Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of No Such Thing As Reviews! Otherwise known as Neptune’s Servants Think About Retiring. I’m Ryan Atkinson and every Tuesday here on No Such Thing As Reviews, we’ll be reviewing a plethora of pop culture and wonderful things! Independent comic books, T.V., movies and more! The reviews will consist of a brief overview of what we will be reviewing, a summary of the content (spoiler alert!!), my personal thoughts on the content including a rating out of 5 and whenever possible we will include an interview with the creators!
This week we’ll be doing something a little bit different. For the last 7 reviews I’ve done independent comic books, this week I’ll be reviewing… Well still a comic. But it’s a comic strip!
I’ll be reviewing Spirit Of The Staircase written, drawn and created by Matthew Foltz-Gray.
Bear in mind that although I am laying out a summary of the plot below, this is broken into individual strips! 🙂
The strip follows a little furry creature named Mumford on his day to day adventures with a man named Matt.
The first strip is where we are introduced to both Matt and Mumford. Mumford is sitting on a tree branch surveying a crow on which he prefers: Hot dogs or corn dogs. The crow caws and he interprets this as a vote for corn dogs. The crow then flies away and Mumford reaches after him which causes the branch to break. He falls down landing next to Matt on a park bench which causes Matt to drop the hot dog he is eating on the ground. The crow then flies over to it and begins pecking at it. Mumford scolds him like the fibber he is.
Matt asks Mumford what he is, and Mumford replies “A Mumford, what are you?” Matt tells him he is a human and even though Mumford is excited that he is a human, he believes Matt is a grasshopper that just thinks it is a human, and writes exactly that in his journal.
Matt brings Mumford back to his apartment. Or possibly Mumford just followed him. Matt an I seem to have a lot in common. A small messy apartment, clothes and junk everywhere, past due bills laying about. I might be Matt. Mumford thinks his apartment is actually a village and Matt’s clothes that are everywhere are what’s left from a baboon attack on Matt’s whole village, leaving only Matt alive. He lets Matt know how brave he is for coming back to the place of such tragedy.
He then asks Matt if where he lives is a “normal human fort”. Matt explains for a guy like him living paycheck to paycheck, it’s pretty normal. Mumford likens this to living corn dog to corn dog.
Mumford thinks human villages are amazing:
Matt asks Mumford if he is the first human to ever see him and Mumford tells him that children can see him all the time. Adults are also able to see him but they never notice him. They’re too busy playing with their toys (cell phones etc). Matt looks up from his cell, grunts and continues doing his thing.
Matt tells Mumford that he needs to go to the grocery store because all of his food has disappeared out of nowhere. Mumford is sitting at the table innocently eating a cookie. Mumford explains how he has always wanted to go to the mythical land of the grocery store and that he can’t wait to interact with the villagers and have all the food within his grasp. And just like me again Matt explains that he goes in as fast as he can so that he won’t run in to anybody. Matt says Mumford can come along as long as he just acts like a normal person. When they get to the store Mumford proceeds to yell, whine and complain about needing his gluten free seaweed crackers, grass fed tomatoes and more common pretentious things he must think is normal because of the amount of people who are like that.
Matt an Mumford go throughout the store, Matt picks up what he needs and Mumford picks up everything that he is fascinated with. Which is everything.
The next strip is pretty much Matt as me as well, jeez my life is a mess.. :
Once they are alone Mumford comments on how the pretty girl was totally staring at his gross pants and Matt says the grocery store should be a place of no judgement where you can just go and be yourself and get whatever kind of junk food in whatever kind of clothing you want to. Mumford points out a cart full of junk food and Matt proceeds to judge them.
We now go outside the grocery store where Mumford has discovered the elusive cookie troop during its annual cookie vending mission. They are currently i spring, which is the cookie harvest season and the “Chief Mother” has brought out the young-lings to peddle their wears. Mumford has come to the conclusion that Americans (as natural grazers) find cookies an irresistible and easy prey to go after.He wants some cookies but has no money, so he tries a different method: Hugs. He hugs the troop leader and asks for a cookie and she obviously refuses which he can’t understand because all of the research he has conducted has led him to believe otherwise.
