Long Live Octopus Pie
I check the webpage out of habit, but Meredith Gran’s comic work Octopus Pie is over. I feel like this is how sports fans feel when a jersey is retired and lifted to the rafters, forever in its untouchable place, time divided between when it was active and whatever comes after.
That might sound grandiose, but in my mind, nothing tops the ten year run of Octopus Pie. And in the lifespan of what we call Webcomics, 2007-2017 is a granddaddy of a run, worthy of names like “pioneering,” “influential” and “groundbreaking” because in the space of those years, in this new medium, there was room to be those things without any hyperbole. The comics landscape of the past decade needed filling out and Meredith carved her space out with precision, showing a polish and drive and a talent from the beginning that set a high standard.
I’m guessing that I started Hark a Vagrant about six months after Octopus Pie began, but Meredith’s was already a name to be reckoned with, due to the solid reputation of her previous comic Skirting Danger and because she was an honest to god trained animator in a sea of stickmen comics or two-dudes-on-a-couch comics (RIP forever *kisses fingers, holds them to the sky*). I was intimidated by her sheer capability. But inspired too. I did not need to be intimidated, she was one of the first people I met in comics, and easily one of the best.
Meredith and I briefly shared an apartment and a studio, and I can tell you, she can draw circles around everyone you know. I later shared a studio with Mike Holmes, who could also draw circles around everyone, and now the two of them are married in some sort of talent supernova. I am happy for them, even though I feel like I make grade three crayon pictures next to them. But the other thing that being friends with Meredith for a long time has shown is the cutting wit, the care for stories done right, the love for a medium that will take you through highs and lows that come with comics, and lately through her job as a comics professor, the nurturing of upcoming talent. I see all of this in Octopus Pie, a comic where character was paramount, where plots were expertly moved, a fine balance was found between the messiness of people and the fun you can have with stories, where subtle emotional movements where rendered with room to breathe, where I felt like I could reach deep into the hearts and minds of the characters on the page because they had been fleshed out so well over the years that they seemed as real people, people that I loved.
I don’t really like that phrase “comics will break your heart,” commonly attributed to Schultz, or Kirby, it doesn’t really matter. You see it all the time, mostly when people are reckoning with the fact that they work in an unforgiving medium. I don’t even know what it is about the saying that I don’t like. Maybe it’s because we all know that comics are hard work, we all know that you might put your life and blood and heart into something and you might get nothing back. There are no surprises to be found there - it’s not a bad day you had, it’s a life you’re well aware of living, if you do. But we love the perserverers in comics. The people who live the phrase are the ones who inspire us the most.
I’m saying all this, and pardon the segue, because I have seen Octopus Pie, some of the finest story work of my generation, passed for recognition time and again and it confuses the hell out of me, truly. I don’t want to turn a tribute to a work I hold dear into sour grapes, that’s not the intention here, but lord above, if I can’t point this out now, then when can I? We all know that there are no guarantees in this life (comics will break your heart) but I’ll say this once and then leave it: this is a comic of quality that was miles ahead of so many of its peers, and it deserved better, industry wise. To wrap up the earlier point, maybe I don’t like CWBYH because it implies that you should shrug your shoulders and not ask for better every time, that a short end of some kind of stick is expected even. That’s easy when it’s yourself, but speaking as a fan now, I say to heck with shrugging, I want to put Meredith on my shoulders and parade her around and dump her into a Scrooge McDuck thing full of awards.
Actually that sounds pointy and bad and the Ignatz awards are bricks to begin with so maybe forget that analogy but you get the idea.
I hope you read Octopus Pie, I hope you buy the books. I hope the legacy of it is long and full, because it always will be for me. And I think readers will agree, because I know this devoted fan base pretty well. I read the comments, I’ve sat next to Mer at comic shows, I’ve listened to some of the emails that touched her. I know this is a comic that meant a lot, to a lot of us. In this world of work we put our hearts and souls into to begin with, that is a wonderfully worthy thing.
I do not know what Meredith will do next, but whatever it is, I am here for it, seat pulled close to the stage. The retired jersey is in the rafters, the game is still being played by the people who dreamed better because it was there. Aw what can I say, I’m sentimental!
Thanks, Meredith. <3