Weird Fishes (SLG Publishing)

With her first book, Weird Fishes, Jamaica Dyer proves she’s an original voice to be reckoned with.

 

With her first book, Weird Fishes (yes, it’s named after the Radiohead song), Jamaica Dyer proves she’s an original voice to be reckoned with. The subject matter is hardly unique—two misfits navigating the treacherous shoals of young adulthood—but she really gets inside her characters, and her art is so distinctive and expressive that it makes the familiar story seem fresh and new.

The cover to Weird Fishes by Jamaica Dyer. Click for a larger image.Dee is a wispy indie girl who likes to live in her own head (and even more in her emotions) and sees things that aren’t really happening. Sometimes they’re nice things, like a giant duck who gives her a ride and her fish-pal Bones who gives her advice and generally looks out for her. Sometimes they’re not so nice, like the terrifying Funnel Man who can appear from nowhere and threaten her very existence. He’s a pretty good personification of paranoia and depression combined if you ask me, and she’s really really scared of him.
Her best friend is the equally wispy Bunny Boy who has been dressing in a bunny suit for years—it’s his stubborn way of refusing to conform. He smokes a lot, glowers a lot and is generally rude to everyone, but particularly to his older sister who just thinks he’s ridiculous. Both of them like to skip school and hang out in the park. There don’t seem to be any parents in their world, just kids, although someone must be making the house payments and putting food in the refrigerator.
Extravagant eccentricities may be cute in little kids but Dee and Bunny Boy are in junior high and starting to wear on each other’s nerves. They quarrel and break off for awhile, during which time the evil Goth Girl convinces Bunny Boy to change his look (although she’s soon done with him and sets her sights on the Record Store Guy—this comic is nothing if not a collection of indie archetypes) while Dee comes close to losing it when left on her own. But they also have the resilience of kids and manage to figure a few things out over the course of the book.
Jamaica Dyer’s art had me from the first page—really from the cover. She works on paper in pencil, ink and watercolors which when reproduced in black and white look like washes. Because the story is primarily about emotions, the meaning is carried in the art more than in the text, and Dyer has a wide range of styles which she isn’t afraid to mix up. It gives Weird Fishes a refreshingly handmade look which suits her characters (who are convinced they are the only people to ever feel the way they do) perfectly.
Dyer began working with these characters in a comic strip for her college newspaper and she’s included some of those in this book, along with sketches and comments about her working style which will be of interest to anyone who creates their own comics (or wants to). Weird Fishes started as a web comic which you can check out (in color!) at http://www.jamaicad.com/comic/. You can see some of her other work at her web page at http://www.jamaicad.com/. | Sarah Boslaugh
 

 

 

 

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