The Work of Stephen McCranie, Reviewed
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
I hope you're all finding something fun to do during these Stay At Home/quarantine orders! And staying safe, of course. Today I'd like to talk about some inspiring art I've consumed of late.
I've been reading a lot of online comics in the last week or so, via WebToon. I had started with Space Boy by Stephen McCranie. Space Boy is about a girl who essentially time travels via cryogenic stasis to Earth, losing thirty years of time...and meets an interesting, but sad boy, consumed with an emptiness only described as The Nothing. There is an alien artifact, a mysterious murder, and wholesome, but real-feeling love stories and friendships sprinkled throughout.
Space Boy really gave me some Fallout 4 vibes. The art and time is reminiscent of Astro Boy, though more refined, but throughout it all, I kept feeling like Space Boy was Fallout 4's future if, well, the fallout hadn't happened. And honestly, I enjoyed that about it.
The relationship Amy, the main character of Space Boy, has with those around her, is incredibly fascinating. She has synesthesia, a condition where she sees people's personalities and, essentially their souls, as 'flavors'. Her best friend on the mining colony she's from, Jemmah, has the flavor of pineapples and jalapenos, and she describes her father as having the flavor of hot chocolate, and her mother of mint. A perfect flavor combo for such a sweet and loving, put-together family. These flavors play a part throughout the narrative as Amy makes new friends and meets suspicious characters, and can sometimes even use her synesthesia to tell if someone is lying to her due to new flavors popping up with their speech or in their body language.
I absolutely loved and was moved by the relationship Amy has with her parents. They do their best as they navigate the troubling times of having to leave their homes and move to Earth, and are incredibly understanding and reliable as Amy finds her emotions getting the best of her. It's a very real depiction, in my opinion, of a teenager's attempts to not bother anyone with one's problems and to try and keep it together alone.
Throughout Space Boy, I think the most constant feeling for me was 'peaceful', and 'floating'. Amy narrates throughout the story of her thoughts and feelings, and it filled me with a calm not unlike when I was reading Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, a very favorite science fiction manga of mine by Hitoshi Ashinano.
While Space Boy is updating, and the final narrative incomplete, I still think the series deserves a 9/10 score.
One thing that I wasn't entirely bought on, and I won't go into details due to spoilers, is that one character's love interest in the narrative didn't feel entirely organic. It makes sense, but feels a little forced. Reading on, it's not enough to bother me to give it a lower score. It's still sweet, and Space Boy is still incredibly enjoyable to read.
So there's my review for Space Boy! This next comic by Stephen McCranie was the main purpose of this blog post, something that also really inspired me of late.
It's called, The Art of Being an Artist. As I was reading Space Boy, McCranie has little snippets at the end of episodes talking about what he's working on, and one of them spoke of this new side-comic he's been working on, a How-To of sorts.
That same, floating feeling I felt reading Space Boy is present in his How-To book on being an artist. And that is exactly what this book is about: Being, rather than Doing. Like Space Boy, it is also incomplete, but it has its fair share of wisdom-nuggets that I felt were very empowering as a fellow artist.
McCranie puts himself out in the open in this comic, baring his old wounds and vulnerabilities for all to see...because it is what most of us experience in the pursuit of art that keeps some of us from wanting to continue. It is incredibly relatable, and refreshing to see. That feeling of I'm not alone emanates, and There are ways to work through this.
There are many How-To books on making art, but McCranie insists it's not the doing that he wants to see, he wants to see how one plans and creates, what happens before the final product exists? He breaks down common fears and shows the reader how to implement his own strategies for moving forward in his endeavor to make comics for a living, and insists that these can be applied for any art, not just making comics—and as a writer, he's not wrong.
These ideas aren't new. They've been said before, whether in passing, or in other encouraging how-to books and seminars. But coming from McCranie, they become more than simple phrases one might roll their eyes at because of how many times you've heard them before... They become something manageable, doable. Inspiring.
Episode #2 talks about how being an artist can be discouraging when one looks at the final idea of a piece you want to create. You see it in all its glory, perhaps a masterpiece you aspire to create in your own image. But doing this and expecting it to be great, and then looking at your creation you've just made...in comparison it's terrible. So you need to start small. Becoming a great artist comes by laying down a single brick at a time, and then the next, and doing this every day if you can. Eventually, all these little things can one day become a big thing. Each experience helps you learn and grow into a better artist.
He tells himself, "The only difference between me and the master artist is time."
There are many creatives in my life that I look to and see how true that statement is, and how I can apply that to myself whenever I also feel discouraged. I think McCranie's comic could help current and future creatives all around, and I'm excited to read more of it.
You can read Space Boy and The Art of Being an Artist on Webtoon for free. All art displayed on today's blog post is by Stephen McCranie, including the thumbnail art (minus the text.) You can also buy volumes 1-7 of Space Boy at Barnes and Noble, or volumes 1-8 on Amazon.
Space Boy - Read Here
The Art of Being an Artist - Read Here
Stephen McCranie's webpage: Here
What has inspired you lately? Let me know in the comments, and please like and subscribe to my blog! :)