Comics Time: Forming


Jesse Moynihan, writer/artist

ongoing webcomic, January 2009-January 2010 (and counting)

Read it at

I was pretty happy with the high concept I came up with for Afrodisiac, so let’s try it again: What if the stars of Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions were the Big Answers? Like Nilsen’s funny-animal epic, Forming tells the tale of characters struggling with the stuff of existence–life, death, fate, their place in a universe that appears fundamentally capricious. Unlike Nilsen’s birds, though, Moynihan’s characters are archangels, cosmically powered alien beings, demigods and titans of legend, founding members of humanity who commune (and copulate) with higher beings on a daily basis. The metaphor scales our human plight up, not down, in other words. The art follows suit. Moynihan’s line is soft, its weight gently fluctuating, shored up by quietly irregular coloring, suggesting the same vulnerabilities as Nilsen’s stippling and figurework. But the design is maximalist: Crazy Kirbyesque costumes, Fletcher Hanks psychedelic action, long sequences of physical combat, extradimensional travel, mental fantasias. The stakes are similarly higher–the central action includes Lucifer’s battle with Michael and the birth of human civilization as conferred upon us by ancient astronauts. The gag, of course, is that these highfalutin’ types are just as messed up as we are, complaining about their jobs and their family and their sex lives and so on.

So yeah, you’ve seen it before. But what makes its use in Forming so appealing is the strip’s rolling, loping, laconic pace. New subplots–a literal clash of the titans, Lucifer & Michael, Adam & Eve, corporate intrigue on the alien homeworld–are slowly folded into the strip, and our lens on the action swings back and forth between them like a pendulum. Moreover, most of the strip’s two-page installments are stacked on top of each other, our eyes slowly cascading downward as the action unfolds over a long vertical plane. The cumulative effect does even more than the specifics of the dialogue in terms of humanizing the cosmic characters and wringing bleak gallows humor from their dilemmas. If this thing ever gets collected in print, I’d love to see it in a super-tall, super-narrow format just for that reason. It’s a very pleasurable reading experience, and it’s easy to see how rewarding a weekly visit could be.

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