Tuesday, March 01, 2016

This is my least favorite part of Odd Duck:

In the first chapter of prose writer Cecil Castellucci and cartoonist Sara Varon's collaboration, we are treated to the above image of the protagonist, Theodora, at the grocery store. This page is pretty representative of one of Odd Duck's chief pleasures, namely the amount of details that Varon works into the pages. One could argue about her art style, but I think it's safe to say it lies closer to the more minimal, more abstracted end of the cartooning spectrum, but the simplicity of her figures, character design, expressions and posing belies just how richly detailed the panels all are.

In the world of Odd Duck, the ducks may be anthropomorphic, but they are still ducks; they're not like the Disney ducks, which are basically human beings who happen to appear in the basic form of anthropomorphic duck. And so when Theodora goes shopping, its not for simple, blank box shapes, but for actual products with actual brands (the ducks all eat duck pellets).

Almost every location in the book is full of such details. The book's on Theodora's bookshelf have titles on the spines, her bed spread and pillows have a matching design, the books she checks out from the library have cover images as well as titles, and, in a scene where Theodora is baking, we see the carefully designed and rendered ingredients in familiar packaging: The sugar resembles that of Domino-brand sugar, with it's white, blue and yellow box, and the egg replacer (of course a duck would use egg replacer instead of actual eggs; what kind of monstrous duck would bake a cake using eggs?) comes from a box featuring the colors and the basic design of Ener-G brand egg replacer.

It's an all-around great book, sharing in common with many of Varon's own books a focus on friendships (that is easily applicable to other, more serious sorts of relationships, if one wishes to read them as such), an that peculiar, semi-elegiac, semi-comedic tone of her best books. Where it perhaps differs is in its length and pacing; not quite a traditional graphic novel in format, Odd Duck is more like a picture book the length of a short chapter book, if that makes sense.

Anyway, my least favorite part? That Varon drew the duck version of Quaker Oats on the page above, and did not label them "Quacker Oats."

I suppose there are several reasons for this, including the fact that Varon and/or Castellucci both have more sophisticated senses of humor than I, or that such a joke has been made elsewhere before, but I was a little surprised to see the Quaker oats of this duck world simply labeled "Oats."

That is my least favorite part of Odd Duck. I love every other part of it.

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