Raven and the Crayfish

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Denison University presents "The Raven and the Crayfish" by Ross Wood Studlar:

Studlar takes a fascinating Pacific Northwest Native American legend and spins it into a clever narrative.  Essentially, it’s about Raven trying to gain permanent sustenance from a huge lake guarded by a giant, humanoid Crayfish.  The back-and-forth between the two antagonists is enormously clever, as the Raven used his human worshipers in an effort to fool the Crayfish.  The Raven couldn’t get the lake, but the Crayfish wasn’t quite able to finish off Raven, either.  Studlar concludes the comic by telling a tale of white men who try to stock the lake with fish, only to see them die off from the lake’s natural radioactivity–much like Raven’s agents couldn’t get fish to kill off the crayfish in the lake.

When Studlar stuck to depicting his characters in silhouette, as he did for Raven throughout the story, his comic has a stark, primitive energy.  His loose, open storytelling style (with no panel borders) resembles an illustrated book (or perhaps a cave painting) as much as it does a comic.  The problems with this comic arrive when Studlar tries to render naturalistic figures.  His human figures are awkward both in terms of basic draftsmanship as well as their relationship to one another.  The biggest problem is the design of the Crayfish.  It’s not a compelling figure as its sloppily drawn, with a messy scrawl for hair and weird anatomical poses.  Close-ups revealing the monstrous nature of the creature were effective, but the overall effect was almost a comical one, instead of a frightening or freaky one.  I don’t think this was what Studlar was going after.  Like many a student project, this one has a number of positive qualities but needs to be redrawn.


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