09/28/2018

Sally here. I read most of the comics in Mickey Z‘s Space Academy 123 (Koyama Press, 2018) when they were appearing daily on her Instagram last year. However, downing the strip all together in one big gulp last night was very stimulating. I feel ZAPPED! (Very similar to how Ashley Forgiveness feels all the time – without the aid of caffeine – in the story.)

This comic appeals to me on many levels. There’s the whacky space academy setting, the characters making a whole lot out of not very much, the reflection on what school really is FOR anyway, the outrageously free drawing style…plus it’s really funny.

Knowing, as I was reading the book, that Mickey Z wrote and drew it daily, made the overarching plot lines more fun. Coming up with a new strip every day that is punchy and interesting is a lot of work. There really aren’t any duds in this collection. Each character follows their own bizarre journey, crashing into the others along the way. The simple life of the space station school slowly swings out of whack as Grandfather Computer takes over. Principle Summers is forced to make a big decision (despite the fact that all she ever wanted was to be a simple space chiropractor!)

Ashley bounces off walls, Andrew navigates his anxiety, Naomi explores the loneliness that turns her into a bully. Shandy (the youngest character in the story, aged somewhere between 9-12) will do anything to get out of Sunshine Storytime.

There’s something so powerful about comics making like this – pure on-the-fly storytelling, using whatever materials are on hand. Some might look at Space Academy 123 and call it sketchy, rough, unrefined. I beg to differ. Mickey Z is a really good cartoonist. To my eyes there is an elegance in these dashed off pages which only comes from practice and skill. Her timing is great. Her drawings contain and transmit the wild rush of strange emotions, the sick sense of failure, the fraying of sanity, and the bold realization of the total absurdity of life. The contrast between which characters experience what is where a lot of the humor lies. The final strip in the collection concludes the overall story magnificently, while summing up nothing at all.

It was a real delight to revisit Space Academy 123 and I recommend it, along with the rest of Mickey Z’s work, which you can navigate your way to HERE.

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09-28-2018 – by Niall Breen

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