By Johnny Beaver
I first heard about Andy Purviance on the Corvallis Creators Facebook group, where he had posted a link to his steampunk webcomic, I, Mummy. His comic is about Jane Webb, an impulsive teenager who wakes up out of a coma to discover she is a mummy. The plot centers around her investigation, with the assistance of a cantankerous ghost, into her own murder.
Set in the 22nd century, I, Mummy transports the reader to a city built around Crater Lake, abuzz with technology born of 19th century futurism. The characters are deep and full of personality. The world makes you want to take a bite out of it.
The art style quickly grabbed my attention as it perfectly recreated the look of classic comics (it reminds one of the Advocate editors of an old newspaper comic like Little Orphan Annie), and though it could have rested on its visual laurels alone, the read was incredibly engaging as well. It has quickly become one of my favorite Corvallis art encounters, but we’ll come back to that.
After spending a year at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Purviance graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a BA in graphic design and then spent a dozen or so years prototyping and designing children’s games for both the PC and Gameboy platforms. Also a photographer, a number of his photos have been picked up and published by a handful of different magazines—including a Norwegian rabbit care guide by the name of Den Store Kaninboka, which was random enough to warrant an individual mention.
In addition to his education and time behind the camera, he cites a nearly lifelong love of drawing, as well as a taste for comics and graphic novels.
“I have drawn for as long as I can remember, from silly cartoon characters to weird geometric experimental doodles. Usually in ink and pencil—the tools available at school. So, there was lots of sketching in class when I was younger,” Purviance said of his introduction to art.
Though Purviance listed several comic series/graphic novels as having been highly influential, one stuck out in particular. “Oddly enough, my biggest influence today would be the long-running Love & Rockets collections by Jamie and Gilbert Hernandez. Specifically Gilbert’s stories and Jamie’s Locas, both of which are available at the Corvallis Library,” he said.
As far as his inspiration for I, Mummy, Purviance cites Jane C. Loudon’s The Mummy (1827), while although interesting was too insipid for him to finish. Purviance also notes another inspiration being postcards from 19th century French, German, and Russian artists predicting daily life in the year 2000.
I can easily see Purviance’s work here eventually influencing others in much the same way. Practically, though, how is this all glued together? Purviance explained, “For the comic’s visual style I wanted something old and classic, and didn’t take too long to produce. The black line art is drawn with pen and ink on paper and then scanned in. Drawing it all digitally would probably be easier, but it didn’t produce the line antique quality I wanted. Plus, without an undo option, I figured my skills would improve faster. The color, aging, and dot-screen effects are added in the computer and layered onto an old paper texture. If you look carefully you might see an old newspaper printed on the back side of each page.”
Hoisting the work itself up even higher, the website (http://i-mummy.com) boasts new page releases on Mondays and Thursdays, as well as a comments board for each page, fan art, character summaries, and more. I’d like to especially highlight the dictionary, which contains all of what Purviance calls the “delicious” antiquated words and phrases in the story.
Volume 2 just began on Christmas Day, so if this is your introduction to I, Mummy, you can catch up on the entire series rather quickly.
“This next story is pretty excellent, and the first few pages are some of the best I’ve ever drawn. It’s a bit of a Pinocchio story—the mummy just wants to be a normal girl again, but between her superstitious mother at home and civil unrest in Crater City, normality may not be possible,” said Purviance.