Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Comics Conundrum: Max Overacts

It was in April of 2014 at the Calgary Expo on the last day of the show for that year. I found myself walking towards the back of the hall where there were some food vendors when I noticed a table with a particularly eye-catching picture on the table.

I'll be honest, I use this line quite a bit to make myself sound clever...

The two characters were Max (left) and his best friend Klaus (right), stars of the webcomic, Max Overacts. I briefly chatted with the creator of the series, Caanan Grall and decided to purchase the first volume of the comic. The one picture had made me laugh and figured the book might give me a few chuckles.
It was a few weeks later that I finally got around to reading said book (I'm lazy, people!) and it did more than earn a few chuckles. There were some genuine laughs to be had in this book and even more were to be found online.

Max Overacts is a webcomic about Max Fogherty, a young man who dreams of being the next great serious thespian and every day is an opportunity to showcase his talents...whether anyone else likes it or not.
Now why does that sound so familiar...?

Each comic is told like a big Sunday comic like they appear in the newspapers (Remember newspapers, kids?) and there's always a lot going on in them. Caanan uses each panel to the full advantage, nothing ever feels like it shouldn't be there or that it's just padding out the story. 

The cast of characters like Max's family are well developed, you get a good idea of who they are and it won't take long for new readers to find their own favorites (Andi & Sir Allen are two of mine).
It's not a comic like Peanuts or Zits where the characters never or barely age, Max is currently on summer vacation from Grade Three and is going to be heading into Grade Four whenever summer ends (Which can be a long time in comics, but who cares?).

Max, himself, is a character that's very unique in that some strips are just him interacting with his ventriloquist dummy, Curio, or other puppets in his possession. He's more-or-less having a conversation with himself but the characters responding have their own voice, giving it a Calvin & Hobbes feel (so much to the point that Caanan has advertised this on his banner at comic conventions).

This is a lot funnier than putting a "I'm being kidnapped" note in the window.
Plus less likely to get you in trouble with the police and parents!

He does like to be the center of attention, he does believe his own hype, but at no point is he ever annoying or making you say, "Can't we see what...anyone else is doing?"

And the writing is really clever too. I was always worried that it was going to be one of those comics where all the kids talk like adults but it's not like that all. These are kids who sound like kids but it's also clever enough that readers of all ages can enjoy.
Plus when the strip is mostly told in rhyme, it's always very funny.
'The Ballad of the Man Who Smelled Bacon' 

And as you can see from the art, Caanan has a great use of color. All the scenery looks very vibrant and lively and that's perfect because all the characters are like that.

The comic started in 2010 and after 470 comics (As well as some bonus strips for Patreon supporters) with some great stories and Max at an acting camp for the summer, things were really getting interesting.
Then sadly, at the end of 2015, the comic went on hiatus and Caanan closed his Patreon account.
As we went into the new year (Glorious 2016), things went from bad to worse; it was revealed that Caanan had a brain tumor!

I might be a very demanding reader but there's no way I'm going to badger someone who had a brain tumor and ask, "Hey, where's my free webcomic?"
I can find better ways of guaranteeing myself a way to hell.
Now, thankfully, the tumor was removed but in the aftermath, Caanan admitted that he was having trouble creatively. Writing was more difficult and focusing on the comic was an issue as well.

So sadly, Max, Klaus & the rest of the cast have been gone for a little over four years at this point. However Caanan did tease a return in early 2018 that legitimately made me gasp in delight.
And then...that little sound of air being let of a balloon could be heard when I read that this wasn't so much a return but rather a strip that was never-to-be.
This was like being a starving man & shown a lovely steak with fries only to be denied eating it.

By his own admission, Caanan didn't like the strip and decided to put it out there just so he could get past it and start focusing on getting the series back on the right track. This is his most personal project so I can completely understand him wanting to get everything right.
Again, asking someone who had a brain tumor where your free webcomic is really...a dick move.

He's been working on his creativity, making a new drawing everyday for Inktober (For those of you who don't know, Inktober is where artists try to draw something new every day for the month of October) and when he's at shows like the Calgary Expo, he'll do commissions.

Every time I've been at the Calgary Expo since that first purchase of the book, I've made it a yearly tradition of getting a commission from him.
In fact it was after getting one of them that I said I would write a blog post about his comic. Hey, remember how I said I was lazy!?
From the first to the most recent commission, he's always been able to give me something that truly feels like his best effort and always ends up hanging on the wall in my apartment. And of course, they all feature Max.
For my first one, all I wanted was it to feature my place of work at the time.

This one is my personal favorite. Recently all of The Defenders had their shows cancelled so I thought it would be funny to show them out of work. Daredevil's sign being upside down was my idea, Iron Fist's sign about his story was Caanan's.

At the last Calgary Expo I had asked if there were any possible updates on Max and he mentioned that starting in the new year he would be hoping to start a Kickstarter campaign to get Volume Two published, as Volume One had the first hundred & fifty strips of the comic. So clearly's there's still plenty to be published.

Well it was just a few weeks ago that I was thinking of maybe asking him about it on social media when lo and behold...
Image may contain: 2 people
Don't you love it when things happen and you didn't have to do anything?

The Kickstarter for Volume Two launched earlier this week, as of this writing, and is close to closing in on ten-thousand of the fifteen-thousand being asked to complete to project. I'll be making my pledge soon and doing my best to encourage others (Like certain blog readers) to do the same as well.

Max Overacts is a fun, all-ages series with a great protagonist & a large ensemble cast that never feels too crowded. With wonderful writing and incredible artwork, it's sure to fill the void in your heart created when Calvin & Hobbes left the funny pages.

1 comment:

Caanan said...

Thanks for the blog post, Andrew!

I'm not crying, you're crying!

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