by Dash Shaw
Dash Shaw's BodyWorld is a psychedelic explosion of cyber sequential storytelling the likes of which I've never seen. Many of the webcomics I've read for my WWWednesday installments have been highly entertaining, but until I read BodyWorld, I hadn't realized how one dimensional they were. Some of them are daily or weekly strips like you'd see in the Sunday newspaper, and some of them are episodic installments of an ongoing story arc, the equivalent of pages' worth of material in a comic book. Bodyworld is closest to the latter category, but its three-panels-a-row format is bottomless in its potential, not confined by dimension so much as the plot's natural pacing. Further, Shaw's balance of crisp, organic line work and vibrant, high contrast neon colors exhibit the best that the high definitions of the Internet can allow. Needless to say, it's as addictive as the Internet itself.
Fortunately, addiction is a highly potent theme throughout BodyWorld, if you'll pardon the pun. In BodyWorld, a suicidal, drug-addicted botanist, Professor Panther, visits a high school campus to investigate the discovery of a new plant species, where he crosses paths with Pearl Peach, your typical small town girl with big city dreams, and her boyfriend Billy Borg, the homecoming king and resident Dieball star. Yes, I said "Dieball." Perhaps even more so than his ability to establish a dynamic cast of characters, Shaw has established a complex community and culture around them, going so far as to provide a color-coded map of Boney Borough, and to diagram the town's key recreational export, the aforementioned Dieball. In the three and half chapters of BodyWorld that have been posted, Professor Panther has attempted to kill himself a few times or has otherwise been in some sort of physical danger, all with hilarious if gruesome results, and Pearl and Billy have experienced the plights and sexual anxieties that comes with adolescence. I'm curious to see how these characters' smoldering inadequacies collide to realize the world that Shaw's been building. I'm thinking that I'll be checking out his website every Tuesday for my next BodyWorld fix.
By eliciting this dependence from his readers, has Shaw inadvertently sucked us into his world? Perhaps BodyWorld is only as psychedelic as its reader perceives it . . .