Monday, April 15, 2013
Personal Stories: MariNaomi, Rob Kirby, Virginia Paine
What's New Pussycat?, by MariNaomi. With small, spare drawings done on big pages, MariNaomi gives this story time to breathe, build and develop a certain uncomfortable rhythm. It's about her history with a particular dorky guy who awkwardly flirted with her over a period of years as they encountered each other at various work spaces. Each little vignette is separated by raindrops, with the rain getting heavier until the final vignette, when we learn the guy has met a tragic end. There's no real moral here, nor is this an excuse for the author to beat herself up for not seeing how deeply depressed the guy (Herbert) was. It's simply a solemn, respectful and honest appraisal of his behavior (he made her uncomfortable with mildly sexist remarks and actions), her behavior (she felt she overreacted when she finally rebuked him, years later) and the ways in which depression can lead us to dark territories. The images are spare, stark and beautiful, with some of her best-ever drawing. In particular, her figure drawing is simple but highly expressive, capturing MariNaomi's naivete as a younger woman and Herbert's complex mixture of despair, wit and desperation to connect. The author's epilogue provided interesting background information but wasn't really necessary for understanding or relating to the story.
Rob Kirby's Snack Pak #1, by Rob Kirby. Kirby is just a solid cartoonist overall with a light, fanciful touch. This grab-bag comic contains gags, diary strips, drawings and vignettes. Kirby leads a relatively quiet, successful and contented life, with most of his anxiety being directed at his career as a cartoonist. His self-caricature is one of the most charming in comics, complete with a slightly-upturned pickle nose. Kirby enjoys playing up his more embarrassing moments for laughs, like the time he felt sick and fainted on a plane or puked on a Mexican vacation. His daily strips can take on a slightly poetic tone, as he does his best work when commenting on how he interacts with his environment outside and how it makes him feel physically. He also has an ear for an anecdote, especially when he starts talking about the always-reliable comics convention stories. Then there are times when he's just plain funny, like his "Middle Age" strip about having a six-pack, drinking six packs and then having a bun in the oven and "junk in mah trunk" set to a funky beat heard only in his own mind. It's a great bit of exaggerated cartooning and a nice joke at a his own expense. Kirby's the kind of artist who can do just about any type of storytelling, and minis like this are clearly a way for him to stay nimble and loose while he's between longer projects, with results that are delightful for the reader.
MilkyBoots #14, by Virginia Paine. This comic represents a big step forward for Paine as both a writer and cartoonist. Though mostly a series of vignettes, drawings, profiles and other small pieces, it's all surrounding Paine's feelings regarding a rough break-up. What's remarkable about this comic is the way that Paine eschews that path of simple lamentation and instead tries to gain insight into her own emotional and existential points of view. It really looks like Paine put a great deal of effort into both the quality of her drawings and the design of the piece; it seems clear that she did a lot of drawing from life. Many of the vignettes experiment with all sorts of different layouts, with her use of negative space adding a lot of clarity and power to her individual images. Paine also spends time to establish her daily routines and support system in the form of her friends who sit out on the porch with her, all while examining deeper questions about herself: her sexual identity, her identity regarding relationships (polyamorous vs monogamous) and how to handle emotionally needy friends. It's a beautiful, powerful and altogether cohesive mini that's greater than the sum of its parts.