Few industry artists I know are as committed to personal projects as Gabe Swarr who’s consistently been making his own work for as long as I’ve known him, which is something like twelve years. He hasn’t slowed down one bit either, an especially impressive feat now that he’s in the middle of producing and directing the hefty 52-episode order of Nickelodeon’s Kung Fu Panda: The Legends of Awesomeness.
For years, Gabe drew Big Pants Mouse — as a comic book, on-line comic strip, and even a pilot at Disney TV Animation (where in typical corporate fashion, they rechristened it Big Shorts Mouse). He retired the character last year to focus on a new pet project Life in the Analog Age.
The tone of Life in the Analog Age — which appears in both comic strip and animated webisode form — is more genteel and introspective than his earlier work. The slice-of-(childhood)-life tales are drawn from his memories of growing up in the late-1970s and early-’80s, which he portrays as a simpler and more innocent time “before digital dominance and information overload”.
His approach is refreshing for its lack of snark and attitude. Watching the shorts brought back plenty of stowed away memories, for example, the mandatory Valentine’s card exchange in grade school (embedded above). Beneath the rose-colored view of such events, Gabe acknowledges the weirdness of childhood rules and rituals. For example, in the Valentine’s Day episode, he observes that the card exchange “was a time to feel liked…a time to feel as if you were part of the class.” But, of course, not really a part of it.
The design of the series has plenty of quirky touches. Some of them, such as the animal-like features on human characters, work better than others, like the stingy color palette of orange and purple, which struck me as too severe for the nostalgic tone of the stories. The animation style is spare but applied smartly to fulfill the need of each story.
The animated webisodes have been released at the pace of one per month, with comics in-between, but beginning next month, Gabe will be releasing two animated shorts per month. I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters evolve as the series moves into a more regular schedule.