Platform Comics’ annual short comic competition has come to a close, and the winners have been drawn. You can read the work of the 11 finalists, one runner-up, and the winner for free on Platform’s website. Indie comics and the short comic format are constantly evolving and it’s an avenue of comics Platform has elevated for public consumption. Having reviewed past winners, I’m back again to take a look at the top spot and runner-up. This year, short comic Head Above Water by Phillip Maira, Kishore Mohan, and Aditya Bidikar won, followed by runner-up story Midnight, Christmas by Keith Frady, V. Gagnon, and Sonia Espinoza.
Starting with Midnight, Christmas, this tale is gorgeously rendered by V. Gagnon in a Mike Mignola-esque style that’s flat, yet somehow dynamically 3D. Opening on a girl in a cemetery at night, we soon find she’s communicating with an older woman. There’s a story here many will relate to as the girl embarks on a new chapter in her life fearing how she may be as a parent, but also hopeful for what is to come.
Rendered in purples and blues, it may be night time but it’s a pretty scene with interesting Christmas iconography scattered into the narrative. There is a solemn nature to the story that juxtaposes well with the use of music. Through the crisp night, Frady, Gagnon, and Espinoza capture a moment that’s eloquent and beautiful. It’s a stunning short and I suspect we’ll be seeing these creators elsewhere soon.
Sound effects and lettering are exceptional by Espinoza. There’s a sense of fun and energy that’s lively and free. This jives well with the art and general feel of the story. The word balloons themselves are well-drawn and unique in their own right, too.
Head Above Water is the winning story, and it’s about a man soaking in a tub trying to escape from the stress and anxiety of enduring cancer treatment. Told via captions, this story is expert in its choice of objects amongst this man’s life, focusing on telling his story by showing things in his apartment. Much like in their life, they are trying to keep their head above water so they can keep living. Crippling anxiety and fear are things the protagonist is trying to avoid, but after trying many methods soaking in the tub is the only way.
There’s a metaphor here about how to live, living your life to the fullest, and escaping. There’s a story of hope within these pages and one many will be inspired by. It’s particularly inspiring since we have all been quarantining for most of the past year and have at some point had to come to grips with what a full life might mean.
The art by Mohan with letters by Bidikar is solitary and almost zen in their delivery. This is a man who is living on the edge of something and we gain insight by seeing close-ups of items in his apartment, of his fish, and of the man himself. We are never meant to feel sorry for this person, which is why the story works so well. The placement of captions is also intriguing, dancing around the art.
The visuals capture life and we are inside the subjects’ heads via the captions to live along with them. By its end, we learn something about ourselves through this man’s experience and, given the year, maybe gain a bit more empathy in the process.
Don’t forget, you can download the anthology for free today. I recommend reading the entire collection which offers entirely new ideas visual and storywise well worth a look.
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