Webcomic Wednesday - Baby Bjornstrand by Renee French
What is Baby Bjornstrand? This question may be applied to both the title creature and Renee French’s comic itself. On the latter score, the soft grey haze of French’s painstakingly penciled backgrounds, and the robes and masks of her three childlike protagonists, suggest a ruined sci-fi landscape; the birdlike, amphibious creature they encounter who gives the comic its title could be seen simply as fantastic fauna. Certainly French makes the most out of its aquatic environment, knowing that few images are as eerie as a large creature descending into or emerging from the depths for reasons unknown to anyone or anything but itself.
But the mostly humorous tone, and the knowingly cartoonish presentation of the creature and its nebulous powers, suggest rather an existentialist farce like Waiting for Godot — isolated, comical characters grappling with the unknown using only the limited vocabulary of understanding and behavior available to them. Or perhaps it’s intended to evoke comics’ great wasteland-based comedy triad: Krazy Kat, Ignatz Mouse, Offisa Pup, and their Coconino County environs in George Herriman’s highly regarded Krazy Kat strip from the golden age of newspaper comics.
Whatever the case, Baby Bjornstrad his/her/itself is a mystery to these three goofballs. Well, not so much a mystery to solve, as a blank slate on which to project their needs. A provider of companionship or protection, a focus of longing or rejection, a playmate to befriend or a specimen to be studied, a source of power and danger, the inspiration for a play within the comic — Baby Bjornstrad is all things to these three people. As such, he/she/it joins a long line of monsters, misfits, aliens, and outcasts from fantastic fiction who exist as neither enemies nor friends, but as mirrors.