Saturday, March 14, 2009

Workplace Webcomic for Clock Watchers and Window Gazers

Back when I had a normal office park job, I'd spend morning meetings doodling in the margins of whatever I had at hand, filling the white space with Sharpie-inked sketches of my coworkers and killer robots. But nothing I drew could come close to rivaling the sheer artistry of Shane Johnson's My Life In A Cube.

Johnson draws daily comics chronicling the lives of cubicle dwellers. This isn't Dilbert; we aren't mocking managerial ineptitude or catch-22 health plans or outsourcing to fourth-world nations. Instead, Johnson highlights the oddities of cubicle culture, the way normal social rules break down when coworkers are separated by shoulder-high carpeted walls, how easily we accept the rituals of forced small talk and office parties, the private sins of long lunches, desk dozing, and Twitter.

Even though the events it depicts are (allegedly) fictional, My Life In A Cube has a diary comic feel. Although it's formatted as a gag-a-day, its humor isn't really jokey. It more echoes the unspoken one-liners we all have rattling around our heads, even as we are outwardly complicit in all this office weirdness, and those moments we think no one else knows about -- unfurling all your paperclips, zoning out during phone calls, and contemplating your getaway -- but are far more common than our managers would care to acknowledge.

The genius is compounded by Johnson's choice of canvas. Like any good doodle done on company time, My Life In A Cube is done on office supplies: Post-It Notes, discarded envelopes, bubble wrap, napkins, and notebook paper are all reborn as colorful critiques on office culture. It elevates each installment to found art, the sort of unexpected treasure we might be lucky to discover peeking out of the recycling bin. Even guest strips take on a special quality, with each artist gleefully chiming in with their own briefly told tale of occupational woe and reminding us that most people aren't all that keen on their 9 to 5s. And for those of us living cube-free lives (as Johnson does these days), it provides a lighthearted reminder of why we keep ourselves far away from the office park.

[My Life In A Cube]

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