What Did I Learn?
Union of Heroes by Arne Schulenberg and Eric Wünsche with photography by Jens Sundheim and illustration by Patrick Soeder. Union is a superheroes photo comic placed in the Ruhr Area of Germany, complete with parallel world hopping.
Unfairly, the closest thing to the way this comic physically reads was a campy TV show from my childhood. This is mainly due to how the action is taken in as chunks and the moments of facial expression. While Union has some over-the-top elements standard to superherodom and you can tell everyone is having fun creating this comic, it is not itself campy in presentation, dialog or storyline.
It gets a little tangled to consider the possibilities of the story, so let me fill you in briefly. You have Marc (the hero of the story,) Erzengel (the hero of the parallel world,) Jana (Erzengel’s love interest) and JANA (Marc’s love interest from our Earth and whom we have not seen yet.) Marc and JANA are friends and she just shot him down before he went to the parallel world. Jana broke up with Erzengel and now he’s been missing. Marc is the parallel twin of a super hero named Erzengel (or archangel in English terms.) The Man Who Knows has recruited Marc and brought him to the parallel world in an effort to fill the gap left by the Erzengel’s disappearance.
In the latest update (141,) Marc is about to meet a woman who takes the place of other people who are about to die. As a matter of fact, she was just killed by Erzengel’s enemy Manero in Jana’s stead. The Man Who Knows is about to introduce them to each other.
We are left with ongoing questions in the standard superhero tradition. Where did Erzengel go? Why did Marc have to replace him? What will happen with Jana and Marc? Can Marc defeat Manero? What does this new dying girl bring to the situation? Is Marc going to be happy in his new situation? What does The Man Who Knows hope to accomplish with all of this manipulation of people and events?
As you can see, Union consists of photos which are then displayed over a black background. Each panel has a thin gold border to help it pop up off the background. The photos showed me something I hadn’t considered before.
In drawn comics, the usual point of view is standard eye level but in this comic you notice the finer heights between eye and bird’s eye views. The closeups don’t get too close – there are no half faces or just eye shots. I don’t recall any true bird’s eye or worm’s eye shots but you can’t blame them. It would be difficult to do and maybe a little unnerving to see the real world from either of these perspectives.
After realizing this, I tried to imagine certain scenes as seen from a few inches off the floor. They tended to take on a sinister quality – in drawn comics, the effect is lessened to an intellectual response rather than a body response of weakness and the story would read far differently. Likewise, we read the character’s facial expressions with far more depth and insight than we would apply to a drawn comic. It’s a different tongue with a similar visual language.
Union also treats us to some great special animated effects. The man to bird transformation and floating girl were very well done. Being photo based, they give a little more impact while still being done in a comic style.
I liked the narrator boxes giving a little personal outlook on the story so far. They not only help remind you of what has happened, but they also give a little exposition where needed.
I also have to research something. The images have alt tags which have all the comic’s text in them. I understand that the search engines frown on too much text in the alt tags but maybe that has changed.
What Did I Learn?
Overall, I liked what photos bring to the superhero comic genre. Just like any other kind of strip, photo comics have their features and drawbacks. The images are more effective in some areas but can be harder to produce or are more effective than what comic artists are typically used to. Union of Heroes is a well done comic which is exploring what photocomics can bring us.