Friday, 22 February 2013

Friday Feature - Graphic Novels for Female Readers 3: Wet Moon

This week is my last (for now) graphic novel for female readers, Wet Moon by Ross Campbell. Wet Moon is a series of graphic novels set around the eponymous college town featuring the trials and tribulations of the young adults (mostly female, mostly into alternative cultures) who live there.

Though Wet Moon features an ever widening ensemble cast much of the action rotates around eighteen year old Cleo Lovedrop. Cleo is still getting over ex-boyfriend (and ultra broody love of her life) Vincent when she bumps into screamo chick Myrtle. They quickly become attracted to each other and Cleo must work out if she is gay, bi or just going through a phase whilst still trying to get over Vincent. Things start to get complicated when Cleo's sister falls pregnant by someone very familiar, Myrtle turns possessive and Cleo realises she'd much rather have a relationship with childhood best friend Mara. Then there are the 'Cleo Eats It' posters posted all over town, the mysterious almost magical Fern, the FBI guy with the monkey, a mysterious slasher, a masked vigilante and the weird stain on Cleo's bedroom floor.

Wet Moon's a little like a sub-culture soap opera. Every character has a story, no matter how grand or small, and whatever happens ends up being everyone else's business. My friend compared it to a load of gothic girls being bitchy about each other...and it kind of is...but then that's what teenage girls do. What she means is Wet Moon is as much about creating characters and an atmosphere as it is telling a story - its focus is much more on dialogue and the everyday life of the town than it is fast moving storylines. It will appeal much more to young women already into or accepting of sub-cultures than someone who isn't as to be 'normal' is to be the odd one out in Wet Moon.

The best thing about Wet Moon for me is that Ross Campbell never exploits his characters. It would be so easy for a graphic novel about gothic girls to be aimed squarely at over-sexed male readers looking for a quick you-know-what but instead he rises above it and creates a world anyone open to it can enjoy. His cast is all encompassing - characters come from all races, all sexual orientations and all body shapes. Some are inherently cool, some are geeks and some are complete mysteries. Campbell doesn't take the obvious root of making his gay characters' storylines about being gay - refreshingly (apart from Cleo) the majority of the gay characters' storylines are those anyone could go through with being gay being as incidental as the colour of their hair. Ditto for body shape. Characters such as Fern and Zia are disabled but Wet Moon never becomes a freak show and they are depicted as so much more than their missing limbs. The same goes for curvy Audrey - she could easily become 'the fat girl' - but is instead a radiant, gentle, blabbermouth and moral compass. Indeed it is because Wet Moon is a town where unique is the norm that so many of the characters' beauty is so easily accessible. I am especially fond of main character Cleo. She is by no means perfect - she can be two-faced and flaky - but we share the same body shape (short and curvy) which I can promise you is not what your average comic book heroine looks like!

Of course we would not know what Cleo and here friends looked like without the art. Campbell's style finds a wonderful balance between detail and decay, embracing the grayscale of the indie graphic novel medium. All his characters are gorgeous without being gratuitous. I'm not going to lie - I find his style one of the most unique and beautiful I have encountered - I truly find it a feast for the eyes. I really hope one day I'll be lucky enough to write for him!

Campbell starts the first few volumes of Wet Moon in a more realistic style then between volumes three and five become more cartoon-like (Cleo's eyes in particular become very large) and in volume six he returns to his original style. Despite the change in style neither to me is better than the other. As a Batman reader I'm used to characters being drawn in multiple styles and though I must admit I prefer Campbell's more realistic work I completely appreciate the effort and love put into his more cartoonish style.

Wet Moon is the perfect place to go if you're searching for someone to relate to as there really is someone there for everyone. I only ever read Wet Moon in the bath. Bath time is my escape from the stresses of the real world. Likewise Wet Moon is the place I go when I want a relaxing escape. I can spend hours exploring its strange streets and breathing its originality in...well until the bath water goes cold and it's time to face the real world again.

You can find out more about Ross Campbell, Wet Moon and his other works here.

Everyone in Wet Moon likes Bella Morte so here is a song by them!

Next week: We return to music with La Sera!

P.S. - did you enjoy this series? Would you like to see more recommendations? Are there any graphic novels in particular you would like to see featured?

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