April 2, 2012

New Favorite: SuperMutant Magic Academy

I have been aware of Jillian Tamaki only since reading Skim, and I sure am glad that I investigated her further! Skim, written by her cousin Mariko Tamaki, is a beautiful and complex book about the ambiguities of adolescent identity and relationship (and a work I intend to discuss further at another date), but that's not all she's got up her sleeve. Among many other projects, Jillian Tamaki also regularly puts out a webcomic with the awesome title of SuperMutant Magic Academy, and it's my new favorite.

An early strip featuring big heads and magic beans.1

The strip follows a group of students in a school that's sort of a mix of Hogwarts and Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. It could be read either as (a) a story about comically angsty teenagers made more fun by giving them supernatural powers, or (b) a story about magicians and mutants made more fun by giving them comical teen angst; either works for me.  Although it's mostly humorous in a way that reminds me of another favorite, Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant, it's also touching and even sad at times.

(As yet) unrequited love3.

It's also a nifty chance to see an artist experimenting with style and technique: early strips have a much more "brushy" quality to them, such as in the "big heads" strip from earlier, while some, like the "lazy goose" strip above, make use of more solid line to create characters. Color and shading are also added in on occasion by good use of Photoshop (I assume), and even the lettering changes through time. Reading a serial work like this is quite an enjoyable way of witnessing an artist change through time, and I say this as someone who is psyching himself into creating comics and is always on the lookout for inspirational material. Jackpot!

Self-serving reasons aside, this is a great comic, and I'm already looking forward to the next strip.

Durham County Library patrons may find Skim among the Young Adult Graphic Novel shelves under F TAMAKI, or they can place a hold on it and her other works here. If SuperMutant Magic Academy ever makes its way to a collected edition, I will be sure to lobby for the library to purchase it! Jillian Tamaki's portfolio, with links to her publications and sketchblog, is located at jilliantamaki.com.

UPDATE: The Comics Journal likes it too! And so does Io9!

Top image: http://mutantmagic.com/post/17556939831/logo-no-go, © Jillian Tamaki
1. Image source: http://mutantmagic.com/post/2325132475/jake-williams, © Jillian Tamaki
2. Image source: http://mutantmagic.com/post/11383329257/get-up, © Jillian Tamaki

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