99 Ways to Tell a Story

 9WTS   (Chamberlain Bros., 2006)

™ and © Chamberlain Bros.

Based on the original Exercises in Style, the premise is simple. Madden takes the following story template: En route to the fridge, Matt is asked the time, causing him to forget what it was he was after. He then twists and turns it into 98 additional shapes. Some of them, such as “Upstairs,” “Voyeur,” and “Refrigerator with a View,” merely change the perspective. Others, including “Retrograde,” “Flashback,” and “Unreliable Narrator,” play with the narrative.

Panels are twisted. Genres change from daily gag strips to ads to public-service announcements. The art is reimagined in the styles of Hergé, Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Jack Chick, and a medieval tapestry. And these are just variations that are easy to describe. Some of the more complex variations include a calligram, “Things Are Queer” (an infinite zoom loop), and “Inking outside the Box,” which would fit nicely in Dan Piraro’s world.

One might think it boring to read what is essentially the same eight–panel vignette 99 times. It’s not. It’s an enlightening example of how creators can be more creative.

— Jack Abramowitz

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