Webcomic / Online Manga
Author/Artist: Caroline “Carmen” Curtis
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, I was talking with a friend and co-writer about needing some different material for G-POP. We already have covered quite a wide variety of things for the site, but variety is the spice of life and I wanted to add even more new and exciting things for our readers to discuss. Rowena pointed me toward a webcomic called 9thElsewhere and I was hooked from the first page.
9thElsewhere is a webcomic / online manga written and illustrated by Caroline “Carmen” Curtis. The posts are done in pencil, often without any color, although there are some color inserts – usually chapter title pages. It features a young girl named Carmen, an aspiring writer with a serious case of writer’s block. In the world of 9thElsewhere, there exists a “corporation” of muses who travel the world offering inspiration to talented artists. ORMY!, otherwise known as Organized Response Musing Yes!, sends one of its agents to Carmen’s dreamscape in an effort to nudge her in the “write” direction. Unfortunately, Eiji is not one of the organization’s more effective muses. That’s not to say that Eiji doesn’t have his talents, just that Eiji is not quite like any other muse in the organization and has not had a terribly high success rate.
As the comic progresses, we discover that Carmen has been juggled from one foster family to another, making it hard for Carmen to trust people. This adds to the difficulty factor for Eiji, who is already having a hard time with this assignment. It seems that the director of ORMY! is bent on getting rid of the quirky muse and is hoping that failing Carmen will be the third strike against Eiji, giving the director the ammunition to fire him. To say that the director is being unfair to both his employee and his client is an understatement and readers find themselves rooting for Eiji to prove the director wrong.
Eiji does experience some major difficulties in assisting Carmen. The girl carries so much emotional baggage, thanks to a lack of stable household, that she isn’t exactly making the job easy for Eiji. Especially when Carmen, not understanding just how much control she has over her dreamscape, accidentally gives the bakobako – a key for escaping Carmen’s dreamscape – wings. The bakobako flies away with Eiji and Carmen in hot pursuit, traveling through the many layers of Carmen’s mind. Along the way, Eiji learns more about Carmen as they stumble across old dreams and anxieties. The reader also learns quite a bit about quirky Eiji through Eiji’s own dreams.
The storyline of the comic is refreshingly new and has terrific longevity – just how many layers to the subconscious are there? The artwork is terrific. I was surprised to find myself enjoying a purely black and white, penciled webcomic. Most of the webcomics I’ve seen have instituted color panels in every update, but Caroline Curtis makes colored panels a rarity in 9thElsewhere. Caroline Curtis also takes the readers on little side adventures into her own life, penning herself and friends in comical situations that occur outside the realm of the main story, but often have an effect on what is going on within the story.
Besides the original storyline, Curtis brings originality into the webcomic genre by adding flash features to some of her pages. These flash feature pages are indicated with small asterisks in the archive section of the site. Those flash features, however small, bring something new and exciting to 9thElsewhere that adds flavor to an already incredibly interesting storyline.
Starting with the 7th chapter, Curtis began creating elaborate sketches of characters from 9thElsewhere. Curtis explains that she would be working on these 8x10 sketches once monthly in an effort to stay fresh when working in larger mediums. The sketches would be auctioned off on EBay to help support the site. Each sketch contains characters from the webcomic in situations outside the storyline, such as one that features the characters in Lord of the Rings garb. These “Art Day” sketches are like the little toy surprises that you used to get in Cracker Jack boxes. Not the prizes of today’s Cracker Jack – they’re lackluster. I’m talking about the baseball cards, magnifying glasses, etc. of Cracker Jack history…but I digress.
9thElsewhere combines a unique and incredibly interesting story, amazing artwork, flash features, and quirky but loveable characters to create a completely new experience for webcomic lovers of any age. Caroline Curtis is extremely talented both as the artist and as the writer of this comic. The tale she weaves is new and intriguing. The writing is easily understood. The artwork is incredible. Now that I’ve reached the last page of the comic, my mind keeps asking – when is the next page going to be posted! I want more! My friend pointed me in the direction of 9thElsewhere, but Caroline Curtis’ talent sucked me in. Check out 9thElsewhere for yourself – you won’t be disappointed!