Bee, the heroine of Shutterbug Follies, is just out of high school. Until she has enough money to do something with more of a future, she’s working at a one-hour photo processor, where she’s developed a rather odd hobby — making her own copies of the weirder pictures people bring in. When a customer asks her to develop pictures showing dead bodies, she decides to follow him to find out the story behind the images. Her snooping puts her in danger as she winds up involved with gangsters and assassins.
The book is an intriguing combination of Nancy Drew (only with more mature content in the photos and images) and Rear Window, as Bee obsessively spies on her prey. The art is vibrantly colored, with lots of oranges and greens and violets, and the panels have rounded corners, similar to old photos. It all adds up to a feeling of unreality that suits the action motif. The landscape (horizontal) format of the gorgeous hardcover gives the story a feeling of film, whether still pictures (which influenced the plot) or movies (which influenced the tone).
The look of the book positions the reader as observer, similar to Bee. Putting myself in her place made me more sympathetic to her rather outrageous behavior. Her youth and excitability make it understandable that she’d take such risks out of curiosity. She’s going to follow her hunches through until she finds out exactly what’s going on, meeting friends and helpers along the way.
I wanted to know more about many of the characters; they seem like real people with lives beyond the panels we see them in. The author, Jason Little, describes the book as “bubblegum noir”, which is both accurate and a great phrase. It’s a bit darker then an old-fashioned teen adventure, but the colors, especially, keep the story feeling light and fun, even when we’re watching a character in mortal danger.
Shutterbug Follies won the 2003 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist and the 2002 Ignatz for Best Online Comic. More information and sample comics are available at Little’s website.