November 10, 2011

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Stickybeak

No Cover, but here's some sample art!
Written by Ben Juers
Illustrated by Ben Juers
Self-Published

A bowerbird is a creature who collect random objects in an attempt to get a mate.  What happens when two bowerbirds want the same girl?  Comedy gold!

In this project that was Juers' senior thesis for the Center for Cartoon Studies, the artist explores the potential for slapstick humor when you have small creatures that think a bottle cap is the highest form of art.  In a classic use of the love triangle, Juers creates a comic that draws heavily from old Warner Brothers (and similar) cartoons for inspiration.

There's not much of a plot here.  Two birds steal things from a comedic-looking middle-aged man and promptly try to lure a femme fatale into their amorous arms.  The fun is in watching Juers set these two against each other in everything from one of the best depictions of rock-paper-scissors I've ever seen to a dance sequence that might have made even Chuck Jones stop and take notice.

I'm really impressed here by how well Juers can make these figures feel perfectly natural despite being birds.  After a few pages, you forget that these are creatures and start thinking of them as getting their human traits naturally.  I want to see these two birds keep going at it until we reach a climax that both flows logically from the story and fits perfectly within the slapstick, vaudevillian nature of the narrative.

Juers does this all without words or animation, which is all the more impressive.  This could be a storyboard for a short cartoon, but it never feels like we're reading a set of stills.  There's fluidity in the motion of the characters that a still lacks.  None of the artwork here is elaborate, but neither does it fall into the same style that we're used to from Center for Cartoon Studies alumni.  Juers has learned the craft of storytelling well, but he's allowed it to become something of his own, putting him above some of the other CCS work I've read over the years.

Sadly, I don't think you can buy a copy of Stickybeak, but I reviewed this one in order to help bring attention to Ben Juers.  I think he has quite a future in comics if he's so inclined.  I look forward to seeing more work from him in the future.  In the meantime, make sure you check out his blog.