How i Made the World #1 is a fresh example of what comics can be outside of the standard superhero format. Smart, funny, introspective and decidedly non-epic, the first issue centers on the trials and tribulations of college student Liz as she navigates a high-stress world of art classes and smoking blunts on the beach.
That’s not sarcasm (although you’ll find plenty of that in HiMTW) – creators Liz Plourde and Randy Michaels infuse a kind of dreamy, slacker-toned narrative hold to the otherwise hookless plot. There’s no sex, no violence, no outlandish twist – just a real tale of a real person trying to deal with real life. And it’s wonderful.
The script is rife with deadpan nuggets like, “My mattress. The ultimate temptress,” that keep the feeling light and reflective. Liz is amusing, conflicting, and interesting to hang around. Her search for herself is deep without feeling overwrought. Plourde doesn’t attempt to give readers all the answers or chase down subplots, she simply tells an honest human story, which is more complex than it seems. There’s a sort of Gen X energy laced throughout, a specific variety of slow and thoughtful humor that has become increasingly rare in the hyper-amplified 21st century.
The art is gorgeous. Randy Michaels renders a somewhat abstract story with the hand of a seasoned master. The art calls to mind fellow indie creators Terry Moore and David Lapham, with a dash of early Love and Rockets-era Hernandez brothers. The bold black and white pages are clean and beautiful, with each character being made to feel real in expressive panels. Indie debuts often suffer in the art department, but that’s not the case here. Michaels brings the story to life and lays out pages like an old hand.
Combined, Plourde and Michaels have a real artistic chemistry. Michaels does journeyman work capturing the nuance of the script, and Plourde’s story introduces a range of everyday settings that keeps things interesting visually. Both creators gel so cohesively that the issue feels more like the work of a strong solo auteur than a team. Based on the strength of this debut, it’s exciting to think what they have in store next.
Ironically, How i Made the World’s first issue marks the end of an era in indie comics. Plourde and Michaels’ work was funded by a grant from the Xeric Foundation, which since 1992 has awarded over $2.5 million to up-and-coming independent comic creators. Notable recipients include Karl Stevens, Jason Lutes, Jessica Abel and Jeff Lemire. Regretfully, Xeric founder Peter Laird (of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame) decided to cease the foundation’s comic grants in 2012 (the reason given was essentially “because Internet”). How i Made the World made the cut for Xeric’s final round, and the comic stands are better off for it.
The diverse, original storytelling displayed in How i Made the World serves as a reminder of how much open territory remains unclaimed in the world of comics. With the substantial majority of monthly comic pages dedicated to slug fests between superpowered creatures, being able to read a story that entertains while speaking to real experiences is refreshing. We could use more books like this.