Craft in Cartooning: Five Slices of Octopus Pie

Craft in Cartooning: Five Slices of Octopus Pie

Octopus Pie won Meredith Gran an Ignatz, and maybe you don't know why yet. Or maybe you'd just like to bask in the quality of this comics?  Sailor, either way, I'm here to help ya. I have made a list. It's five points long and I'm sure you can't believe what I left off—but that's great too!

Octopus Pie won Meredith Gran an Ignatz, and maybe you don’t know why yet. Or maybe you’d just like to bask in the quality of this comics?  Sailor, either way, I’m here to help ya. I have made a list. It’s five points long and I’m sure you can’t believe what I left off—but that’s great too! Because it just goes to show how much there is to appreciate about this nine year-old (web) comic.

1: The Fuck Transition

Meredith Gran, Octopus Pie

The warp-speed blink between panels, taking two characters who are “together again at last” into golden, hazy, post-coital intimacy. The difference in light tells you how long they’ve been getting reacquainted, but the jump tells you… this is how things should be, with him and her. We missed the sex because the sex was a function of their otherwise-fumbling reunification. We see their characters, too: he goes from earnest to flabbergasted—she goes from gleeful to naively relaxed. The sweetness of their coupling rings out.

2: The Lizard Brain

Meredith Gran, Octopus Pie

This cartooning! So good! The vulnerability builds over several panels, the dissociation implied by the fading monologue… and then lizard brain gives the OK. Id lashes out. So good.

3: The GIFs

Lacey Micallef & Meredith Gran, Octopus Pie

The ability to insert GIFs into regular, static-paneled comics is something webcomics have over every other form. Octopus Pie experimented with it fairly early, as seen here, and in 2013 Gran collaborated with animator Lacey Micallef for a multipage sequence leading up to the above. The change of pace, the strangeness of moving image amongst still, is used to maximum effect—this character is so far out of her depth that she’s broken from the rules of normality to find joy and wonder in slimey, luminous, intangible icons of childhoods past.

4: The Improvement

From 2007—

Meredith Gran, Octopus Pie

To 2016:

Meredith Gran, Octopus Pie

Not only has the fresh, clear colouring that’s developed elevated the visual joy of strip, Gran’s ease of line, command of anatomy, style—all have shot through the roof. Originally her eyes and bodies had a squinting Family Guyish aspect, a Penny Arcade or Ctrl+Alt+Del stiffness and side-mouthiness; bodies were seen blockily floating—somehow stuffy floating. Now they stand firm on floors, beds, grass, and all stances communicate motion (and emotion).

5: Googling Sex

Meredith Gran, Octopus Pie

Nothing is stagnant in Octopus Pie. A character may be struggling with stagnancy, but they’ll move about within it, define their confines. The jerking speed of the relationship (the love story) developed between Jane and Mar brings them to this: Mar needing to look up how to consummate. Its funny! It’s vulnerable! It’s generous! The motion of emotion: Mar (and Jane) allowing herself change, committing to it enough to try to prepare herself for a new experience. Gran makes fun of how silly our internal structures are—what fools they make of us, even when we’re brave enough to try. And how that’s nice, really. Check these two preceding pages: Good as hell.

Claire Napier

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