September 19, 2014

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Rose City Roll Call 2014: Lucy Bellwood Sails Away in Down to the Sea Again

Rose City Roll Call! Cambot! Gypsy! Tom Servo! Croooooow! Periscope! Dark Horse! Kurt Busiek! Ooooooooooonnnnni! It's another Panel Patter feature on creators and publishers who will be at Rose City Comic Con! You can find all our features for the show right here!

I haven't known Lucy Bellwood all that long, compared to some of the other creators that I consider friends, but from her first story in Cartozia Tales, I knew that she was someone I wanted to follow across her various projects, and over time, I've come to appreciate her work more and more, and I think she's a creator to watch as she has the potential to be the next breakout candidate from the prolific Periscope Studio crew.

Crew, of course, is a little bit of a pun, because Lucy herself has quite a bit of experience on boats and one of her comic series, Baggywrinkles, is all about being a twenty-first century sailor.

Lucy's latest project is Down to the Seas Again, a story which debuted on her Patreon and is now available as a mini-comic. Taking a trip to the East Coast, with some wry observations about its differences from out here in Portland (both positive and negative), Bellwood gets a rare chance to be part of the crew of the Charles W. Morgan, which was making its sailing debut again--something they said would never occur.

The ship was a wooden whaler built in 1841, the kind of thing that Herman Melville might write about for one of his stories. It's a minor miracle they got it going again, especially since it even contains a few original planks. It's an amazing honor to be on deck, and Lucy's enthusiasm shines through in every panel as she notes the importance of the ship--in general terms and to her own sense of identity.

It was the 38th voyage of the ship, which took millions to restore, and Lucy got to document her leg of the trip, as she watched the combination of new and old technology work. Still, there's nothing that changes about being excited to see whales while on a ship, even if there would be no hunting from the decks.

“Down to the Seas Again” documents Bellwood’s time aboard the Charles W. Morgan, a wooden whaling ship built in 1841. In addition to the original watercolor pages from the forthcoming comic, Bellwood’s exhibit will also feature a slideshow of her reference photos from the Morgan. The exhibit opens this Thursday, September 4th, with an artist’s reception for Bellwood from 6pm to 10pm.

All too soon, it's time for her to return home, with her memories, partially internal and partially shared via this comic. The lure of the sea is strong, indeed, and we definitely get a better understand of the love of the ocean from Lucy's strong narrative writing and structure.

This comic reminded me a lot of my favorite comic travelogue, Carnet de Voyage from Craig Thompson, because of its mix of personal reflection and the world around the artist. The blend of inner thoughts and external actions is a tricky mix to manage, but Lucy gets it just right.

She also does a great job on the illustrations here. While it's hard to make boats look different from each other if you're a land lubber, I had no problem getting a feel for the life on the boat, thanks to strong panel composition and amazing detail work that absolutely nails the place settings. While most artists might have drawn general backgrounds (if any at all), even the place where Lucy gives a talk is illustrated down to the trees in the background, peeking out against the windows.

Bellwood is at her best when just slightly exaggerating, showing her excitement when on the boat or comically depicting her hair after getting out of bed. I also love when she uses words as part of the art work, especially as a shortcut for longer conversation. Her coloring work here is some of the best I've seen from Lucy, even better than her Grand Canyon work. There's a nice variation of blues for the water, sky, and other outdoor areas, and it helps to ensure that the tone of the piece is bright and vibrant.

Down to the Sea Again is a great mini-comic, but only one of the many things you can pick up from Lucy. She may also have copies of her Grand Canyon trip, Grand Adventure, which is similar in style and tone to this one. There's also the Baggywrinkles series, and possibly some anthology work.

And of course, I definitely recommend any and all Cartozia Tales comics that you don't have yet! It's up to issue 6 now, so what are you waiting for?

An all around great person, Lucy should be one of the people you see at Rose City over the weekend.

Not going to the show? Lucy's website is here.