Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday, August 21 2016: It's Just Another Day

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today I shall regale you with the tale of Jake
And his many exes in the story...

Jake comes home to find his family being evicted from their grandfather's house. It's just another day. He breaks up with his smothering, ultra-religious girlfriend, Brianna, and has to move out of her house. It's just another day. He meets the girl of his dreams working at a local convenient store by chance. It's just another day. His father, St. Nik, has a seizure and collapses.

It's Just Another Day is written and drawn by BluRaven C. Houvener and tells the story of Jake and his quest to find love in high school and dealing with the tribulations of life at home. His family moves from apartment to apartment like vagabonds, but even with these misfortunes, Jake still holds his head up high and keeps trunking on.


It's far from just another comic...


I tend to enjoy slice-of-life work and that's an aspect of this story that appealed to me. Admittedly, when I judged the webcomic upon seeing the first page alone, I thought this was going to be some kind of "cool, strong man fights ninjas" kind of story (Jake looks pretty cool in his sunglasses), but by the start of page three you finally get to the meat of it. Fighting ninjas. Knocking someone's block off because they ticked you off. These are Jake's idle daydreams and a far cry from who he is and what his life is like, but I think we can all relate to daydreams like that. I mean, Jake's obviously a lover, not a fighter.

The writing is what makes this comic stand out and it's what kept me reading through the entire archive. Jake's narration isn't pretentious and the events and emotions from his various relationships are laid bare. The story beats move along fast and it never drags. We get to the core of each relationship he has with Brianna, Ryoko, and Nikki fairly quickly.

Brianna's relationship seemed like one of convenience. She let his family stay at her house and Jake goes between arguing with her due to their different moral compasses and enjoying the sex they have together.

Almost immediately as that relationship ends, we meet Ryoko: the hot girl. She's literally introduced as a catgirl dressed in neko-ears and a leotard, which is Jake's fetish, but her wishy-washiness and her strange relationship with another boy lead to jealously and their breakup.

Since the comic focuses on Jake and his relationships, it makes me wonder: how well does this story treat the women presented in it? I don't think we're trying to pass the Bechdel test here, since it's a portrait of Jake's life and his relationships to his family, friends, and the women he dates. The only thing I can think of in regards to women in this comic is: She's Just Another Girl.

Until we get to Nikki...

Jake thinks she's the one. They connect over the same things and their relationship grows steadily until Nikki breaks it off for reasons unknown (and through e-mail, no less). Of all the relationships portrayed, this is the one that haunts Jake and the one I found most interesting because of how it ends. It made me wonder about her life beyond the frame of the comic. What was she going through and why did she break it off? There's a great flash-forward panel later in the comic where we get a glimpse of what happened to Nikki. I wonder if the comic will ever bring her character back.

But...almost immediately after that, Jake's on to his next woman (kinda).

There's another interesting relationship that builds over the story, and it's between Jake and his father which is contentious at best. There is a cool factor about Jake's dad that he admires -- being in a biker gang and being a rock musician, but at the same time, Jake's dad also complains about his laziness and puts his son down every time he can even despite Jake's efforts to be responsible and do well.

Jake talking about his dad...

The part that hit home for me was when his father had a seizure due to his brain cancer and went into a coma. My father fought cancer for five years before passing away. I can say for certain, when something that dire happens in the family, whatever minor heartbreaks you were suffering before slip away from your thoughts pretty quick.

Jake also moves on pretty quickly...


Most of the razzes I have concerning this comic is the art. The one thing I notice the most about the art is how flat it is. We see Jake and the other characters mostly from profile or front shots. There are a few attempts at dramatic angles, but they definitely need some reference to help refine them.

This kind of angle is hard even for me. The head looks too smushed.

Andrew Loomis has some good examples of heads at different angles

At first I thought BluRaven might not know how to draw glasses in profile because of the way Jake's glasses are drawn, but he certainly does know how to do it, because other characters look correct. There's a conscious choice to keep Jake's eyes hidden at all costs, but doing that in profile is hard. BluRaven is bending reality to hide his eyes. The sunglasses could be curved to wrap around his face, but the way they're drawn, they always appear flat.

There are some issues with head proportions, especially from profile. Sometimes it appears the back of Jake's head is too small.

Back of the skull looks too small. Could be his hair is covering it though.
I think some of the lips and eyes on various faces could also use some work as well. The lips are oddly curled when characters smile. Eyes look too almond-shaped.

When I started learning how to draw, one of the first books I had was from Andrew Loomis, and if you're looking for great instruction on drawing human heads and bodies, getting the correct proportion and how to hang figures so they all appear composed in perspective together correctly, I recommend Figure Drawing For All It's Worth. Loomis' book was reprinted a few years ago and is one of my go-to books. This is how I learned to draw heads when I began drawing 12 years ago, and I still use it today:


It's Just Another Day is a great read. It's quickly paced and you might find something relatable in Jake's life to your own. Well, unless, maybe you're one of his ex-girlfriends.

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