Webcomic Wednesday: Depression/Lazerbeam/Funtime
Review by Seán Donnelly
Created by Danny McColgan
Fresh off the self-published Big Bastard, comic book writer and artist Danny McColgan’s latest project is the comic Depression/Lazerbeam/Funtime, hosted on the popular webcomic app Webtoons. It is a curious blend of shōnen manga and mental health concepts. Where a work like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure would feature the physical manifestations of a character’s fighting spirit and their battles against antagonists with similar abilities, McColgan’s webcomic beings internal struggles into the real world. The protagonist – also named Danny – is a man mired in depression and anxiety, trapped in a world in which he has little control. The repetition of his day-to-day life is on full display as early as the first issue. Decompressed storytelling puts emphasis on visuals and character interaction over moment-to-moment action to create tension or establish mood, and while the comic’s visuals are flat, simple, and rudimentary, the tediousness of Danny’s existence is best reflected in the reuse of similar panels and poses throughout.
However this spell of depression is eventually broken by the arrival of Danny’s companion GiGi, which is where the comic’s manga influences become overt. GiGi introduces Danny (and the reader) to the concept of ‘aspects’, which they call ‘physical manifestations of [Danny’s] day-to-day anxieties and tendencies towards depression.’ Appearing at moments of internal anguish, these aspects harass and confound Danny, who must learn how to overcome these obstacles under the tutelage of GiGi.
There is an amusing contrast between the two characters; Danny is incredibly basic in his design and only notable for his oversized glasses, whereas GiGi is an impish, diminutive character with anime eyes and a lively expression. It’s an unusual pairing that is ripe for comedy in a story that otherwise engages with serious subject matter. As mentioned GiGi’s introduction is a turning point for the comic, moving from a drab, grounded story to a more heightened reality where fight scenes are common. The comic does struggle with this transition, as the static illustrations that are better suited for its first issue are ill-equipped to deal with the hyperkinetic flow and flash of action scenes; characters feel too flat, and movements can often feel stilted in the heat of the action. However there is a canny sense of pacing and use of transitions to give it the energy to persevere. The characters have appeal, and the comic is at its strongest when invested in its comedic scenes; issue five, the most recent issue, is a marked improvement on the first four. You can sense the willingness to be bolder with an increased emphasis on character moments, expressions, and staging; the pencilling and inking has grown more confident too, resulting in much less shaky work. If issue five is anything to go by then fun times are surely guaranteed in future for Depression/Lazerbeam/Funtime.