I first "met" Derik Badman at the first Met@Morph online comics convention in 2008 and was impressed with both his presentation and his blog which I had quickly started following. By day, he's a librarian at Temple University, and has proven to me to be one of the more thoughtful and original thinkers on the subject of comics and comics research. So when he asked if anyone had an interest in reviewing his new comic, 20 Out of 30 Days, I jumped at the chance.
As noted in the book's introduction, the contents are a series of experiments Badman undertook in November writing a new comic sequence every day for the whole month. Some are abstract comics, some are poetry, some layout experiments, some are just a short narrative. Badman selected the best 2/3 of what he created and presents them here. All 30 of his comics can still be found on his blog here. So why buy the printed version?
Well, let me start by saying that I think there's some really interesting work here. Badman is very open about these being experiments and, as such, it should come as no surprise that some are more successful than others. But what I like about the series is that there's a lot there people can learn from. Most of Badman's page layouts are fairly straightforward and there's no really whiz-bang illustration techniques, but rather there's a lot of ideas behind the individual comics. There's varying levels of abstraction to examine and what a reappropriation of text and images to convey a meaning different from the original can achieve. I was especially partial to this piece...
... which is, in effect, nothing more than an extended and focused look at this image from The Best Years of Our Lives...
The inside back cover of the book cites some of Badman's sources (such as the photo above). I was a little disappointed, however, that more wasn't included about the specific pieces. While the experiments themselves are largely self-evident, I found the added explanations and commentary Badman posted on his site to make everything that much more enlightening. Something like watching a good movie on DVD and then getting that much more out of it when you watch it again with the director's commentary track turned on. Knowing that at least some additional notes were out there and available, but not included here, was surprising to me. But, then again, I seem to recall hearing that only 15-20% of people who get DVDs bother with the commentary tracks anyway so maybe I'm the exception here too. (On the rare occasion I go to the movies, I watch all of the credits at the end as well.)
There's definitely some interesting ideas to ponder over here. Not the type of stuff that everybody can go and start utilizing in the next issues of whatever Marvel and DC books they're working on, certainly, but the type that you have rolling around in the back of your head for a long while.
20 Out of 30 Days can be bought online here for $5 US post-paid.
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