What Did I Learn?

vendableVendable by David Menzies and Robert Pinero is a different sort of comic. My first impression is that the comic borders on tragedy but could upswing into jubilant triumph. Or not.

Here’s the website quote that self describes Vendable:
In the way that Rocky is a movie about boxing, Vendable is a webcomic about the vending machine business. Renton Hicks lives between his past in Paterson NJ and his future there, which always looks like what’s on display in the vending machines that he maintains. There isn’t much that’s really good for him. And … well, there’s other people stuck with this view, like Fatima Kutkin, the voice-disabled niece of the guard at Renton’s warehouse. She’s got a job lined up there, and is hoping for a quiet place to while away life in a world where she’s not quite right. Here are their anti-adventures.”

I’ve been trying to decidedly determine whether or not the name Vendable comes mainly from the workplace in the comic or the characters taking life’s events as they come – sort of like when you hit the wrong selection in the vending machine. Sometimes you’ll get an improvement over your first choice but usually you’ll get something you hate. That seems to be the fate of every character in the comic.

I also have to admit a certain amount of dissonance in relating to this comic. I’ve read the other reviews done and some of them identified with the city feel. The dialog felt, to me, sort of disjointed and while every conversation made sense on its own, I never quite grasped the overall direction of the narrative. I’ll provide an example here but there may be a simple explanation: I’m a country boy at heart and my handful visits to big cities left me feeling a lot like how this comic read. (Note: one of the creators of Vendable realized that the page I linked to above needed to be updated to the most current version and has done so.)

The dreary, dingy setting and dysfunctional relationships not only between characters but also within themselves really add to that teetering tragic feel. Add to this other details like the fact that Renton has scars, Fatima is mute and the lack of any real hopeful positives in the story so far. There are missed moments where things could have taken a turn for the reasonably good but usually one character or another takes off in another direction that’s the opposite of happiness.

One nice thing that does is eliminate easy prediction of how the story will continue to unfold, which is a very strong positive for me. Another bright spot in Vendable is the sheer variety of characters. Each of them have a crystal clear identity, motives and speech patterns, which is commendable. I don’t quite get the character types and what they are supposed to accomplish but I’ll assume that my viewpoint is compromised by the big city lights, so to speak.

Adding this up, what I’d like to see is something nice happen to the cast. The powerful tone casts its shadow over everything but one can see the possibilities being hinted at if you pay close attention. Now, I doubt Vendable will suddenly become all about the joys of life but I suspect that for a time the situation will become something more than merely bearable. No matter what happens, I am concerned for all these characters. And that’s a good sign that Vendable has that intriguing spark.

One last thing, Vendable has great reading clarity. The clean linework, good color contrasts and eye flow pointers work very well together. As a side note, the update schedule of every six days is an interesting choice. Most webcomics pick certain days of the week for regularity. With RSS and Twitter and sites like Digg or Reddit, there are more options for regular update schedules like Vendable uses.

What Did I Learn?

Looking at Vendable, one can be inspired to simply create the comic they want to create. Too often, it is easy to succumb to what’s seen as the popular path. Make the comic you want to make. Take a risk and make something completely your own. Readers will come.

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