Culture

The Third Panel: America Jones Beat Me To This Column – Octopus Pie

2011-08-01

Every other week on The Third Panel, Alex dispels the myth that comics are only about superheroes by sharing comics books, graphic novels, and webcomics that are off the beaten path.

I’ve been putting off writing a column about Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie for a while. Mostly because every time I try to think about what to write about, I’m just so floored by the sheer amount of work she’s put into this comic over the past seven years.

A rough outline on the comic: Octopus Pie is about the life of a group of 20-something friends, focusing on the character of Everest “Eve” Ning, a postgrad working at an organic supermarket. Mostly, the strip focuses on her relationship with her group of friends, who include her pot-smoking roommate Hannah, who owns a business called “Bake ‘n’ Bake,” as well as an “urban mercenary” (slang for combination pot dealer/bartender) named Will LeBlanc, and some guy named Puget Sean (whom I’m including purely on the basis of the fact that I like his name).

What really sets Octopus Pie apart from other slice-of-life comics is that Gran isn’t afraid to get really wacky about things. The first couple of storylines focus on Eve and Hannah’s relationship given their totally different personalities, but it very quickly switches gears to things like Eve’s secret talent for figure-skating and her rivalry with former skating wunderkind *AMERICA JONES* (and yes you have to write it like that) to a story where Will has to help Hannah sell her baked goods at a renaissance fair, and in true Will style, he kinda screws it up. A bunch of times.

There’s even a scary-spooky Halloween special that features ghosts, guns, and a ghost bullet! Read it right now because it’s super funny. It’s okay, the review will wait until you’re done.

What always gets me about the writing in Octopus Pie is how quickly it’s able to switch from sad and poignant to flighty and magical, sometimes within the space of a few strips. When it comes down to it, Meredith Gran is a thoughtful writer. I’m being serious when I say that’s one of the highest compliments to someone’s writing I can think of. Her characters only speak when they have something interesting to say, or when they have something funny to say to relieve the tension of a scene. Her characters sound like people, and in a creative world where that’s not always the case, it’s a writing trait I find enviable.

Also, Gran is at the top of her compositional game. I love her art, since it provides the perfect avenue for both funny and serious stories. It really is a pleasure to read her comics just for the sheer amount of movement and action they provide. And I’m just pulling these from a single storyline—the entire comic is full of really amazing scene and action composition. Also that whole storyline is about the Guild of the Ristretto (short pulled espresso shots, for the non-latte monkeys among you), and it’s another story that you should stop whatever you’re doing and read right now because it’s a delight.

She also draws the best dogs I’ve ever seen on the printed page, and let me tell you that is a talent!

Octopus Pie is one of those comics that continues to get better the longer I read it. It’s a phenomenally well-crafted strip, with likeable, deep characters that sound like people, and it’s always a ton of fun to read. It’s not a stretch to say that every time Gran posts on her Twitter that there’s a new comic up, I really have to fight the urge not to ruin it by trying to read it on my phone—that’s how much I love reading a new Octopus Pie strip. That’s the mark of a good comic—so good I’ll try to read it on an iPhone because I can’t wait to get home.