Ochre Ellipse #3 by Jonas Madden-Connor

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Ochre Ellipse #3
by Jonas Madden-Connor
Family Style

jmcIt’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.

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APE 2009

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Isotope Award 2009 from Sarah Morean on Vimeo.

I’ve often thought of independent comics as the great social equalizer. By this I mean that no indie cartoonist or fan walking alone into a room full of similar stock should be able to leave without a friend. My estimation of indie comics, it seems, was too naive. See, until last weekend, I’d never been further west than Denver. The indie shows I’d seen were packed with internet acquaintances, kind artists recalling my fan letters, and other Midwesterners. In other words, people that I already knew. I’d been biased, for sure.

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Ochre Ellipse #2 by Jonas Madden-Connon

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Ochre Ellipse #2
By Jonas Madden-Connon
Family Style

Start with something simple: unrequited love. A cashier at a supermarket–Mercet. She’s small and full-bodied and rosy-cheeked. She works the checkout line Mondays through Thursdays and on Saturday afternoons. Our momentary protagonist is, to say the least, enamored. He meanders through the supermarket, tossing groceries into his basket that he never plans on purchasing, to avoiding looking suspicious. It’s a basic conceit–one sure to be incredibly familiar to anyone who has read their share of indie books.

For Jonas Madden-Connor, however, this base plotline feels like more of a sandbox, a safe environment in which to try out a multitude of ideas, something that Ochre Ellipse is clearly not lacking, a point made abundantly clear by turning to nearly any of the book’s 29 CD booklet-sized pages. Madden-Connor’s scenes employ a unique sense of depth, a camera trained 3/4 overhead, on a plane to which even his character’s speech bubbles adhere. The panels that retain them, while present on nearly ever page, dissolve or shift, a friendly reminder that, while the artist is still content to use them as a tool with which to tell his story, they are simply that–a means to an end, rather than a necessity. Objects on the store’s shelves are also fodder for the story, adapting their text to form streams of thoughts that project our unrequited narrator’s inner-monologue.

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