Thursday, August 13, 2015

More Autobio: Park, Lautman, Fricas

Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream #4, by Laura Park. Park is unquestionably one of the most skilled cartoonists around. She's best known for illustrating other people's projects for a living, but her own autobio comics are at once funny, heart-breaking and sharply observed. Her self-caricature is one of the best in comics--especially when she's wearing a hat. Her strips about happiness, loneliness and illness are especially affecting, because Park gets at the essence of her feelings with a minimum of self-pity but a maximum of thought. There's a strip about going to a bra-fitting that's absolutely hilarious, while a strip about not having enough to say or being good enough to do her own comics is powerful. Despite her obvious talent, it's obvious that some of the comics she makes simply don't come out in the manner she imagines. I should note that this issue of the mini (published by Uncivilized Books) is sketchbook-raw, with several images and tiny strips crammed on some of the pages. Happily, Drawn & Quarterly will be publishing a collection of her work.

MacroGroan 6 and Lying And Cursing: 2 Stories, by Sara Lautman. Lautman's images are scrawled and scratched across the page. Her scribbly self-caricature is especially appealing, especially the way she draws her hair as an indistinct blob. MacroGroan is a sketchbook comic featuring mostly humorous observations by the artist. What I like best is the way she experiments with different visual styles. The scribble is always there, but sometimes it's on a page with detailed cross-hatching and background details, creating wobbly and almost vibratory effect. On other pages, the images are still and dominated by heavy use of blacks. Even in her simplest drawings, there's a detail or two that makes the images pop, like the way she draws eyes. Some pages are overlaid with other images, while still others strategically use grey-scaling. Her observations are funny, even when dealing with serious issues like therapy. Lautman's mind goes in a lot of different directions, and her comics reflect this.

Lying and Cursing is part autobio, part fiction. Each page in this 5.5 x 5.5 inch squarebound mini is a single image, which allows those scribbly drawings to breathe a little more. The first story is a history of Lautman's love of swearing, including resistance she's received from doing it as well as musings on the implications of cursing versus blessings (including saying "bless you") after sneezes. The story is a mix between genuine contemplativeness and total silliness. The second story focuses on an idea Lautman had about a story where a bunch of kids convince a naive and gullible friend that ridiculous things are true, like "Jellyfish are immortal", only to find that once she believed it, it automatically changed reality to accommodate this new belief. Describing it as "Amelia Bedelia meets Quantum Leap", Lautman takes the idea to some dark places. Lautman's greatest strength as a storyteller is her ability to make every idea, every story and every journal entry sound like a conversation she's having with you, the reader.

Blabbermouth 1, by Katie Fricas. It's not unusual for autobio cartoonists to write about sex, or even do a history of their sexuality. What's different about Fricas' work is that it's as much about rudimentary feelings of desire that one feels as a child as it is about actual sexual experiences. In a highly expressive scrawl that looks like it's ripped straight from her id, Fricas goes in chronological order to discuess being referred to as a pervert by someone's mother at the age of ten, seeing girls in summer clothes at the age of eleven, writing stories about sex and then ripping them to pieces at fifteen, etc. The page about losing her virginity is just a drawing of the stucco ceiling above her; the image itself is fascinating, highly detailed and beautiful in its own way--as opposed to the actual experience. There are drug-laden encounters, dizzying experiences and moments seared into her memory. There's also a sequence where her mother tells her that she had a child much earlier in her life and gave it up for adoption. Fricas spills a lot of ink in this comic, both literally and figuratively. Her splotched line gets at the emotional content of an experience, the part that's most closely associated with memory, as opposed to trying to accurately recreate the "real" experience.

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