Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Is Your Diary Comic About?

A few weeks ago, I finally got myself a good old fashioned library card and got to work abusing the interlibrary loan system. It's been a great opportunity to catch up on my print comics (an area where I'm woefully underdeveloped), and how Ariel Schrag has walked into my reading life.

Ariel Schrag is a famous (and I suppose, if you went to high school with her, infamous) writer of autobiographical comics. Following each year of high school, Schrag made a comic detailing her experiences: Awkward and Definition detail freshman and sophomore years, Potential junior year, and Likewise senior year. What's remarkable about the books isn't just their much-touted frankness about sex and drugs, but how cohesive each volume feels. These could have easily been a series of random adventures, but they're not. They feature arcs on Schrag's evolving sexual identity, her romantic and platonic relationships, her parents' crumbling marriage, her personal academic quests, and how the comic comes to dominate her thoughts and interactions. Sure, it sometimes goes in frustrating directions (a great deal of Ariel's high school life revolves around Sally, her obviously straight sometimes-girlfriend), but there's always the sense that you're skimming the cream off the top of someone's high school experience, drinking in the most emotionally potent moments of those years.

I've found myself reading a lot of autobiographical and diary comics lately. I am now an official devotee of Julia Wertz's The Fart Party, and finally read Jeffrey Brown's Clumsy, Lucy Knisley's French Milk, and Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage (I'm told I'm a little behind the times). In addition to my daily diet of American Elf and Ellerbisms, I've added Adam Cadwell's The Everyday (soon to be ended) and Shazzbaa Bennett's Today Nothing Happened. And, of course there's Jeffrey Rowland's Overcompensating, if you consider that autobiography and not unrestrained lunacy based on some distant fact. I still get a little choked up when I remember DAR! stopped running.

One of my favorite new entries in the autobio comics ring is Stop Paying Attention, a series of graphic essays by Lucy Knisley. If you missed French Milk, you might know Knisley from the Doctor Octopus story she did for Marvel's Girl Comics. Knisley has a remarkable talent for visual language, and Stop Paying Attention is a wonderful showcase (I especially love the piece on her imminent breakup).

I rather hope that Knisley takes some time to experiment with her content. Essay-writing can easily lend itself to gross abstraction and navel-gazing, and it's nice to see that Knisley's last few comics have been so grounded.

But so many autobiographical demand some sort of a narrative, or else they risk become a mere exercise, something that may be of great value to the artist, but won't really connect with a readership. Although I've long subscribed to The Everyday, it's more what I would consider a "portfolio comic." Adam Cadwell is obviously a gifted artist -- his drawings are precise, expressive, and awesomely detailed. But there's no story to it, no evolution of its protagonist/author. We don't even get much of a sense of Adam himself. Cadwell recently announced that he'll be ending The Everyday at strip #200 to work on longer form stories. I can't say I'm unhappy to see it go if we finally get to see Cadwell's pretty pictures in context.

But what gives a diary comic that sense of structure? Are writers obligated to find the plot in their own lives? The Everyday's companion comic (brother comic? best friend who buys you chocolate biscuits comic?) is Ellerbisms, a comic I've written about a couple of times. Ellerbisms began in more of a portfolio comic mode, but became more rooted as a relationship blossomed between creator Marc Ellerby and his girlfriend Anna. Not every comic is about Anna and Ellerby has never spelled out the progression of their relationship, but it gave the comic a sense of identity that it previously lacked.

On the other hand, an underlying theme isn't essential. James Kochalka has said that his quest in making American Elf is to capture the rhythm of life, something he attempts in the span of a single square each day. Remarkably, it works; through that series of colorful squares, we get a watercolory sense of Kochalka's daily life. We see his temper tantrums, his intimate moments. We're watching his kids grow up and his bursts of strange creative energy. Yes, we get flashes of big deal life stuff -- his wife's miscarriage, concern over a friend's drinking -- but they never form the backbone of the comic. Instead, reading American Elf, one gets the sense that they are being wrapped up in Kochalka's magical view of his own life.

The comic that got me thinking about this -- about whether diary comics need to be about something in particular -- is Shazzbaa Bennett's Today Nothing Happened. I read an ArtPatient review of TNH a while back, and it's been in my reader ever since. Shazzbaa is one of those infuriating people who makes energetic cartooning look effortless, an TNH has a lot to recommend it: a consistent aesthetic, a strong cast of characters, a solid sense of timing, and a set of recurring themes.

Shazzbaa was a sequential art major at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and she started TNH as a class assignment. It follows that much of TNH chronicles the events in the life of a SCAD student. Shazzbaa takes a game design class. She fights with the 3D rendering software. She pulls all-nighters to finish her thumbnailing assignment. To someone who never attended art school, it's pretty fascinating stuff. Of course, art school doesn't dominate every strip; there are plenty of D&D sessions and meals with friends. But "the adventures of a SCAD sequential art student" provided a nice anchor for the comic.

Then Shazzbaa graduated. TNH continued to be a very well-done comic of amusing individual pages. Shazzbaa learning how to drive. Shazzbaa going shopping with her mom. Shazzbaa visiting friends. Shazzbaa still playing the D&D. But for a while, I couldn't help but feel that something was missing. Here Shazzbaa had been this rocking art student -- so what happens next? Where does her career go from here? I was relieved to at long last see the latest TNH development: Shazzbaa looks for a day job. I just hope we'll get more peeks into her artistic job stuff as well. It may seem crass to reduce someone's life to plot arcs and narrative threads, but for a young cartoonist living at home in a down economy, day jobs and the career path ahead are a big part of life. It seems odd not to see them on the page.

