Jon Chad’s Unhealthy Masks takes a kid-friendly strategy to the comedian e book field set

Each two weeks, Huge Points focuses on a newly launched comedian e book of significance. This week, it’s Unhealthy Masks, a comic book e book field set by Jon Chad (Science Comics, BOOM! Field Mixtape) that exhibits off the cartoonist’s versatility with an expansive multimedia superhero story.

In 2012, Pantheon launched Chris Ware’s Constructing Tales, a boxed set containing a wide range of periodicals and broadsheets that mixed to create a sprawling but deeply intimate narrative a couple of constructing and its tenants through the years. It was extremely bold, showcasing the myriad artistic potentialities in bringing collectively phrases and footage whereas highlighting how totally different codecs change the studying expertise. It’s straightforward to see why publishers haven’t tried to duplicate a mission like Constructing Tales given how intensive the manufacturing course of is, however BOOM! Field is tapping into the spirit of Ware’s work with Unhealthy Masks, a boxed set with a extra kid-friendly angle.

Written and illustrated by Jon Chad, with manufacturing design by Jillian Crab, Unhealthy Masks is a critical enterprise, delving deep right into a superhero world by way of seven totally different printed items: a comic book e book single subject, a set of buying and selling playing cards, an organizational handbook, a gathering transcript, a newspaper, , and an incident report. On the core of the story is the battle between mechanical hero Steel Metro and the titular terrorist group, however because the reader learns extra about these dueling forces, these varied paperwork and objects reveal a deeper conspiracy.

In contrast to Constructing Tales, Unhealthy Masks has a advised studying order laid out, in a memo despatched to Brasso Masks, a member of the supervillain group who uncovers the darkish fact concerning the relationship between Steel Metro and her group. The one subject of The Actual Adventures Of Steel Metro is to be learn first, exhibiting probably the most fantastical, sanitized model of the hero/villain dynamic. The comedian has a retro superhero vibe, with numerous puns and foolish plot components, like a cotton sweet gun and lethal robots disguised as meals, and readers are given a simple gateway into this world with a simplified, light-hearted story that exhibits how Steel Metro has managed his public picture and embedded himself in fashionable tradition. This concept is bolstered by the comedian’s advertisements for a Steel Metro-inspired soup and soda, a movie starring the hero’s submarine ally, and a Steel Metro online game, all of which permit Chad to point out his information of economic illustration.


The breadth of Chad’s expertise is probably the most spectacular factor about Unhealthy Masks, as he modifies his voice and visible sensibility for every medium. Each new piece of media expands the world of the story in its personal means: The buying and selling playing cards present new particulars about Metro Man, his tools, his allies, and main occasions in his historical past. The handbook begins to shift the main focus to Unhealthy Masks, fleshing out the group’s construction and its guiding philosophy. The transcript takes the reader right into a key Unhealthy Masks assembly, giving its members distinct personalities earlier than taking a tour of the bottom with a comic book.

With the newspaper, the scope of the story dramatically widens. The pages are stuffed with articles, opinions, horoscopes, video games, and a wide range of comics. There are the comedian strips you’d anticipate finding, however a big chunk of the newspaper consists of a photojournalism piece that’s an account of Unhealthy Masks’s newest mission composed of sequential photos from varied sources. That is probably the most visually placing work of your entire mission, and with none dialogue, Chad has to convey the entire emotion within the art work. There are descriptions for every picture working alongside the underside of the web page that contextualize every second, however they provide a journalistic, impersonal view of what occurred. This piece seems to be an interesting examination of how visuals can intensify textual content and imbue it with feeling.

Chad continues to supply a macro perspective with the journal, during which he appears on the historical past of Black Masks whereas exploring how enterprise, popular culture, science, and expertise change in a superhero world. Visually, it’s a chance to flex his editorial illustration muscle tissue and discover a extra mature aesthetic than the superhero comedian. The ultimate bodily object is the incident report, a folder containing a comic book that drops some main bombshells and confirms suspicions which were growing over the course of the story.

Every of these things must have its personal feel and appear, and manufacturing designer Jillian Crab does distinctive work discovering the best paper inventory and binding to create a way of authenticity. That design specificity in the end has an impact on the storytelling. Holding a shiny stapled comedian e book is just not the identical sensation as holding a file folder stuffed with loose-leaf sheets of printer paper. The previous is packaged for mass distribution, and its content material has to undergo a number of ranges of approval earlier than ending up within the reader’s fingers. There’s a way of rawness and urgency with the file folder; it must get to its vacation spot so shortly that there isn’t even time to staple the pages. Utilizing loose-leaf paper won’t be the smartest option to current the story, however it adjustments how the reader engages with the doc.


There’s additionally a digital element to Unhealthy Masks: a password-protected web site the place readers can unlock new content material like pictures of the primary character’s journal, her webcomic, archived emails and letters, a video, and most significantly, the ultimate chapter of the story. It’s a wise option to proceed exploring the multimedia idea without having to print extra supplies, however having the conclusion be a digital file is a mistake. Unhealthy Masks is all about how the media codecs inform storytelling, and studying the finale on a display diminishes its affect. With its big stakes and epic scale, the final chapter deserves probably the most lavish printing of all, like a skinny hardcover or a glue-bound, cardstock-cover one-shot within the vein of DC Comics’ Status Format. Ending the story with the digital content material forces the reader to interact with the mission’s on-line component; there ought to actually be a whole narrative contained in the field.

Unhealthy Masks isn’t as subtle or refined as Constructing Tales, and that’s completely wonderful. They’re for 2 utterly totally different audiences, created by two cartoonists with contrasting factors of view, engaged on reverse ends of the style spectrum. The audience for Unhealthy Masks is way youthful than Constructing Tales, and if Chad will get too superior, he dangers making the e book inaccessible to youngsters. A lot of Unhealthy Masks might be learn by youngsters who can deal with a chapter e book, however there are elements that may undoubtedly pose a problem.


The extra mature storytelling components make this work participating for adults, however in addition they present materials that youthful readers can interact with on deeper ranges as they become old. They could not perceive journal essays about Steel Metro’s gender id and the predatory “Metro Administration” funding technique proper now, however that may change in a couple of years. Unhealthy Masks has long-lasting leisure and academic worth, and it’s a great gift concept for youths who’ve a ardour for books, exposing them to a mess of storytelling codecs because it delivers an interactive superhero story stuffed with motion, drama, and humor. The straightforward act of opening the field makes this extra thrilling than the everyday superhero comedian. Chad has created a chunk of multimedia artwork stuffed with fantastic surprises.

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