The popular, long-running webcomics adventure series Fans explores its more serious themes in an unconventional art style. This is the first time a major 2D webcomics series has recast its characters in 3D modeling.
With the ten-page story "Iman," Fans author T Campbell reviews the short, unhappy life of Tim the Fanboy. The story flashes back from his death to the trauma he felt as a young man with an Islamic background during the World Trade Center attack, his proud membership in the Fans science fiction adventure club, his alienation from his new friends and his descent into fascism. The major constant is his obsessive need for order and resolve.
Says Campbell, “In simple terms, ‘Iman’ means ‘faith,’ but the word has deeper connotations, something like ‘affirmation and confirmation in the heart.’ I wanted to explore the dark side of a highly emotional approach to faith, which I think is very close to the scary obsessions of fandom. In Fanboy’s original appearances, we wove his story into a much larger epic, and kept a lot of backstory to ourselves. This story presents a much clearer picture.”
In keeping with the realistic themes of the new story, Campbell recruited former American Splendor artist Joe Zabel to illustrate the piece in a photo-realistic style. Zabel utilized the 3D technique he developed for his ongoing series The Fear Mongers. "Transforming the characters from the cartoon style into a naturalistic rendering proved to be a bit of a challenge," said Zabel. "Fortunately, Jason Waltrip’s outstanding art is well-rooted in reality, and it was possible to infer what the characters ‘really’ look like from the many deft touches in the original renderings."
"I really wanted to explore the dramatic possibilities of what Joe’s been doing in Fear Mongers," says Campbell. "With the disclaimer that he could change his style tomorrow… currently, his objects and figures have a heavy, frozen quality that’s a little disturbing when the reader is used to cartoon art. Ironically, by leaving so little to the reader’s imagination, its realism creates distance. That matches the irony of Fanboy’s story: the more he tries to find the perfect ideal in the physical world, the more he finds himself in a world of cold machinery and cold relationships."
Zabel’s art is a rare departure for the series into full color, as well. Says Zabel, "I see Tim as someone who externally is a quiet young man, but within he’s a budding supernova. The bright colors represent the intensity of his emotions, emotions he ultimately will not be able to control."
"Iman" will run from March 29th through April 9 in Graphic Smash, the home of the Fans series. Graphic Smash is the newest ‘sister site’ of Modern Tales, the leading commercial webcomics publisher.
Zabel’s webcomics series The Fear Mongers is featured every Friday in Modern Tales.