Catalist: Rough Draft of a Grand Experiment

Tiresia reads the will of the Red God

Ever since Scott McCloud posited the existence of an “infinite canvas,” artists have been doing all that they can to extend the definition of “comics” as wide as possible. On the smallest scale, a webcomic can use its own webpage, beyond the panel, to capture a mood or, to drop a recent and hypeworthy example, mark the passage of time, like in this recent strip from the legendary, resurrected-at-a-snail’s-pace A Lesson is Learned But the Damage is Irreversible.

On the largest scale, we have massive multimedia undertakings like Homestuck, which have weaponized the internet as a medium, prioritizing moving images, interactivity, and original music. Taken as a whole, the comic is a brash sensory overload that barely resembles a “comic” at all. In a post-Homestuck world, the word “comic” has as much to do with Garfield and Action as  “marriage” has to do with old-school Christian mores.

The new, episodic more-than-a-webcomic Catalist, written by Daniel St. George with art by Jerome Queval and character designs by Jen Lee (of the fantastic Thunderpaw, which I previously wrote about here), follows the Homestuck tradition of going big, then bigger, then bigger and bigger and bigger. Though Catalist has obvious roots in webcomickery, its creators prefer the term “epic visual novel.” The project, published in weekly .gif servings and scored by atmospheric piano loops, stinks of genre-busting ambition for better and worse. Continue reading