Alexander Danner and Bill Duncan have been collaborating for a while now on Picture Story Theater (Warning, all links from here out are Modern Tales links, and may require a login). They have managed an amazing job of making the art and the writing combine to produce something much better. The stories that have been told vary from the whimsical exploration of “Fantastic Zoology: The Coastal Giraffe” to a cautionary tale of “The Little Bear Who Knew Fear”, but most of their stories revolve around the interacting lives of a set of middle school students, and their supernatural or not-so-supernatural experiences.
Danner’s writing is a wonderful act of minimalism (in fact, the first PST doesn’t have any dialog at all). He also does an excellent job of conveying the idealized and romanticized vision of life as a tweener that anyone who’s grown up still clutches to (if only to try and banish the memories of the peer-induced trauma we actually lived through). His dialog is convincing, and his stories are fresh and interesting.
The artwork of Bill Duncan perfectly compliments Danner’s writing. He explores different compositional and linework styles to match the general tone of the piece – Amy Plays A Game of Chance is composed using only four hues to emphasize that it has no dialog. Duncan reaches a bit into the grotesque side of comics for the opening scenes of Together Again, to illustrate a bit the malaise of Humpty Dumpty, and then softens his focus as the story changes tone as well.
Despite the consistantly high grade art and writing, and the pure professionalism shown by both players, they still manage to maintain the willingness to experiment and change everything that is the hallmark of great web comics.
In short, Bill Duncan and Alexander Danner are a webcomic powerhouse team-up, and it’s worth three bucks for a one month subscription to Modern Tales just to check them out.
A brief follow-up. The interconnected stories about school children is being re-released in a free offering as Portraits of Nervous Children.
It just started, so there isnâ€™t much there yet. But keep an eye out – this is good reading.