What Did I Learn?
After the comic’s opening page, the second comic has the legal disclaimers built right into it. The artist warns us not to expect that this strip is made for any reader besides himself. It won’t be good and it will be both painful and insult your intelligence. And the endings won’t always be funny. I wouldn’t usually recommend that approach, but it works here as refreshing and humorous straightforwardness. It’s also misleading – I found no spelling errors even though it says there will be due to artist’s prerogative.
There are some storylines but primarily Lewis’s Life has a good number of situational gags to enjoy. There are comics about Texas (and later a retraction,) the sneakiness of Wal*Mart and even the basic realities of life that you don’t talk about in polite conversation – pencil shavings are to cartoons what zygotes are to humans: discuss. The basic theme of Lewis’s Life is that life ain’t simple or even all that enjoyable but there are good moments.
One thing that will stand out to you is the wild variety of panel layouts that fit each comic’s tone and purpose very well. Most of them have clear action flow and none of them are what I would call standard. Because of the art style, I found myself underestimating the uniqueness of the layouts on my second looks. However, when a technique looks simple and effortless, it isn’t.
The art itself has a sketchbook sort of look, but it’s pretty early in this strip yet and you can see strong improvements in technique. For instance, when the comic’s topic is philosophical, the panel borders get fancier and signal that you’re supposed to step back to ponder the subject. There are some watercolor special effects and colors to appreciate as the comic progresses, too.
The characters of Lewis (the human) and Verne have a life of their own, complete with snarky comments. Lewis is contemplative and decent while Verne seems to be more self absorbed. They know they are in a cartoon and they sometimes even question the artist’s judgement. While he picks back on them too, this lets Lewis’s Life go into an area that only comics can. It can explore what’s behind the paper or let the characters interact with ink spills and collage.
A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned the layouts not being standard. The latest storyline which begins here pokes some fun at Liefeld’s comic style, including the layouts and color schemes with their over-the-topness smugly built in. Nice touch.
What Did I Learn?
Standard layouts exist for a purpose, but does that purpose suit the comic(s) we make? Is it so important that the comic take place in its own little universe that the characters or concepts can’t get off the paper once in a while? Some may not be able to look past the unfinished line in Lewis’s Life but there are some things to appreciate and things to learn.