Holy schnikes, how is this the thirteenth week of posting?! How many times am I going to be shocked that I’m actually doing my job? Probably pretty often.
Another thing that I’m repeating: Manga Monday isn’t just manga. Really, it’s simply the word that worked with the alliteration idea I use for themed posts each week. Using “manga” is just my way of saying “comics”–no matter where they originated from!
Today we’re going to focus on a work from author Stephen McCranie, who is a professional graphic novelist from Albuquerque, New Mexico (and who loves green chile, my grandparents would get along very well with him). The work we’re focusing on today actually landed him the first place prize of $30,000 in LINE Webtoon’s Challenge League in early 2015, which included more than 1,900 submissions–so, yeah, he’s good at what he does.
McCranie in Space
Space Boy follows a 16-year-old girl named Amy, who lives in deep space in a mining colony. Their community is small, but tight knit. Amy lives a happy life full of people of different “flavors”–when Amy meets people, she relates them each to a different taste or smell. While her mother is mint, “sharp and bright”, her father is hot chocolate, “sweet and full of gentle warmth”.
Each family in the colony is employed by the mining company; they own the entire station. So, when Amy’s dad suddenly loses his job due to an unavoidable accident, the company is able to order her family to promptly vacate. They give him his pension and three tickets back to Earth, with no chance to challenge the decision. Amy is forced to leave her life and two best friends. The small family enters cryogenic stasis in order to take a the 30-year trip back to Earth.
When Amy awakes, she not only has to adjust to the gravitational pull of a new planet, but must also deal with being uprooted from everything she has ever known and start over in a time that has lived 30-years without her, like the best friends she left behind, who have long since married and had children of their own.
This also includes entirely new technology, like net gear glasses, which are now the primary means for communication and internet use, among many, many other features. This includes augmented reality, which superimposes what you’re seeing with computer generated images. These sort of features are used everywhere–on the bus, in biology class, and anywhere you can think of.
However, even while learning a new technological culture, Amy’s interest is most piqued by a young man she runs into on her first day of school. A fair boy with white hair and unnaturally still eyes, Amy is shocked to see that he has no flavor–something she has never seen before.
Space Boy continues as Amy builds a life on Earth, all while trying to uncover the mystery of the flavorless boy. The story is remarkably complex while at the same time being incredibly well-structured. Really, this puppy has everything you could want from both a high school drama as well as a science fiction mystery. There’s murder plots, a romance beyond your comprehension, political intrigue, technology that blows your mind, and humor that balances all the drama oh-so-perfectly.
Space Boy is a great read because McCranie takes a fantastical plot but still weaves story that it relatable to every reader. Amy’s beginnings on Earth are much like what any of us experience due to a big move, as she navigates through a life in a new school, working through the depression of the life she left behind, struggling to come to terms with the idea that this is life now. Space Boy is effective because it connects to you as a reader. These characters are part of a world that’s several steps beyond our own, but they’re going through things that we have experienced ourselves.
McCranie effectively displays a lot of emotion and subtext not only through Amy’s inner dialogue, but also through beautiful visual metaphor. Space Boy‘s structure reads like a book, but at the same time utilizes art and style to further the impact of character depth and emotion. It’s beautifully and its effective.
This comic, visually, it like a weekly piece of art. The line art is unique and soft on the eyes, using 70s-feeling style and color pallet the evokes the same sort of feelings. To be short, I love everything about the styling of this series.
But, oh man, the scenery. There are breathtaking uses of backgrounds, making the world of Space Boy feel real. The details, the colors, the strength of the forms, the coloring. I’ll keep it at this: It’s beyond what you’re used to when you’re reading comics. Nothing about Space Boy is cluttered or confusing, but rather simplified and flowing. It is artful storytelling at it finest.
All in all, this is a story that needs to be read, and this artwork that needs to be seen. To how amazing the art is from the beginning, I’m shocked to re-read and realize how it manages to improve over the 129 episodes that we’ve seen.
Space Boy updates every Thursday on Webtoons. Don’t start reading it late–you’ll end up binge reading it until 3 AM. Trust me on this one.