September 3, 2011

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SPX Spotlight: Steve Seck's Life is Good 6 and 7

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

Steve Seck's Life is Good 6
Steve Seck's Life is Good 7
Written by Steve Seck
Illustrated by Steve Seck
Self-Published

What do you get when you combine a trashaholic alligator, his criminal friend who likes to exploit people, a pair of tree huggers (one of which is extremely self-serving), and an unemployed beer bottle?

A lot of fun, actually!

Life is Good is an ongoing webcomic by Steve Seck, which he publishes in mini-comic format for those who prefer to read the story in chunks.  In these two issues, we learn that Charles has a severe trash issue, a secret only his friend Brownie (the beer bottle) knows.  He tries to kick the habit, but it leads to a disastrous side-effect that might just kill the alligator if he doesn't find a way to fix things soon.  Meanwhile, the criminal friend (Sewer Gator, who has multiple piercings and one heck of an attitude) has found a way to make money off Brownie--selling his private comics!

As if that's not enough, our tree-huggers are feuding about who is the better project supervisor in an attempt to clean up a park that's only dirty when Charles is around.  As Dr. Peace Rock and Unity Flower fall further apart, a desperate scheme presents itself to Dr. Peace Rock--but will it blow up in his face?

There's a lot going on in these two volumes, which are surprisingly complex.  At first blush, the series is an enjoyable gathering of flawed characters who do stupid things.  (For example, issue six opens with Charles going to a group of addicts and opening a flash of "liquid courage.")  There are certainly a lot of silly jokes, like Sewer Gator having "Beat the Hell Out of Charles" on his to-do list or Dr. Peace Rock's attempts to turn into a master of stealth (in between stoner episodes) or the various attempts by Sewer Gator to rile Brownie.

But beyond those jokes is a plot that weaves its way cleverly through the story, ducking around the visual gags and verbal barbs and showing that these disparate threads all have a point that come together by the end of issue seven.  There's commentary on addiction, people who talk a good game but do nothing, the fleeting nature of popularity in the comics world, and even just a bit about the nature of friendship.  I really like when a creator is able to not only keep things light but also make sure that the jokes have a point.  Seck manages this quite well, I think.  There is definitely a strong sense of story in Life is Good, rather than just using the characters for comic effect, and that puts it a notch above its peers for me.

One of the fun parts of this series were the in-jokes about cartooning.  Seck is certainly not the only person to write cartoonists into his comics in order to say something about the nature of being an artist.  I did like this take, however, where a greedy individual takes advantage of a drunken, tired Brownie, to start publishing his work.  He quickly paints the bottle into a genre corner from which it is hard to escape.  The end results are a bit predictable, but I thought it was a nice take on the idea of expectations and pressure placed on a creator once they've gotten noticed by the public.  (I also like how Brownie's art style is distinctly different from Seck's.)

While I started reading Life is Good in the middle, I was not confused at all.  Seck helpfully gives a recap on the inside front covers, which basically told me all I needed to know.  The rest I caught up on as I went along, from Brownie's good nature to Dr. Peace Rock's smarmy smooth-talking.  I quickly found myself liking these characters and wanting to read more.  I think you will, too.

You should visit Seck's table at SPX, but if you can't make the show, you can purchase his books at his store, as well as read some of the comic online to see if you like it.  Give it a try!

Mr. Seck was kind enough to provide me a copy of Life is Good 6 and 7 for review.  Thanks, Steve!  If you are interested in having me review your comic, please contact me at trebro@gmail.com.