Ochre Ellipse #3
by Jonas Madden-Connor
It’s difficult to say something new about the simplicity and preciousness of youth, but in Ochre Ellipse #3, I believe Jonas Madden-Connor has done it.
Childhood is an extremely primitive and potent time in a person’s life. It’s unsurprising then how memories from our youth are used to build a lore of ourselves we’ll examine forever, always hoping the raw truth of our past can unlock the door to our best possible future. Those familiar with the challenge and reward of self-examination value the work of raconteurs who spin regular experiences like childhood bullying into rich, comedic, thought-provoking tales that offer a “new” perspective on growing up.
Madden-Connor’s work is not this because, in many ways, Ochre Ellipse #3 goes far above good storytelling and truly defies expectation. This is not just a new version of a familiar story, one that weaves the author’s own carefully-wrought wisdom into ordinary chaos, ending with catharsis. Such methods are, in a way, predictable. We have learned through experience to anticipate the work’s summary final sentence that says it all and gives absolution to past events. With this comic, something else happens. Madden-Connor structures the story so creatively that it offers the reader a really rich experience through empathy.
Ochre Ellipse #3 asks the reader to accept a completely new idea about how a person might return to their childhood for answers — one that has nothing to do with analysis and acceptance of the past — and in doing so, finds other interesting ways of making its point about youth, memory and nostalgia.
Ochre Ellipse #3 is set in a world where time travel is commonplace. So much so that, for a fee, you can time travel as an invisible observer to any point in history, and, for a higher fee, you can create your own time line. It’s a business that operates about as casually as a sandwich shop, so the fact that the protagonist uses the service often isn’t really surprising. Time travel as entertainment. At least, that’s the idea.
Instead, our main character continues to travel back to his childhood. Repeatedly. Over and over. He goes back to the same memory, looking for clues that will lead him to where he went wrong in his life. He once was a happy solitary kid, but now he’s an unhappy solitary adult. Why? How could he learn to be happy again?
He’s only paid for the standard travel package, which includes just watching and not interacting with the past, but even so, he begins to feel more and more like an integral part of his surroundings the more he visits. Each time he returns, he plays a new part in his boyhood self’s imaginary world. He’s having fun, being with himself, and it’s the most touching transformation that I have seen in a comic all year.
I’ve been thinking for a long time about the formula for popular children’s movies (underdog rises high and gets the girl) and wonder whether or not kids actually like that stuff. I surprisingly don’t know any kids to ask, so instead I choose to rely on the wisdom of a friend — cartoonist and father of one, King Mini — who recently, unintentionally, laid it out for me. Kids need to use their imagination, he said, and that’s what most kids movies don’t permit. Instead of stoking the imagination, the idea of endless possibility, they teach kids to wait for the formula to unravel to its expected conclusion instead of offering them new ideas.
If you’re someone who wants to see things differently, in a crowd of people all waiting to have life unfold in the right way, having an imagination can be a very isolating experience at times. That doesn’t mean though that creativity and happiness are mutually exclusive, and that’s my take-away from Madden-Connor’s great book.
Plenty of stories have been written about adults learning to believe again, or whatever the adult version of “play” and “imagination” can be, but those plots are often over-stuffed with hokey love stories and bit roles for funnymen. After awhile, they all look the same. Madden-Connor’s book is just so purely about this one thing — a person re-connecting with their ideas — that it feels remarkably unlike its counterparts in the genre. No matter what your own experience pushes you read into this book, you’re guaranteed to be swept up in its spell. For me at least, the experience was really rare.
Ochre Ellipse #3 is excellent. Hands down one of the best books I’ll read all year. Add it to your Holiday Wish List. It’s 40 pages long, black and white pages, displays an awesome library sci-fi sticker on the cover, and can be purchased for $5 through Global Hobo or $4 through Family Style.
– Sarah Morean