on your blog,” I thought I would share my appreciation for one of these artists, the Winnepeg-born multimedia artist Marcel Dzama.
(Fair warning before we begin: this is going to be an intensely nerdy post talking about The Legend of Korra, so if you haven’t watched the show, not much of it is going to make a lick of sense.)
Today’s post is one inspired by an essay Robert Jackson Bennett wrote on his blog back in January about how he would rework the Star Wars prequels. In the introduction to his piece, Bennett mentioned that most everyone has a “hobby story” in their minds, some fanfiction version of a story you liked but just had some flaws that you’d like to see ironed out. I’ve certainly tinkered with a few over the years; one of these days I should write about my dumb Star Trek reboot idea that involves time-travelling Cardassians, the destruction of the Klingon Empire, and Kirk sacrificing himself in the third act and being replaced with an Andorian lady as captain.
However, there is one story that has exercised my imagination the most for the past two-odd years: the final book of The Legend of Korra. It’s a season of television for which I have such a frustrated affection. The basic premise, that the decadent, fractious Earth Kingdom has collapsed and is being reunified by an modernizing autocrat, is fantastic, and the autocrat in question, Kuvira, is my favorite character in the entire Avatar franchise. There’s a wonderful buildup in the first half of the season, as Kuvira begins to push back against international opinion as she establishes her new state, culminating in a showdown with Korra at the gates of Zaofu that both women narrowly survive. And then…
Well, then it all becomes a bit rubbish, which is where I step in.