Every fall The Center for Cartoon Studies invites 20 aspiring cartoonists to White River Junction, Vermont for a no-holds-barred education in comics. Those who complete the two-year program...
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Every fall The Center for Cartoon Studies invites 20 aspiring cartoonists to White River Junction, Vermont for a no-holds-barred education in comics. Those who complete the two-year program earn a Master of Fine Arts degree and are ready to face the hardship of a career in one of the world's most drudgery-inducing art forms. This is their story. Written by
The documentary "Cartoon College" focuses on a handful of students attending The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS), a new type of college specializing in comics. Featured are interviews with comic artists Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, and the wonderful Chris Ware (plus others.) Strange, then, how not one of these artists talks very much (or ever) about the CCS itself: I mean, isn't the name of this film "Cartoon College?"
In reality, this "school" is a sham. The student's assignments are designed to give them the feeling (trick them) into thinking that they're "names," or at least published. No one, not the filmmakers or the artists featured, point out how successful comic artists study illustration, have a BFA, or are entirely self taught. The film also never mentions the cost of each year of studies (a staggering $18,000 a year!) as well as what happens to students after graduation. I've looked up the names of the students featured in this doc, but I can only ever find them mentioned in other reviews for this film. Yikes.
"Cartoon College" should have made aware that the CCS isn't the only comics college around: comparing/contrasting the CCS with The Kubert School would have granted this film richness and depth. That's not to say "Cartoon College" is shallow-- its best scenes are the artist interviews, but as the interviewees never talk about the CCS at any length, these interview segments feel out of place. (And also, what was up with that hokey goof-music they played whenever the 50+ mature student was on camera? That guy had, like, six degrees-- he was smarter than anyone at the CCS, the filmmakers included. What common snobbery on the part of these filmmakers-- you can tell they were catering to the vanity of the pretentious hipster demographic. And why? Because the filmmakers and CCS students are in this demographic too.)
Instead of presenting a varied review of the CCS featuring pros, cons, and comparisons with other comic colleges, "Cartoon College" focuses on the students, which is the main reason why this film fails. A prerequisite for admittance to CCS, it seems, is to dress like an insane parrot, be unpleasantly fat, pale, and sport gross/greasy (facial) hair. It's almost sad seeing these fragile, egotistical youths make comics based on boring stories from their childhoods, significant only to them (one girl kept making comics based on her first period-- yeah, no) and all the while their student loans loom perniciously in the distance.
And what's more, all the comics made by these students are the same. Hipster comics. Spoiled suburban comics. Clueless trends of Generation "Zad." Gee, I wonder why you can never find a trace of any of these students online. Could it be that... no one is publishing their work?
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