26 September 2012

'Tilt-Shift' Comic Promises Front-Line Focus

Editor's note: The following is Part III of this week's Red Bull Rising mini-series "Comic Book Re: Insurgency." For more insights and information about telling war stories using graphic-novel techniques, see also Part IPart IIPart IV, and Part V.

"Introducing yourself as a combat cameraman (COMCAM) to the average soldier can draw many dismissive laughs, tilted heads and raised eyebrows," writes graphic novelist Jose Torres-Cooban, Glen Burnie, Md.

"Between the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) and the various Special Forces Groups, there are approximately 230 to 250 Soldiers in combat camera slots around the Active Army," he continues. "That is roughly .0004 percent of the Army's personnel strength or one COMCAM per every 2,250 soldiers. Needless to say, we aren’t common and though U.S. Army COMCAMs have been operating on battlefields since the Spanish-American War we are still very foreign to our contemporaries. [...]"

Along with a team of other artist-veterans, Torres-Cooban wants to share with readers the truths and experiences of American soldiers fighting on the front lines. That's why they're launching a 12-issue comic book series titled "Tilt-Shift Vol. 1: The Quiet Profession."

The pitch is a little breathless and bombastic, and maybe sounds a little like an over-adrenalized young soldier who's just heard the crack of first shots overhead. That doesn't make it any less effective, however. Or compelling. Check out this description, for example, taken from the artists' successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 toward the production of the premiere issue:
"Tilt-Shift" marries police procedural intrigue with hard-hitting modern warfare action in its hyper-real presentation of the work done by Special Operations teams throughout Afghanistan.

More than that, it paints a picture of young Americans rising from their varied upbringings, distinguishing themselves from among their peers and flying to the most desolate ends of the world to quell a violent insurgency that suppresses the freedom of the Afghan people and threatens the security of their families back home.
Breathless, yes. But also pretty attention-getting, too. Right on target.

Readers of the fictionalized narrative will follow embedded U.S. Army combat photographer Spc. Freddie Blythe, while he covers "Team Galahad" in adventures ranging from "fortified mountain strongholds in the North to [..] booby trap-filled bomb factories hidden among the grape orchards of Southern Afghanistan." According to fund-raising materials, the story is written by and based on the experiences of Special Operations combat veterans.

In addition to some real guts and genuine heart, there's some chewy artistic stuff in potential play, too. Take, for example, the explanation of the "Tilt-Shift" title itself:
The term "Tilt-Shift" refers to a type of photographic lens that allows for extremely selective focus. The effects are two-fold. When used on a large landscape, the forced perspective causes the objects photographed to appear as though they were miniatures. When used on shots of a crowd, an individual can be highlighted for dramatic effect. [...]

"Tilt-Shift" forces perspective on the large topic of the Global War on Terror by focusing on those fighting on the front lines. Also, by singling out the role of the combat photographer, the audience is given a guided tour of the modern battlefield through the eyes of a soldier tasked with documenting and cataloging the actions of this small group of elite soldiers.
As with other Kickstarter efforts, prospective donors are enticed to up their pledges with any number of geegaws and giveaways. Depending on how much you give, you might score a hat or a signed print or some cool postcards. Give more than $100, and you can lock in hardcopies and PDF files of all 12 issues. As a bonus, donors at all levels gain access to a bi-weekly newsletter that promises to be full of insights and information.

Because the project is now fully funded, the publishers promise that additional money will go toward production of future issues. The Kickstarter cycle ends this Fri., Sept. 28.

What are you waiting for?!


For a recent Comic Books and Movie Reviews.com interview with writer Torres-Cooban, click here.

For step-by-step snapshots of what it takes to bring a comic book to completion, check out this article, which follows a single page from Torres-Cooban's writing, Josh Hood's illustrations, Mikey Babinski's inks, and Mike Spicer's colors.

A Kickstarter video for the "Tilt-Shift" comic is available for viewing here.

A Facebook page for the "Tilt-Shift" comic can be found here.

Continuing this week: Stories of writers and artists who are successfully telling war stories through their own super projects. Stay tuned, True Believers!

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