Walking home, Mumford finds a fresh patch of marked territory. Matt explains that it it actually just gum and that gum s a form of candy (Mumford had no idea). Mumford then decides to eat the free candy. Matt stops him though.
Matt explains to Mumford that you can’t just eat stuff off of the ground because that’s gross and germs. Mumford of course has done this his entire life and can’t see these “germ” Matt speaks of. Matt then freaks out because they’re everywhere and he can feel them all over him now that he’s thinking about it. Matt then runs off in a fit of fear. Mumford just says hello to his microscopic friends.
Mumford heads out to search for Matt. He comes across his old friend the crow. He doesn’t have a recent photo to show the crow but he has a recent sketch! He gets the crow to help search for Matt.
The crow flies off, Mumford in tow, to the local farmers market because a screaming human ran off that way. Mumford tried farming once, he tried to plant corn, bubblegum and chicken wing plants but nothing seemed to grow..
He spots Matt and ejects from his feathered air transport. On his way down he explains how stress has been ingrained into the human mind as far back as prehistoric times when dinosaurs were as feared as debt collectors today and then eventually lions came that thought humans were pretty damn tasty. He says in those days stress was pretty straight forward. Something coming at you could be avoided by running and if you see a big shadow coming your way, look up. Apparently modern debt collectors are much nicer according to Mumford. He uses this knowledge to get the drop on Matt by sneaking up and taking his phone to call the collector.
Mumford asks Matt what things he gets stressed about. Matt says there is a whole lost of things but the one that’s bothering him the most is that there seems to be a crow following them. Mumford tells him not to worry because that’s just his friend Jed. Mumford invites Jed back to Matt’s place because it is a stress free zone in part by having a magic faucet that shoots water at you and by simply tapping on the walls the walls tap back at you.
They get back to Matt’s building. Mumford and Jed are putting up flyers for a
Wine Tap Water and Pudding Tuna Fish Party.He invites insects, a cranky lady, a vampire, a child, some neighbors and his two raccoon friends Cynthia and Douglas having a well intended but unnecessary reason why each should attend.
Mumford then asks Matt to come to the party and Matt explains how awkward he is at parties. He starts off by repeating himself way too much, then he gets lightheaded, then he hides in the bathroom and then hopefully by that point he’s too drunk to worry about being awkward or around people. And we re-enter the trend of me pretty much being Matt.
Mumford lays a huge guilt trip on Matt. How could he possibly have a party without guests. What if the party has a soul and by having no guests what if it’s pretty much like sending the parties soul to hell? Matt gives in and says he will go.
Then it’s a cut to later that day. Mumford is welcoming all of his guests to the first annual Tap Water and Tuna party. We see the vampire, the raccoons, the crow and a child that Matt is concerned about because he has no idea who’s child it is.
There is no music on but Mumford doesn’t realize that usually people require it to dance. He is very sad no one is dancing so he starts by himself. Matt feels bad for him so he gets his boom box and then everyone starts dancing.
Matt introduces himself to the vampire and he begins to repeat himself so the vampire flies away.
Matt then tells a scary story:
Matt thanks Mumford for the good time and was glad to meet his friends. He is especially thankful that they didn’t give him rabies or turn him into a vampire, however he needs to go home because he has seen too many weird things for one day.
Later, Mumford writes a letter to the inhabitants of Keplar 1152 B (Which I assume is the moon because the moon is a focal point in this strip) asking them about various things like their preference between hot dogs and corn dogs, Starbucks and a couple other silly things. At the end his P.S. is about questions that Jed (the crow) has about their concerns about a runaway greenhouse effect or some such crap. He puts it in a bottle and throws it into the sky expecting it to float off to the recipients. It obviously falls to the ground and he asks Jed how far he can fly.
Mumford and Jed then get in a tree and Mumford thanks him for letting him roost with him. We see the tree is just outside Matt’s place and Mumford shouts to Matt asking if he wants to come roost with them. Matt says no and tells them to go roost somewhere else.
