Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ari's Weekly Wednesday Webcomic Whatchamabob: Pear-Pear

Pear-Pear is a webcomic that you should all "read". I put that in quotes because there are no words in the comic. Yet, it still has dialogue. How does it manage this? By having pictures within word bubbles. So when a character speaks, you're seeing a pictorial representation of what they're saying. Intrigued? Read on!

Click here for a simple example of the picture-dialogue Pear-Pear uses. But don't forget to come back afterwards. Are you back? Good. You can see that the main characters, Pear-Pear and Mug-Mug (or so I've named him, though he likely has an official name somewhere), are staring angrily at a carton of milk, who is spoiling. (There are flies buzzing above him.) There's a speech bubble above Pear-Pear and Mug-Mug, with a picture of a fridge in it. Clearly, they are saying, "Get back in the fridge!" Isn't that neat-o? Dialogue without words! What will they think of next!

(Note: I know for a fact that Pear-Pear isn't the first comic to do this. I saw a comic use the exact same picture-dialogue thing, and with equal complexity. It was the comic Cerebus, and I think it was an early one, from I'm guessing the 80s. And maybe others have done so as well. But unirregardless, it's pretty cool. Even if Pear-Pear's not the first, right now it's as far as I know the only.)

Lemme show you a more complicated one. Don't forget to come back here after clicking here for the example comic. This one has a familiar scenario. You know when your mom says, "Where have you been? I've been looking all over for you! I thought you might have been kidnapped!"? Well, that's what Pear-Pear says to Mug-Mug here. Mug-Mug explains that he was in the sink the whole time. But! The neat thing here that gets me all nerd-excited is that:

A) There's more than one "sentence" in Pear-Pear's dialogue, which is why there's more than one picture, displayed left-to-right in the manner of comic paneling. First Pear-Pear says, "I was looking for you!" Then he says something akin to, "I kept walking around saying, 'Where are you, Mug Mug?'" Finally, he says, "I thought you had been carried away by a bald eagle!" (Granted, this is where it differs a little from what your mom might say in a similar circumstance.) Pear-Pear here is describing a series of actions, all in pictures.

B) What's MORE, Pear-Pear tells Mug-Mug about what he said and thought earlier. This requires a further level of speech bubble. While text speech might have just said, "I was walking around yelling 'Mug-Mug!'", in picture-speech Pear-Pear "says" a picture of himself "saying" "Mug-Mug!" Basically, you have speech about speech, so there's a picture-speech about a picture-speech. Neat, huh?

This particular strip is actually one of my favorites, because it has these complex speech-bubbles, but the dialogue is about such an intuitive scenario that it makes the speech-bubbles very easy to figure out. (Such that you probably didn't need me explaining it. But I did anyway!)

But Pear-Pear isn't all about nerdy comic theory. It's a story about a surprisingly believable friendship between a pear and a coffee mug. There are ups and downs they go through, and there are both one-off "episodes" and longer story arcs, and sometimes they fight and sometimes they band together to argue with other kitchen-table items. There are longer storylines, and one storyline goes on in the background in a really clever way (I won't spoil it). It's a comic that would be worth it even without the speech-picture-thingies.

And yeah, I don't even get all the speech-pictures. I think Pear-Pear is somewhere between a regular comic and, say, a really labyrinthine James Joyce novel. You might need the help of a couple of friends to figure out a few of the more challenging strips (some of my friends "got" some strips I didn't and vicie versey), but there's a great feeling when that light goes off. I guess some people might prefer that light go off right away when they read a comic, and hey, I got no problem with that. But if you want an out-of-the-ordinary comic to read, check this one out for a bit.

I should warn you though: he hasn't drawn one since a month ago today. Bastard.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! Things have been busy, but you've inspired us to update.
Cheers - The Pear-Pear Team

Ari Collins said...

Hey, awesome! I'm actually bugged by the poor structure of my review of your comic, and forgot to mention that it's one of my favorite webcomics I've read ever. Good job, Pear-Pear Team!

I had a question for you, which I should probably email to you but instead will post here. That question is: did you ever read that one Cerebus comic that did the comics-within-speech-bubble technique? If not, where did you get the idea?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your enthusiasm!
As far as Cerebus: I'm aware of the comic, but haven't read the one you're refering to. The idea to frame images that are semantically related within a speech bubble probably comes from a combination of sources. Maybe it was suggested by: Neil Cohn's post about framing in his column on Comixtalk, ideas from McCloud's Understanding Comics, or the sheer necessity to invent it to have pear-pear say what we wanted him to in one bubble. :)