But the best thing about the comics that work is how much they don't feel like performance art. For all of Shazzbaa's wonderful energy, you never get the sense that she's putting on a show. In The Fart Party, Julia Wertz creates a character around herself, but she isn't afraid to reveal her vulnerabilities and her dorkier private moments. And the love story we see in Ellerbisms seems to stem from nothing more than Ellerby's affection for Anna and his desire to share that portion of his life. Diary and autobio comics entertain and offer insight into the creators' lives, but it would be depressing if they depicted the adventures of a series of dancing monkeys.

Overcompensating, of course, gets a pass on that front.


James Stallings said...

I am wondering what did you mean by "abusing the interlibrary loan system". Please enlighten me. Thanks!click here.

Anonymous said...

First impression is the last impression as correctly said, if you want to enhance your work chances you should register for online degree programs these programs are reasonable. Persons who have knowledge it, they can buy a degree from an accredited college with the help of online programs.

Jianbin Jianbin said...

futbol baratas
adidas outlet store
nike running shoes
puma shoes
giuseppe zanotti sale
ugg uk outlet
wedding dresses
nfl jerseys wholesale
tory burch sandals
soccer jerseys,soccer jerseys wholesale,soccer jerseys cheap,soccer jerseys for sale,cheap soccer jersey,usa soccer jersey,football jerseys
ugg outlet
ugg outlet
toms outlet
pandora outlet
adidas jeremy scott
lebron 12
chanel handbags
hollister shirts
true religion outlet,true religion jeans,true religion kids,true religion jeans sale,true religion jeans for men,true religion jacket,true religion sale
mbt sneakers
cyber monday
louboutin uk
christian louboutin shoes
moncler outlet
ysl outlet online
air jordan 4 free shipping
mulberry,mulberry handbags,mulberry outlet,mulberry bags,mulberry uk
canada goose outlet
roshe run women
true religion jeans
new england patriots
marc jacobs outlet

Northdallas Towing said...

Very Nice Information, Thanks For Posting
Please visit my site for best service on-

Nocost Move said...

Thanks For Sharing Such As Useful Information.
Please visit on my site for Move For Free, Apartment Locator, Apartment For Rent & Sale on -

Dong Dong said...

louis vuitton borse
michael kors outlet
air max 95
ugg outlet
michael kors handbags
juicy couture
canada goose uk
michael kors handbags
michael kors
canada gooses outlet
michael kors outlet
canada goose jackets
michael kors
rolex replica watches
jordan retro 3
ralph lauren outlet
nike huarache
michael kors outlet
nike blazers
adidas originals
nike air max 90
new balance outlet
nike outlet store
tory burch outlet
tiffany jewelry
michael kors outlet
gucci outlet
michael kors
louis vuitton handbags
michael kors outlet
ray ban sunglasses
ugg sale
air jordans
coach factory outlet online
michael kors outlet
air jordans

柯云 said...

adidas superstar shoes
pandora jewelry
beats by dr dre
toms outlet
hollister jeans
coach factory
ralph lauren sale
lebron 13
christian louboutin shoes
tory burch outlet
ray ban sunglasses
nike free 5.0
kate spade outlet
canada goose outlet
air max 95
toms shoes
cheap toms
sunglasses oakley
coach outlet store online clearance
polo outlet
louis vuitton outlet
louis vuitton outlet online
coach outlet
abercrombie and fitch
ray ban sunglasses
christian louboutin outlet
chanel outlet
hollister clothing
coach outlet
chanel bags
swarovski crystal
oakley vault
louis vuitton
hollister kids
hollister clothing
lebron 12
ebron james shoes 13
red bottom shoes

Penjual Herbal said...

proses pencegahan sebagai Obat alat vital sakit ini juga perlu dibantu dari orang-orang yang ahli di dalamnya sehingga pencegahan tersebut efektif dan bisa sesuai dengan sasaran, silahkan baca selengkapnya . Penyakit kanker payudara bisa disembuhkan jika ditangani sejak dini dengan Obat herbal kanker payudara . Anda harus mengetahui gejala-gejala kanker payudara agar anda dapat mengobatinya sebelum terlambat silahkan baca selengkapnya . Tapi jika anda sudah terlanjur terkena penyakit ini, maka pengobatan yang harus dilakukan dengan Obat kutil di alat vital , lebih lengkapnya silahkan baca selengkapnya . Sebelum membicarakan tentang Obat kutil di daerah alat vital , sebenarnya ada hal lain yang lebih penting dari hal itu, yakni tindakan pencegahan silahkan baca selengkapnya . bila kita melihat lebih jauh dan meneliti beberapa kasus yang ada Obat keluar nanah di kelamin yang paling manjur adalah pencegahan sejak dini, silahkan baca selengkapnya . Dan ternyata ada Obat herbal wasir yang secara alami masih bisa dikonsumsi, silahkan silahkan baca selengkapnya .

Chen Jeje said...

air jordan retro
discount oakley sunglasses
michael kors outlet
oakley sunglasses
toms outlet store
nfl jerseys
oakley sunglasses
cheap uggs
michael kors outlet online
Michael Kors Purses
Cheap Jordans For Sale
ray ban sunglasses outlet
huaraches shoes
nfl jerseys
michael kors outlet online
tiffany and co jewelry
cheap basketball shoes
huaraches shoes
ralph lauren polo shirts
chrome hearts online store
chrome hearts wholesale
michael kors handbags
black huaraches
cheap air jordan
cheap true religion jeans
mlb jerseys authentic
kobe sneakers
christian louboutin outlet
tiffany jewellery