Staff: Ben Powis
Art in comic form.
So we have an odd little comic called “Turtle Guitar” here from Ben Powis. I don’t normally read descriptions until after but the lack of a preview image kind of concerned me so gave it a read. It tells us that this is a 6 page comic so I was a little hesitant starting off. Let’s see if we can shake that hesitation with Turtle Guitar!
So first off the cover struck me as odd. It was done in a very NOT comic style. There is a heavy use of stroke-as-texture with thick lines and a very dark color pallet. It looks like some bizarre patchwork wonderland that is very surreal. I’ll admit- this intrigued at first and it managed to continue that surreal art style effectively all the way through. It put this comic in one of those “comics as art” categories that I don’t get to use all that much.
This comic is all about the art, right down to the lettering. I love how Ben used a change in font color to illustrate the impact of certain words (like “parched” and “dying”). It completes the medium and effectively uses the visual aspects of this medium to its fullest extent. This is a letter of lover to lettering.
The narrative is mythological in nature, drawing a lot of influence from old world folk stories. In this context it doesn’t have to make a lot of sense on the logical level, but it does on the moral/philosophical level. Ben easily navigates around a simple but effective plot with the skill of a master while including the phrase “Turtle Guitar” (in its literal meaning) nonetheless.
If I had a gripe about it was that the plot was in fact very basic. That plays nice with the artistic direction the writer was going for, but it does seem a little nonsensical at times.
Saying that this comic utilized its visual elements to inform the reader would be a drastic understatement. So seamless is the integration of the visual aspects into the narrative elements that you don’t think twice about why a word is in light blue or why that little squibble is visually representing music. It takes risks but every one of them pays off and fits together seamlessly. In 8 pages (not 6) Ben Powis did more for the argument that comics are art than the big publishers have done in the last 5 years. It’s a downright shame that this as been up on DriveThruRPG since 2009 and holds a 3/5. This is a masterpiece you can download for free. Why would you skip it?