I am a regular reader of Cory Doctrow‘s online site, Boing Boing, and a couple of weeks ago, he included there a link to an online comic called Sailor Twain. I followed that link and, after reading a couple of pages and thinking it something of interest to our devoted readership, contacted Marc Nocerino, who was at that time a Guest Minion and who had completed a great review of The Happy Undertaker, to see if he could investigate further. Below we present his findings to you.
Floyd Brigdon, Assistant Editor
Sailor Twain –or– the Mermaid in the Hudson byMark Siegel is a story about man’s heart, religious mores, women’s rights, mythology, mystery… oh yes, and mermaids. Released one page at a time, Siegel slowly peels back the layers of his story as we fall ever deeper into the strange goings on aboard the steamship Lorelei.
It has me hooked right in the gills.
Set against the backdrop of New York in the late 1880s, Sailor Twain takes us on a mystical voyage along the Hudson River of yesteryear. Captain Elijah Twain, a solitary and introspective character, tells us a story of mysterious occurrences and fascinating characters aboard his ship, the Lorelei. “What story, what mystery, what characters” you ask? Well, I’m not giving any spoilers so go check out this fabulous unfolding story and become part of the crew of the Lorelei. Suffice it to say, Siegel touches on quite a few topics as important today as in 1887.
The “gaslight” setting of the story is perfectly complimented by Siegel’s use of only charcoal for all of the illustrations, which lends an air of antiquity to the overall feel of the strip. This feeling of authenticity is reinforced by the amazing research Siegel has put in to the period, evidenced in the details like the clothing people wear, political issues of the day, and even the overall construction of the ships. Aside from the overly comical look of his characters, I could almost believe that I was looking at old tintypes or newspaper clippings.
As for the people in Sailor Twain, most have an overly exaggerated comic quality to them; or more precisely, to their faces. I was originally turned off by the childish appearance of the faces, which looked amateur in contrast to details such as the elaborate attention paid to their clothing and surroundings, and it actually took me a few pages before I realized that they were drawn that way intentionally. The faces have an unrealistic quality to them; but there is a kind of magic in their difference from the rest of the artwork, they possess a kind of uniqueness, and I know that I would not love this comic even half as much if the faces were as precise and realistic as the rest of the elements of Siegel’s art. It is as if by overly simplifying their faces, he is able to put more meaning into their expressions. Go read a few panels; you’ll see what I mean.
The dialog is believable and well paced, and the interaction of the characters feels authentic. In many panels, the story is moved along simply by Siegel’s subtle but richly decorated settings or the aforementioned masterfully drawn facial expressions of characters and passerby, with no dialog needed to convey his message.
As for continuity, let us just say that Siegel has that on lock. It is obvious that this story was mostly completed before the first panel was ever released. Do yourself a favor and do not click the link for Chapters, as the titles are spoilers in themselves. At the rate he’s releasing the pages, three every week, it will take until mid 2012 for Siegel to tell the entire tale of the Lorelei and her captain. It moves at a pace uncommon in modern fiction, and I find it a welcome change. I really am looking forward to following this story along its twists and turns, as surely as the Lorelei wends its way along the river Hudson.
Like some kind of printed burlesque act, Mark Siegel expertly unveils his compelling story one tantalizing page at a time in a long, slow striptease that has me on the edge of my seat. (Speaking of which, this web comic is FAR from G-Rated, so reader be forewarned. There are a few F-Bombs, a bit of nudity, and a raunchy feel to some of the characters and situations.) Siege’s characters are relatable, the settings are moody, and the art is unique. Like a passenger aboard the Lorelei, I have no choice but to wait with patience to reach the story’s destination as Sailor Twain travels slowly toward its climax. So far, I’m loving the ride. I give this web comic a ±4 ½ out of 5 Tentacles, with the “±” to be determined once the entire story is released. I expect it will be more + than -.
Marc Nocerino, Minion (Reviewer/Columnist)