Reconstructivist Art: 1/0

Part of the Reconstructivist Art series:

When Tailsteak’s webcomic 1/0 premiered in 2000, it was part of a brand-new boom in web-based daily comic strip production by a host of amateur auteurs, most with more enthusiasm than talent. The early strips were largely unpromising, with crude drawings, derivative jokes, and a post-modern “meta” sensibility that had already become a cliché among the new webcomics. As the days turned into months however, something unexpected happened: The strip’s characters began to take on a solid three-dimensionality, in personality, if not in appearance. As they argued with each other, and with their creator, pondered philosophical questions of life and death, fought, worshiped, killed and fell in love, it became increasingly hard to shake the feeling that they were real living creations with their own valid existence.

(1) Nod to Artifice: In 1/0, most of the characters were aware of their existence as fictional characters within a two-dimensional comic strip. In addition, the strip’s creator was a very real presence within the strip, and his changing relationship with the strip’s characters was a key element of the strip’s overall storylines.

(2) Classic Structure: The structure was that of a standard four-panel comic strip, and stuck to the familiar “gag-a-day” format of a standard newspaper comic strip for much of its run.

(3) Transcontextual and Iconic Elements: In 1/0 many of the original characters and references were literally and explicitly “stolen” from other webcomics, such as “Teddy Weddy,” who was originally a minor character who appeared during a brief early story arc in the long-running and influential webcomic Sluggy Freelance, but who was repurposed into the raw materials for the landscape the characters live upon in 1/0’s off-kilter universe.

(4) Moments of Genuine Emotion or Significance: In 1/0, the theme was existence and the meaning or meaninglessness thereof, and the strip fearlessly explored profound questions of religion, morality and identity, all within its own self-delineated boundaries.

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