While mainstream comics get bogged down in formulaic storytelling and pointless shock reveals, every so often innovation comes from unlikely places – such as Alex Culler’s Beautifully Banal.
Way back when Kings of Kickstarter was still in single numerals we spotlighted a fledgling zine with a unique concept; adapting architecture into a storytelling medium. In the wake of their initial project’s success creators Alexander Culler and Danny Travis already have future stories lined up through the Architecture Hero collective, but how well does their initial concept hold up?
Beautifully Banal tells the story of Phineas the Fly as he finds himself thrown into an adventure that takes him from outhouse to office to garbage dumpster. The plot is fairly basic and recalls the simplicity of a children’s story book, but it works for what Culler and Travis are trying to achieve. You see, the fly’s journey is really just a framing device for their dissection of the world around us.
Everyday objects such as power drills and sandwiches are deconstructed into diagrams of their component parts (called an axonometric), and the action takes place in a series of floor plans and blueprints. Beautifully Banal makes architecture – traditionally seen as boring or overly technical – accessible to the average reader by highlighting how every aspect of our lives is a constructed object.
However, readers coming from a graphic novel background will have to adapt to Culler and Travis’ unique style of visual storytelling. Anybody trying to follow the story from panel to panel will find themselves getting confused; instead, the narration follows the trajectory of Phineas through the scene, guided by a dotted line. The pages themselves also discourage the traditional pace of comic book action, rewarding those who linger with dry, witty observations such as:
Corner office of Dr Simon Banfield, MD. He looks down at the street waiting for his patient to finish talking.”
Beautifully Banal won’t be for everyone. Anybody looking for an intricate plot or dynamic movement in their art will be disappointed, but if you’re looking to be challenged by a more experimental way of storytelling that focuses on place then you’ll definitely want to follow the output of Architecture Hero.