We then see inside the dream Matt is currently having. It is a nightmare about some sick version of a game show.
Cut to the next morning Matt (Drawn as a walrus) who is scarfing down a cup of coffee making a mess. Next panel shows Matt drawn normally with coffee all over himself, He tells Mumford that coordination comes with the second cup.
And that’s the end of the strips (So far!)!
I really like this strip. It is drawn very well and it is really silly. I found myself with a smile on my face the whole tome reading it. It is easy to relate to Matt and Mumford is just friggin silly.
I would recommend this strip to anyone! There’s really nothing that warrants a discretion warning or anything at all.
The strip alternates between colour and black and white but when it IS black and white, it still looks good! It isn’t the black and white that you know I hate.
My ratings for the strip are as follows:
I had the pleasure of speaking with Matthew Foltz-Gray about his process and you can find the interview below!
What got you started in comics?
“I went to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco hoping to become an animator. Once I got there I realized that the process of animation was too specific for someone of my poor attention span. I wanted to quickly tell the whole story instead of spending hours making a character’s foot move correctly. I decided to focus on storyboarding and illustration, and fell in love with the process of using storytelling images to tell a story. I felt at home.”
How did you come up with the idea for this story?
“Well, I suffered a mild concussion while in school and I’ve always loved the magical realism genre. There IS a specific story that started the process for, ‘Spirit of the Staircase,’ but it will give some plot away, so I’ll stop my explanation there.”
Do you use an outline or a plot, or do you just follow an idea and see where you end up?
“It depends. Much of the time I do enjoy letting the characters take me where THEY want to go. I’ve always been fascinated with the process of creating characters and watching them develop a life of their own. Occasionally, I’ll nudge them in a certain direction, but often the characters will take the reigns and I’m just there to show them in the best light.”
What inspires you to create?
“I love the creative process, and I love when I come across a story or moment that I could have never found without the hard work and time spent getting there. I have to create, it’s not an option. Outside of drawing and telling stories, I’m useless and I enjoy the world from a storyteller’s eyes. Inspiration is everywhere and it makes life fun.”
Do you ever get writers block? And if so, how do you overcome it?
“Yes, everyday. I’ve spent hours trying to think of one sentence and it can be torture. I had a writing teacher that told me to just sit at my desk, even if you have nothing to write. I cherish that advice because I don’t think there IS a quick fix to writer’s block. You have to work through it and stay active in pursuit of the idea. Ideas are so fickle and often I’ll spend all day working and stressing about a story issue only to have the solution pop up when I’m laying in bed that night. It’s all part of the process though.”
If you could choose an actor/actress to star in a movie based on your book, who would it be?
“Clint Eastwood (Matt) and Danny DeVito(Mumford). That would be wild!”
What were you like in school?
“Neither seen, nor heard.”
What is your favourite motivational quote or phrase?
‘The harder you work, the luckier you get.’
Where can we buy or read your comic?
“Well, if you live in the Knoxville area you can find the latest and greatest strips in the Knoxville Mercury, an independent and locally owned newspaper. They allowed me a huge platform to tell these stories and I’m so grateful. If you are outside of Knoxville, you can visit the official Spirit of the Staircase website ( http://www.thespiritofthestaircase.com )”
If you could only give one piece of advice to aspiring creators, what would it be?
“Keep at it, and follow your heart.”
And finally, the question on everyone’s mind: If you could be any animal at all, what animal would you be?
“I’ve always considered my spirit animal to be the little birds at the beach that run from waves. I’d love to be a blue whale or a lion, but I’ll most likely be that bird.”
I’d like to thank Matthew for taking part in our interview! If you are a creator and would like to see your book reviewed you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!
And thank you all for reading! If anyone has any suggestions for next week’s alternate acronym (N.S.T.A.R.) please comment your suggestion below 🙂
I’ve been Ryan Atkinson and I’ll see you next week and remember.. There’s No Such Thing As Reviews!