The art of the Fish Tank is done in a fun, sketchy style. Those fish are pretty expressive and the action is always clear. It’s usually just black and white, although there are panels with greytones and spurts of color. These are not only used to help you identify the characters but also for dramatic or emotional moments.
For time strapped webcomickers, that’s an interesting technique. You get most of the benefits of color without all the tedious, labor intensive process of coloring every blade of kelp. It also provides a different way of looking at the characters and events going on in the story.
It causes you to pause, ever so slightly, and consider what is it about the colored piece that needs special focus? Sometimes it isn’t obvious, so the color adds a highlight to something you might have glassed over. In the Fish Tank, the storylines are short enough that when an object is needed, it is introduced earlier in that comic. In longer works, you sometimes have to lay the groundwork by introducing something now that won’t show up until much later. Using color like this actually lets you show a new object to the reader and it, in some ways, feels new – fresh out of the box.
As a child, when you took a new toy out of its box, it struck you as bright and colorful. It was wonderful because it was opening up new areas of play to you. While not quite as strong as the effect of a new toy, the color in Fish Tank carries a little wonder with it. It cause you to look at the comic differently.
How we perceive things is the theme that drives Fish Tank. It’s fun. There is always just a little change in perspective. In this comic, the fish would think the sky was falling if you look at it from their eyes.
Another comic shows us how superior people think they are over one another. Two of the regular fish are discussing how much better they are than the bottom feeder. In the bigger analysis, these are fish trapped together. Then the next comic shows us that the bottom feeder feels superior to the ‘ornament’ fish because he has a sense of accomplishment in a hard days’ work.
Next there’s a storyline about how one of the fish wants a house of his own. The thing is, he only wants it because someone else has a house. It’s another point of view for you to examine for yourself. If this is starting to sound preachy, don’t worry. It’s silly and amusing and reading it reminds you of people you know but never YOU. The adventures they get involved in are too farfetched to be taken as anything with a serious overtone. It’s more like a wry look at life.
One of the fish, named Ted, is an optimimistic inventor and is constantly charging off to accomplish some new idea. Actually, inventor is too weak of a description.
If you consider the Professor from Gilligan’s Island an inventor then Ted is a mechanical genius. The Professor had coconuts, bamboo, rope, beakers, lightning and all kinds of other resources. Ted lives in a fish tank and yet he manages to crash an orbitting satellite on a pinpoint location – and close enough for the crash to be useful yet far enough to avoid being killed.
Angelo is the most straight-finned fish of the tank but he’s a little on the vain, jealous and wishy washy side, too. Hoover is self described as the apathetic bottom feeder. The character mix does not include ‘the demanding one.’ It’s refreshing. It is so common in comics to have one of the characters be pushy – probably to drive the stories. I was almost beginning to think it was required.
Just like us, the fish all spend a lot of time trying to control the true center of focus in their house – the TV. It might sound like a pretty comfortable life but they have developed some enemies during their adventures. Those Piranha are pretty cold blooded and well informed. Jellyfish are tricky, despite their glib talk and easy going plans to destroy the humans. And, as you might suspect, cats are just evil incarnate.
As I’ve hinted at, the storylines are short lived and they always end up more amusing than I thought they would. Plus… WARNING! SCIENCE CONTENT!… Due to the Ted the inventor fish, there are all manner of gadgets you could make from stuff laying around your house or in the garbage. Fish Tank, it turns out, is also informative along with being entertaining.
What Did I Learn?
Fish Tank taught me that judicious use of something commonplace, like color, can have a larger effect than when you’re using it on a larger scale. I’ve also learned something about developing characters and showing readers what you observe about life. Your comic can be about important things, like how we treat each other, without being talking down to your audience.
Next week’s review: Moose Mountain