I love the diversity of web comics that are out there, everything from crotch gags to those that take on life’s more important or philosophical issues. However there are quite a few more of the former than the latter so it’s nice to find the odd web comic that is a more weighty effort.
Family Man is firmly in the camp of the serious – which is not to say it isn’t fun, just that it’s a more drama/character based piece of work, a little less action or joke orientated, and has real world style consequences to actions. And not so many crotch gags.
There is room in our lives, I believe, for both crotch gags and serious dramatic works and we’re all the better for both.
Though I wouldn’t completely put it past Family Man to sneak a crotch gag in there somewhere!
The characters and comic concept
In 1768 Luther Levy, of Jewish ancestry but raised in the Christian faith, is a theology scholar that has fallen from grace and left the University of Göttingen, at which he studied and hoped to lecture. He has returned to the family home in a small town in Germany while he figures out what to do next.
A chance encounter leads to a job offer at a distant university which he accepts. But beneath the façade of academia there are older and darker currents running through the halls of his new residence.
Luther is a bit grumpy, a little bit world-weary and quite sardonic at times. But underneath it he’s just looking for a place in the world, some clarity and answers to the internal conflicts that trouble him. He’s a very likeable character once you get to know him.
The story of Family Man impresses on many levels. First is the rich, highly detailed historical and subject matter (mostly theology) presented both visually and verbally in the story. I’m not in any way familiar enough with the period or theology to comment on it’s accuracy but it certainly feels real in the way a really well done BBC historical drama does. It also does a marvellous job of framing and supporting the story.
Secondly there is some wonderful dialogue, there’s some real bite and wit in here and it’s all a pleasure to read. The story doesn’t overload itself with characters and you get a strong sense of personality and voice from all of them.
Finally there is the story itself. It’s paced quite slowly, this is very much a graphic novel and the pace of the story development reflects that.
I initially just read the first few pages after reading another comic by the same author, didn’t really get into it and put it aside for something else. But on returning to it and reading further I found it absolutely captivating. It’s closer to a period drama than anything else I can think of, so quite a different tempo and style to what we’re used to.
The art is monochrome rather than straight out black and white which is interesting in itself as you don’t see that so often. I find it very likeable and generally well done though the author like to accentuate a certain physical characteristic commonly found (or at least perceived to be) in people of Jewish descent – it’s affectionately done I think and does help with certain plot points.
Author, publishing and timeline
Dylan Meconis is the author of Family Man and works as a professional cartoonist. She previously completed and published (it’s still available to read online) another graphic novel called Bite Me! which is a historical “vampire farce” set in the French revolution.
She is also a writer of the very successful PVP web comic.
She was also nominated for the Best Digital Comic in the Eisner Awards in 2012 for the short story length web comic Outfoxed (I’d recommend checking it out as well).
The author mentioned in an interview that she envisages Family Man being a three volume affair. Volume I is already complete and published and contains the first two chapters - I thereby calculate that there will be six chapters in total and we are well into chapter four now. So therefore, on that basis, the whole thing could be done in another three to four years.
However I’m struggling to see how she can wrap the whole thing up in just two more chapters. I suspect it might actually go a little longer than that but these authors are crafty so let’s not rule anything out.