“That Full Moon Feeling” — Hey, Witches And Werewolves Need Love, Too

I once opined — and I’m hardly the first to have done so, trust me — that it’s good practice for cartoonists, and really artists of all stripes, to step outside their comfort zones and try something different, but I’ll let you in on a little secret : the same is absolutely true for critics.

As prima facie evidence of this assertion, I offer up Austin-based cartoonist Ashley Robin Franklin’s new little book from Silver Sprocket, That Full Moon Feeling, which lithely threads the needle between two genres that are by and large of little interest to me, specifically romantic comedy and the supernatural, yet nevertheless managed to warm my cynical middle-aged cis white male heart and plant an entirely unforced smile on my face for the duration of its 64 pages. Which, admittedly, is me giving away the final verdict of this review early on, but I do so specifically to urge those like myself, who think this kind of thing is geared exclusively to the younger folks, to please give this entirely-worthy comic a chance.

Granted, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that Franklin won me over here given how impressed I was with her last effort, last year’s One Million Tiny Fires, but despite exploring some similar themes with regards to trust and intimacy issues, tonally this newly-released book couldn’t be more different — which only goes to show that Franklin is quickly establishing herself as a multi-faceted cartoonist whose art can’t be pigeon-holed into one particular category or other. That’s very good news, of course, but what makes it even more remarkable is that she’s chosen to prove her mettle, so to speak, at two ends of the storytelling spectrum that are, in many ways, diametrical opposites — horror and comedy. It’s one thing to run that gamut over time, to slowly work your way from Point A to Point B, but to go the direct route without passing go and collecting your $200 (sorry, Monopoly board game references do rather age me, don’t they?) takes more than skill, it also takes an incredible amount of sheer and unmitigated confidence.

Still, why not? I mean, Franklin’s got plenty to be confident about — and certainly seems to know how to draw inspiration from the everyday while also flavoring it with a dash of the extraordinary. To that end, while most of us probably don’t know anyone exactly like Suzy the witch and/or Jada the werewolf, we certainly know people very much like both of them, who are seeking to find companionship via dating apps and working overtime to make sure the impression they give in real life lives up to the one they proffer on the screen. The three dates we vicariously follow them on as readers each serve up their fair share of disasters ranging in severity from “shrug it off and move on” to “OMG I’m absolutely mortified,” but hey — haven’t we all been there and done that? Hell, even old-timers like me who last dated back in the days when you met people at bars or parties or through friends or what have you, rather than shopping for an ideal mate on our phones, know the thoughts and feelings running through the minds and hearts of these two young women pretty well and will have no problem being utterly charmed by their attempts to make something work against all odds.

As for Franklin’s cartooning, it’s as disarmingly charming as anything and everything else you’ll find here, simple lines that are clean and easy on the eyes on their surface, and belie a fairly obvious anime/manga influence, but that hold a surprising level of depth and resonance the longer one spends time looking at them — I’ve always harbored a fair degree of admiration for artists who can convey a maximum amount of visual information with minimal fuss or muss, and that really describes Franklin’s style in a nutshell. There’s nothing belabored going on here, no forced or cloying sentimentality creeping in at the margins, just skillful execution that matches classical styling with a decidedly contemporary sensibility. What, I ask you, isn’t to love about that?

Who are we kidding? Relationships are a tricky business — and that’s especially true during their formative stages. But you’re going to be wishing for a happy ending for these two would-be lovebirds from word “go” here, and for my own part, I find myself torn between thinking this earnest, unassuming comic is just perfect as is on the one hand, and hoping for a sequel at some point on the other. What I do know for certain is that whatever Ashley Robin Franklin does next, I’ll be there for it.

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That Full Moon Feeling is available for $14.99 from the Silver Sprocket website at https://store.silversprocket.net/products/that-full-moon-feeling-by-ashley-robin-franklin

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