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Gutter Space #5 by Leslie Salas

 Less is More in E Horne & J Comeau’s A Softer World

A Softer World, written by Joey Comeau and photographed/designed by Emily Horne, is a webcomic that is “sometimes … sad or harsh … in the tradition of George Simenon’s ‘romans durs’ (or ‘hard novels’).” Each of these comics follows the same three-panel template, where variations of the same or similar photographs are used to compliment the simple typewritten captions. To highlight Horne & Comeau’s style in A Softer World, let’s take a closer look at comic 998.

The captions of this comic seem simple—a kind of light-hearted humorous jab at the current state of politics in the US. The tone of the photograph and the location of the captions in terms of line of sight subconsciously create gloomier connotations for the strip. The comic comprises of what seems to be one single photograph, divided into three panels, of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial at night.

The first panel is dark and foreboding with the columns shadowed by nearby trees. It is with the second panel that we recognize the memorial for what it is—the statue of Jefferson facing the previous panel, a small arch of light above him. A partial caption directly behind his head alludes that the personification of “government” may apply to the President, and the final panel, with the columns more brightly lit and the captions moving further down the square, present a relaxed sadness.

However, there’s more to this comic. By placing your mouse over the comic, you’ll get a bonus caption in the roll over text, adding an extra element of culpability to the unidentified narrator.

Like many of the other comics of A Softer World, comic 998 resembles the poetry equivalent for comics. Each of the words in the captions is specifically chosen to elicit a response from the reader; placement of the text in each panel is carefully considered to influence how the reader scans across the photographic images. The end result is a subtle and poignant critique of some element of society. 

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Leslie Salas (Photo by Ashley Inguanta)

Leslie Salas writes fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and comics. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and attended the University of Denver Publishing Institute. In addition to being an Associate Course Director at Full Sail University, Leslie also serves as an assistant editor for The Florida Review, a graphic nonfiction editorial assistant for Sweet: A Literary Confection, and a regular contributing artist for SmokeLong Quarterly.

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