Comics Time: Sexbuzz

Andrew White, writer/artist
Self-published online, 2010-
Currently ongoing
Read it here

Holy shit. Who is this guy?

Though I first encountered Andrew White’s work through a collaboration with the writer Brian John Mitchell on one of Mitchell’s very tiny minicomics, I didn’t really become aware of White as a creator until a few weeks ago, when (I believe via twitter) I followed a link to his homepage and read this science-fiction sex/spy/slice-of-life webcomic. To say I was impressed would be an absurd understatement. Let me put it this way: I emailed my friends freaking out about him, but refused to tell him his name, because I didn’t want the word going out. A quick google search, in fact, had revealed essentially zero hits. The only person talking about Andrew White was Andrew White, and barely at that. That is nuts.

In Sexbuzz, you’ll see a lot of what you like in the comics of Dash Shaw in the way White fuses science-fictional ideas with formal play rather than with set dressing, which in turn gives him the freedom to pursue human-interest storylines without getting tripped up by excessive visual worldbuilding. You’ll see some Ryan Cecil Smith in how he uses loose, almost ramshackle character designs and a fine sense of movement and momentum in his action sequences to make his world feel loose, large, and full of possibility. You’ll see Paul Pope in his big thick ink squiggles, and a fixation on the role of physical objects as a loci of near-future science fiction rather than a more ethereal digital conception of the genre. You’ll even see some Gilbert Hernandez in the way he occasionally pulls back for isolated, abstracted images of the world around us that suffuses it with a weird melancholy magic.

But beyond all the trainspotting, White’s just very good at making the most of the tools at his disposal. The comic’s long vertical scroll gives you the sense of a long story, a story to get lost in, unfurling before your eyes. His graytones are beautifully applied for shading and contour, but also enhance the impression that this is a dingy, rain-soaked city of the night. He’ll slow time down to a crawl with spread-apart panels that evoke McCloud’s infinite canvas without using it outright, then leap forward in time at a chapter break. And he’s constructed the story itself — about underemployed twentysomethings who steal the works for their dangerous technological sex drug Sexbuzz from a sinister corporation — with ample room to play in any number of genres: sci-fi spy thriller, a satire of the corporate/security state, alt/lit young-person relationship drama, action, romance, even erotica. (The nakedly transactional exhibitionism of that opening chapter is hot stuff.) Like Jesse Moynihan’s Forming before it, it’s the kind of webcomic you dream of stumbling across. Long may it run.

(Here are a few pages.)

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