The Barefoot Serpent
Submitted by dunk on November 19, 2003 - 22:08
So, I thought I would start a thread over here in the Coffee Haus before I got too carried away.
A few other people on the board seem to have read Scott Morse's Baefoot Serpent recently, so I thought this might be a good place kick back and discuss.
First up, it's beautiful. The Kurosawa pages at the beginning and the end of the book are truly stunning, and leave little doubt that Morse is somewhat more highbrow then your average dodler, but I'm not convinced that they work as sandwich boards for the story in between. Sure, I know that they draw your attention to Kurosawa and his work, and by extension set up the story about the grieving family, but it still feels tacked on to me. Maybe it's because I feel as though Morse feels he has to spell out the symbolism so that people won't miss it. It just seems patronizing, and a little forced.
The story itself, about a little girl and her family coping with the suicide of her older brother, is beautifully laid out in wide-angle fashion, and there are lots of little nods and winks to Kurosawa's body of work. I think I would have been happier if Morse has let us firgure it out for ourelves, or maybe interspersed the other story through this one somehow. Instead I feel as though we are gettign the "golden book" version of the life of a great film-maker, with a sweet and rather hopeful story sandwiched in between.
Beyond my gripe about the somewhat dijointed elements, I loved it. I have quite a few Morse books, but this is the first one in awhile that I have had to go back and re-read so many times. There's a lot in here, and it's probably one of the densest books he's ever done. It has the heft of a novel, though it's hardly any thicker than an Archie Digest. Where a picture is worth a thousand words, Morse seems to have learned that many pictures stack up well against many thousands of words.
Morse relies heavily on what's going on inside the "frame" (not unlike Kurosawa), and keeps text to a minimum. The result is something like watching a well-made foreign film, where the subtitles beneath may elaborate on the action, but they're not always necessary.
This might have worked beautifully on the web if Morse had stacked his panels so that one would dissolve into the next. I don't know that Morse has any intrest in webcomics, but I would be quite jazzed to see what the man could accomplish with a little technology.
As an aside, I picked up Morse's Southpaw at the same time as I picked up this book, and though it also has depth to it, you can tell that there is something about this particular project, and about Kurosawa no doubt, that really grabs Morse, and pushes him to do things. I hope he does more projects like this in the future.