“The Waking Life of Angels”
Story: Brian Wood
Art: Becky Cloonan
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
The film school experience has given me a love-hate relationship with short films. I certainly love the format, and wonderful things can come out the strange place that makes you focus a story down to twenty pages or less. (They can be longer, of course, but this was the rough limit we were set to back in the day, due to budget constraints and perceived attention span of the festivals they were targeted for. In the page-per-minute paradigm, 15 pages/minutes was considered the sweet spot.) While not all short films are student films, by default the majority of student films are short films. And, let’s be honest, it takes a special kind of aesthetic fortitude to watch student films, and I can be fair enough to include the ones I was involved in as well.
The first few films of a student career span a very energetic time, and everyone involved is coming at it like newborns regardless of actual age. It’s intoxicating to have that much freedom early on, and doubly so if you’re any kind of realist and understand that it might be a while before you have it again. Whether or not the actual content needs it or not, the tendency is to push it as far as you can, to quote Dr. Duke. The end result is often low on nuance and subtlety, and usually hard to watch. But everyone has a good time doing it, and it is, for many people, the closest they’ll ever personally get to the craft.
It’s from this strange place that I read Demo #1, Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s second (and, now, Vertigo-published) foray into the Demo universe. What strikes me the most, the main reason why I shared the above observations, is that this feels almost like the film student’s dream. It been years since your thesis film, you’ve moved on into whatever corner of the industry you managed to worm your way into and then, with all that new experience behind you, you’re suddenly allowed to go back and do it again.
I certainly hope I’m not misreading how much fun Wood and Cloonan appear to be having, because it’s the feeling I came away with. I can’t think of another self-contained, single issue comic that carries itself from start to finish as deftly in art and writing as this one. The closest I can come is Neil Gaiman’s Hellblazer #27, “Hold Me”, but that involves an established character — that almost seems like cheating in comparison to Demo‘s “new character every issue” approach. In a landscape littered with mega-crossovers and reboots, it’s a breath of fresh air.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve never read the original AiT/PlanetLar series. I think we have a copy of the trade, though [Actually, we’ll have to pick it up; I’ve only got Channel Zero and Couscous Express –J.], and after this I’m certainly going to give it a go. Obviously, even though I used the film-school metaphor, I don’t mean to imply that the original issues were amateurish. I honestly don’t know. I can’t argue with their decision to come back to Demo, however, regardless of how it all started.