High Moon

By | Wednesday, July 09, 2008 Leave a Comment
So now that High Moon has wrapped up, how did Zuda's first contest winner fare?

In a nutshell: extremely well.

Now before I get into an actual review, let me pull out a full disclosure statement: High Moon's writer, David Gallaher, is a bud of mine. We go back a several years (I'm still waiting to see Brand Name, BTW, Dave!) and I have to admit to rooting for him back when Zuda was running their first contest. That said, though, I like to think I read his stories objectively and I'll tell him if he's spewing so much garbage.

For those who haven't read any of High Moon, it's essentially a Western with werewolves and vampires. That kind of description, though, belies the nuances of the story. Yes, we've got some all-out werewolf/vampire fight scenes. Yes, we've got the mandatory silver bullet "solution." We've also got the classic rough, Clint Eastwood style, loner hero character. All the tropes you'd expect in a mythical horror/Western. But they're blended together in a manner that, I think, combines to form something new and different. I have to admit, though, that I'm finding it difficult to explain some of those change-ups without revealing portions of the plot that would otherwise prove interesting story elements to those reading it for the first time.

Suffice it to say, Gallaher's dialogue is crisp and to the point. It's clear that he's telling a story and not trying to show off his thesaurus. He lets Steve's art flow and doesn't encumber it with any more than is necessary. In fact, I was quite impressed with the two pages in which MacGregor compares the story of how a mine was shut down with what actually happened. That portion is entirely wordless, and it's still plainly evident what's going on. (Kudos here, of course, to Ellis!) I dare say that Gallaher almost restraints himself too much -- some of my initial cursory scans of the pages had me zip past crucial dialogue. It's definitely NOT a story you want to race through, though; nearly every piece of art and every written word is essential to understanding the overall story and skipping through even a single panel too quickly can allow you to get lost very quickly.

For what it's worth, I happen to know that this was largely intentional. In my discussing the project with Gallaher, he noted that he had pared many of his original ideas down considerably to ensure that there was nothing wasted. He had a decidedly finite amount of space to tell a story that he had originally envisioned being longer, so scenes that may have been devised simply to establish character were altered or cut entirely to make sure the plot continued unabated. To Gallaher's credit, all the essential materials remain in the story but, as I said, there's no room for error on the part of the reader.

One of the things that I particularly like about High Moon is that it takes full advantage of the web format. Regardless of your thoughts about the Zuda interface, Dave and artist Steve Ellis use the format to the best advantage. The most obvious example of this, of course, is the horizontal format. But there are some other elements that work in their favor as well.

Seemingly insignificant, perhaps, but the size of the type is worth mentioning. Within the Zuda format smaller, condensed, or sketchy fonts are nearly impossible to read at the smaller size, forcing even casual readers to change to the full screen mode. High Moon, however, is generally large enough that it does not HAVE to be read at the larger size. It's certainly easier to read that way, but I think this is important to attract and maintain more casual viewers. Especially in lieu of the usability problems of the Zuda format others have already complained about. Having Scott Brown do the lettering was definitely a good move on Gallaher's and Ellis' part.

Another bonus that will probably be lost on most readers now that the entire story is available is that each sequence that was released in the serial format ended with a dramatic moment. A mini cliff-hanger, you might say. Throughout the run, Gallaher was able to maintain interest and suspense by ending each sequence in a way that would entice readers to find out what happened next. This is a staple of TV shows -- you'll note that there's a dramatic moment of some kind preceding nearly every commercial break -- but it's not a practice that occurs often in comics. In fact, Paul Jenkins is the only other writer I've known or heard about to actively take advantage of a comic in that way, leaving dramatic moments just prior to a full page ad. (Phil and Kaja Foglio do something similar with Girl Genius but since they have to essentially do that on every page, the impact is lessened considerably.) With as many installments as High Moon has had, I'm impressed Gallaher was able to sustain that throughout the story.

I've spent most of this post discussing Gallaher's story, primarily because I know some of what's gone into it on a more personal level. But I would be sorely remiss if I didn't take a moment to congratulate Ellis on a job well done, as well. His art style suits the story and his coloring work only enhances the moody tones taken throughout the piece. His illustrative style here isn't one I typically enjoy as much -- personally, I tend to prefer more graphic treatments with large, spotted blacks and the like -- but it does lend itself well to the grittiness of the story and its setting. In many ways, I don't think the overall story would've been as successful if it had been illustrated by someone like, say, Herge. (Imagine Deadwood if it were filmed like Bonanza -- that's the kind of not-as-successful I'm talking about here.)

High Moon turned on extremely well on all fronts. I think Gallaher and Ellis should be proud, and I think the Zuda folks will take this as a win. I hope to see more comics from these two, not just because I want my buddy Dave to keep getting paid, but because I also want to see what else the two of them can come up with! (**coughbrandnamecough**)
Newer Post Older Post Home