If you’re big into webcomics, the name Alex Heberling should be familiar to you. She’s been doing the fun autobiographical webcomic Alex’s Guide To A Life Well Lived since 2008, and it’s still going. She also was the mind behind the webcomic Garanos, which ran from 2006 to 2010, and is now completed. So this is an artist with a lot of experience in her corner.
I’m proud to present Alex’s latest work, The Hues, as our Kickstarter of the Week for the first print volume, SPECTRUM. It introduces us to the cast and the world she has built with painstaking care and attention to detail.
Alex has gone on record as being a big fan of Sailor Moon and cites it as an influence. The Hues is a magical girl story as a result, but it’s not the semi-comedic space opera she draws inspiration from. The Hues is a dystopian story. That’s not usually my cup of tea, but, like I said, Alex’s name got my attention, and I wanted to see what she could do when she set her mind to something more than a fun blog diary comic.
I wasn’t disappointed, and I expect anyone who gives The Hues a chance won’t be either.
What’s it about? Alex describes it in her own words:
This comic is my love letter to magical girls, and my way of celebrating all the different types of girls everywhere. I want all kinds of kids to be able to see themselves in my characters!
The action takes place in Columbus Ohio, which is a refreshing change of pace from the coastal cities many sci fi stories take place in. The Hues gives you not one, not two, but FIVE magical girls, and a cast of wholly developed characters of every shape and size. Our core four:
Samhita is an internet girl who likes to write and is kind of the first and central character. She became curious and focused on the image in the sky before the bad stuff started happening because the image in the sky is one she’s been familiar with since her childhood.
Andrea Crowell is an intuitive auburn-haired ray of sunshine, contrasting Samhita’s quiet and introspective nature. As Samhita is the computer geek, Andy is the outdoorsy one who has a little Jedi by way of Jean Grey going on.
Hannah is a soft spoken type who seems to be a little anti-social. But is it anti-social, or is she just having a hard time trying to figure out how to communicate with these new people in this unexpected environment?
Then there’s Lauren, who strikes me as Jupiter to Hannah’s Mars if we’re really looking for Sailor Moon parallels. She’s the one who flat out refuses to let this situation get her down. She walks and talks with attitude and lets her instinct be her guide.
Oh, and did I mention they’re non-binary?
When I said diverse, I wasn’t kidding: different races, different personalities, different body types, different life preferences, and that’s true for more than just the core cast. There are no cookie cutters coming out of Alex’s digital pen!
What grabbed my attention about this project besides the familiar name? I’m going to be honest: Volume 1, page one. Samhita sitting on her bed, with her laptop, in her socks, with a string theory-minus-the-strings collection of clippings, notes, drawings,and index cards. Alex put some time and effort into this page to grab a new reader’s interest, and it works. The clippings look like they came out of a newspaper. Alex doesn’t shy away from challenges; Samhita’s outfit is a striped shirt, something a handful of webcomic artists bother depicting because it’s time-consuming and hard to get right. That she was willing to go to this amount of effort for the first page spoke to me of courageous and adventurous choices. I wasn’t disappointed. Alex goes right for the pixelated effect so Sami’s vlog really feels like a recording. The subsequent pages are a feast for the eyes. Those courageous choices keep happening. The backgrounds are full of detail and color ranging from vivid and saturated to subtle and muted. She does this wonderful minimalist thing with the black inks atop her paints that makes certain parts of every page just POP!
But gazing over the lush art isn’t enough. There has to be a story to make it worth clicking NEXT over and over. Alex doesn’t disappoint here, either. There are shades of “V” and “ID4” in the opening chapter as a symbol and a countdown are tied to Sami’s webcast. Sami herself doesn’t know what to make of it all until the unthinkable happens: an alien invasion. Scared teenage girl though she is, she makes a stand with a broom.
The young women meet each other little by little over the course of the chapters, which is a nice change of pace from “team meets and is ready to suit up and go” from page one. They’re not even all ready to be a team right away; the mainstream super type comics didn’t bother with that kind of thing when I was growing up, so it’s nice to see. We get to learn their personalities, their hopes and fears, little by little, as they begin to pull people together for companionship, protection, and hope. Alex is a real dab hand at showing emotion. Even amongst all the things happening visually on every page, you never have to wonder how the Core Four are doing. It’s written all over their faces.
Excited? You should be.
Alex has embellished and retouched some of the art from the early chapters for the print edition. Here are five pages with the new art to whet your whistle.
While you’re waiting for the print edition, you can visit a few of the social sites that net-savvy Alex has setup for the perusal of the fascinated: there’s a deviantArt fan club for the comic, which has been very quiet and could use some love. Or, if Tumblr’s more your speed, The Hues has an update stream there. If you’re into interacting with the creator, she is also on Twitter: @thehues.