Shangri-La is a sequence of 8 paintings that tell a story in narrative form. It challenges conventions on what defines a ‘comic’. To immerse into Shangri-La’s story, you need to suspend your idea of comics as multiple panels, speech balloons, or particular art styles.
This short story is a commentary on the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the events surrounding its surviving perpetuator Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, especially the female adulation. While the actual culprit’s fate hangs in the balance, we conjure our own ending for his fictional counterpart, Harold.
Comics have taken many forms through the ages, from cave paintings and column carvings to Scott McCloud’s ‘infinite canvas’. For a period of time, before development of the printing press, comics were hand-made paintings exhibited in galleries.
For example, William Hogarth’s (1697–1764) “A Rake’s Progress” consisted of a number of canvases that created a narrative together. We emulate this historical precedent.
Also vital is employing a more classical art direction. Several times we toyed with using ‘conventional’ comic angles and close-up action shots, but this simply wouldn’t work for Shangri-La.
Thus you cannot nonchalantly browse through the pictures and immediately comprehend all their elements; you need to study the pieces and discern how the objects, colours, and compositions complement the larger story. Exactly how one appreciates paintings in a gallery.
During creation, we avoided making the narrative seem like it was ‘force-fitted’ into paintings that were separately drawn with a different train of thought. The narrative and art serve one storyline. The words or the art alone would feel hollow on their own. They work best in harmony. This is our idea of ‘comic’: a gestalt of words and pictures that achieve an effect greater than its individual parts.
Shangri-La’s setting is part of a larger fictional universe: a post-apocalyptic Earth where human civilization is split between dark steampunk technologists and nature-loving martial artists. I hope to spin many more tales around this universe. Working title: “The Children of Fire”.
Shangri-La appeared in the conservation-themed comic anthology Earth Dream in Spring 2014. The entire comic is free; you can download the e-book after registering on the website.