Sunday, October 4, 2015

Count Your Sheep

"Le reve est bulle de vie
Un bien majuscule utile au chagrin"

Mylène Farmer - Dessine-Moi un Mouton

Squeezing through the crowd of gamer comics, superheroes, vampires and navel-gazing about twenty-somethings' dating habits, Count Your Sheep is a bit of an odd duck. You might call it a slice of life comic, but then nobody bothers concerning themselves with slices of the life of an eight-year-old. Not really. Calvin and Hobbes was more about politics than childhood. Where children are used as literary devices, it's normally as miniature adults illustrating a microcosm of human interaction, or as facile "goofy" laughing stock. Very rarely, for example as in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, is youth given its due as existence in itself and not merely a precursor to stagnant maturity.

Melancholy, self-conscious and often nauseatingly sweet, CYS doesn't quite set out to challenge or captivate its audience. It seems to have started, as I've remarked about others of the good old webcomics, as a simple idea, a shot in the dark, a one-shot gag reiterated with a few different punchlines until something grew out of those reiterations, a relationship between Ship the sheep and his young charge(s) running on the sort of good-natured humor that invites smiles more than laughter.

In fact, the most amazing aspect of reading CYS is just how much can be done with so little, how many creative slants the author added to the characters' basic interactions while keeping their private universe self-contained. It couldn't last forever, of course. As that containment broke, as meta-plot began taking over and finally new characters were added to spice things up, it gradually ran out of steam over the years. Ship's own gradual shift in personality from Katie's partner in crime to acting in loco parentis is likely the most symptomatic of this loss of focus. Still, Count Your Sheep at its best was a delightful treat for a weary mind.

Now, as the author was fond of saying, go to bed.

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