Monday, January 14, 2013

Autobio Minis: MariNaomi, Whitney Taylor, Margo Dabaie

Here's a trio of autobio comics, done in different styles.

The Evil, by MariNaomi. This is a short, punchy comic that sees the artist experimenting with a new approach. Instead of her standard four panel grid, she's now using a single image per page. Some of those images are naturalistic, while others are rendered in her new, ultra-minimalist style. This allows her to pull in and zoom out of extreme emotional states. The story follows a stay in a hotel as she hears a couple arguing very loudly in the room next door. What follows is a mix of the bizzarely comedic and emotionally triggering, as an aged security guard slowly ambles his way into her room and then down the hall, while Mari herself is weeping. She's weeping because she's being chased by the ghosts of boyfriends past, in the sense that she was on the opposite end of this scenario when younger--being threatened by abusive boyfriends. It's a pointed story about what responsibilities we have toward our fellow people weighed against the concerns of privacy, mixed with alternating chords of guilt and anger that no one called the cops on her behalf in the past. It's a typically nuanced, powerful and funny take on a troubling subject by an artist who's really on a roll.

Adult Time, by Whitney Taylor. Taylor is in the unenviable position of desperately wanting to be a full-time cartoonist but finding herself shackled to a completely unrelated career. Now that she's completed grad school and is yoked to that job full time, Taylor seems to have taken on a new commitment to comics, and her work has slowly matured and started to take shape as she finds her own personal style. This comic is devoted to the scary idea of being an adult and suddenly, magically shifting one's focus from the interests of youth to the realities of being a professional. I like the fact that she drew many of these comics at her cubicle; it's where many an inspired idea has been scribbled. Taylor shows off her sense of humor in this mini in strips about going to a wine tasting that include ridiculing the jargon of tasting ("like a garlicky fettucine alfredo with an asphalt mouthfeel") that ends with a surprisingly dirty joke at the end. Her "Field Guide To Adult Time" is an a to z primer that's both heartfelt & funny; it also features some of her best drawing. Taylor's self-deprecatory nature serves her well in strips about going to weddings and accidentally friending her ex-boyfriend's girlfriend on Facebook. Taylor's voice as a storyteller is starting to emerge as an especially sharp and funny one, and her art is starting to better match what she's trying to accomplish on the page. My sense is that 2013 will be a year of important growth for her as an artist.

He Also Has Drills For Hands V2, by Marguerite Dabaie. Dabaie's devotion to drawing a daily strip is such that she managed to do it during graduate school. These strips are a departure from her more intricate, detailed comics, with a sketchy and cartoony line being deployed. Debaie is a good enough draftsman to not worry about getting too fussy with her drawings; instead, she's after a punchline or getting across a basic idea. Dabaie goes from the silly (a dirty joke done on a calculator) to the quotidian (making stew) to the anecdotal (accounts of movies being made in her neighborhood) to the intellectual (pondering differences in languages). There's an easy charm to her work that makes reading these a pleasure, even if it's fairly disposable, breezy work compared to her other projects. Still, it's interesting to see an artist's process in forcing herself to draw and clearly find ways to enjoy that experience.

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