Kean Soo

Kean Soo
Jellaby is a web comics story by Kean Soo about a precocious but lonely little girl named Portia who finds a purple monster, also apparently lonely and alienated, in the woods behind her home. She befriends, and in turn is befriended by, the monster, perhaps in light of the famous quote from Shakespeares’s Portia that “the quality of mercy is not strain’d…” and “…blesseth him that gives and him that takes”.

The story is in turns wistful, sad, funny and charming, drawn in a style that might be suitable for children’s book illustration. Soo doesn’t show the artistic sensiblity of someone with formal training in drawing, but demonstrates a remarkable tendency to work and experiment with the graphic and narrative form of comics. His drawings can seem in turn naive and sophisticated.

I absolutely love the fascinating bit of narrative invention in in the sequence above, where Soo has controlled the intensity of the color so that the visual focus in the three panels follows the changes in the character’s focus in over time. Wonderful! A technique that could only work in the medium of comics.

The art for Jellaby is done in a purple duotone, occasionally punctuated with elements of other colors, another way in which Soo subtly controls the visual focus of the panels.

Soo is transitioning (or has transitioned) from a career as an electrical engineer to drawing comics full time. The front of his site is essentially a blog. There is a section for illustration, which seems a byproduct of his comics work rather than an end in itself, and a comics section which is divided in to three subsections.

At the top, in a section called exitmusic, is a series of short, apparently autobiographical comics stories that are accompanied by music (and sometimes lyrics) of existing songs that are an integral part of the stories.

Below that is the journal, a series of short autobiographical, sometimes confessional, slice of life vignettes in a variety of styles. The art and writing style varies with the emotional content of the piece.

At the bottom of the page is Jellaby, the link for which takes you to the strip which is hosted on a separate site called The Secret Friend Society. Jellaby co-exists on the SFS site with comics artist Hope Larson’s creation Salamander Dream, which apparently shares a world in which Jellaby’s Portia also exists. Jellaby is Soo’s venture into long form comics.

If you go to the Jellaby archive, and start at the bottom, you can read the strip in order to its most current page. Jellaby is currently on hiatus while Soo pursues other projects, but still makes a satisfying read.

Soo has print versions of his comics available, and has been in several anthologies, including Flight Volume 1 and Volume 2.

I’m not sure is the arrangement on Soo’s comics page is chronological, or if he has arranged the features in order of importance. If the latter, I would have to disagree and suggest that his work within the more traditional format is the most successful. All of them, though are worth checking out.

 
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