Listen at Home With Octopus Pie
I enjoy Meredith Gran’s art style, with the big circle eyes reminiscent of Faith Erin Hicks or Bryan Lee O’Malley, but I wasn’t previously able to get into her webcomic Octopus Pie.
I tried the first book, There Are No Stars in Brooklyn, but I had a hard time keeping all the cast members straight, and I found the subjects uninteresting. I had something of an antipathy towards apathetic Brooklyn hipsters and their druggie friends floating through life, although if I was younger and/or had more in common with them, I suspect the individual personalities would resonate with me more as distinct characters.
I wanted to give her work another try, though, after moderating a panel with her and several others at SPX. I was also attracted by the cover and title of this book, evoking an older world where record albums and a turntable were the bee’s knees. I’m glad I did.
Listen at Home With Octopus Pie contains several distinct stories made up of 12-22 strips each. The longer lengths and varied subjects gave me more of a hook into the material. As a result, I’m now a fan, able to follow the webcomic as well.
What convinced me to give the series another try was when I flipped through the book and saw the “Lifetime TV” story, about two siblings being fans of the Supermarket Sweep show when they were kids. That was weird and intriguing and certainly different. Other storylines include Eve Ning visiting her injured dad, the gang going urban skiing (which winds up with Eve kissing a friend’s boyfriend, uh oh), a drug dealer’s rounds, taking care of a friend’s dog, the mysterious Victor (one of my favorites), and the story of the Shaggs. Each provides a new view on life, with something to say.
I also really appreciated the way each story starts with author’s notes, giving us an idea of what motivated Gran for that particular installment. Her art is astounding, very expressive and slightly exaggerated when needed to get a point across, making full use of the medium. Although many of the panels focus on her characters’ faces, they’re always in motion, showing different feelings and reactions.
I do wish that Gran’s website story guide was updated — it ends with strip 311, while the series is up to 482. Based on that listing, this book contains #227 – 376. If, like me, you’d like to read the series continuing onwards, start here. There’s some really good stuff in there, with some mature emotional treatments and astounding illustration.
The book can be ordered from Topatoco; I haven’t seen it available anywhere else, except direct from the artist at conventions. Here’s an interview with Meredith Gran. If you’ve been wondering where to try Octopus Pie, start here. Now that I’ve spent some time with Eve and her friends, they seem less like types, more like individuals to me.