Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thirty Days of CCS #8: Iona Fox and Anna McGlynn

Iona Fox is a recent CCS grad (class of 2015), and her autobiographical Almanac Comics Annual picks up on the first day of class in September of 2014 and goes from there. She's the perfect example of a cartoonist with limited draftsmanship who nonetheless manages to come up with a working style and method to tell stories. This comic was initiated as part of a class assignment to record and draw one's dreams, but Fox's inability to remember her dreams at the beginning saw her spin out in other directions. There's a delightful, weird energy that suffuses her comics, from the tight spiral of her hair to the odd angles and sketchiness of her daily life. Above all else, these diary comics are quirky in a manner that's entirely natural, which may well be an outgrowth of the oddness of her daily life. She split time between Burlington and White River Junction (home of CCS), and co-owns and works on a farm in the former location with her boyfriend. It's delightful to see Fox experiment with different kinds of drawing styles throughout the book, alternating between a thicker line and her more quickly-scrawled out daily strips. She alternates between cartooning in a grid and using an open layout. There are quotidian descriptions of her day as well as meditations on particular incidents, like wading/floating further and further out into a lake, making some on the shore wonder if she was trying to commit suicide. There's a funny strip about getting dressed up in a bear outfit in order to trick a bear into thinking it was spring already. It's interesting that she chose to draw a couple of special guest-speakers in her class: Dame Darcy on one day and John Porcellino on another. That's because there are echoes of both cartoonists in her work: the scratchy weirdness of Darcy combined with the poetic focus on one's own mind and the natural world.

Anna McGlynn is another class of 2015 grad whose sensitive, perceptive work is reminiscent of another CCS grad, Melissa Mendes. Both took a number of cues from the Lynda Barry school of personal but fictionalized storytelling, especially in how they tell stories from the point of view of kids. The Puddle And The Sea follows the episodic observations of a girl named Allie in a Catholic school. McGlynn is typical of many CCS grads in that her draftsmanship is functional but unexceptional, but her storytelling chops are well-developed. Like Barry, each episode is organized under a single thematic title, narrated by Allie in caption boxes. The results are frequently poignant, poetic and achingly real. Strips like "The Abandoned Sock", which talks about the ways in which children build worlds with each other, some of which are taken more seriously by some kids than others, fall into that realm of familiar because of the specificity of its details. "Ladybird" juxtaposes a child's rhyme with the pain of seeing one's parents in emotional agony as they split. "The Van" is about going to some kind of group therapy session for children of divorce, where she's asked to choose a painful image that represents her family dynamic--a concept she was not yet ready for. There is also camaraderie and magic moments with friends who seem to know things she doesn't and boys willing to share their time, time that she wants to slow down to a crawl. Despite the many bleak themes in the comic, there's an essence of hope and resolve in the character of Allie, one that allows her to keep her sense of wonder. McGlynn's poetic chops are already well-developed, and her career will be one where she simply needs to further streamline her drawing style.

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