Monday, June 26, 2017

Two More From Kilgore: Noah Van Sciver & Glynnis Fawkes

Slow Graffiti #3, by Noah Van Sciver. This is a minicomics version of Van Sciver's daily diary strip that his Patreon readers get to see. This one's from November of 2015 through April of 2016, when he was a fellow at the Center for Cartoon Studies. He famously fictionalized his experience in Blammo #9, depicting his own alienation from the students and how he unintentionally further alienated them, but these diaries depict a somewhat different experience. The reality was that he felt nervous about having to perform and teach, but at the same time, he wanted to connect with them as well. He goes into some detail about how much of this is related to anxiety, and how one student went out of his way to to offer someone to talk to if he needed it. Van Sciver then connected by helping students with a task; at heart, he's always shown that he's a team player.

There are stories about pushing through on drawing tasks, going out in the forest, going to an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner, going to lectures, meeting weird people at shows, and more. This is Van Sciver at his roughest and rawest, and there's a powerful immediacy on each page as a result of that. A cartoonist grappling with depression and anxiety on the page is almost a cliche' at this point, yet the way Van Sciver finds ways out of these states seems directly linked to his ability to draw and write about it. Quite contrary to the cliche' of the whiny autobio cartoonist, Van Sciver's strips are almost always solution-oriented, introspective or self-deprecating in the search of a really good joke. For lack of a better word, the sketchbook reveals a real sense of maturity for Van Sciver, both as an artist and person who is trying to be the best version of himself possible.

Reign of Crumbs, by Glynnis Fawkes. Fawkes has written about her children before, but much of her work tends to focus on either mythology or archaeology. Not in this book, as Fawkes expertly and honestly captures the ways in which children (and pre-teens in particular) are both terrible and wonderful. Her husband makes the occasional appearance as well, but most of the book is about her interacting with her eleven year old son Sylvan and her nine year old daughter Helen. Much of the book looks like it was drawn with a brush pen, giving her spare drawing style a lot of weight and power on each page. The characters are all well-defined as a result, and she fills in other details with a tool that produces a thinner line. There's a real sense of ease and looseness on each page, though it's obvious that she spent a lot of time considering the composition of each individual panel.

Her children are depicted as loving, funny, creative, intelligent and silly. They are also depicted as lazy, incredibly entitled, messy, picky eaters, argumentative and hypersensitive. In other words, human beings at a particularly dramatic stage of development, one where the tug of dependence and the need to be independent create some personality conflicts. It doesn't help that her two children want nothing to do with each other, each (correctly) thinking that the other will monopolize the conversation--especially when they are with their mom. The best scenes were the bedtime tuck-ins, especially when they demand better tuck-ins that she's given. Fawkes points out the ways in which her children are still very much children, and the ways in which they are pushing her away. She depicts herself as a pushover mom who perhaps spoils her kids a bit too much (especially with regard to their eating habits), but she's also aware of this tendency and makes fun of her kids when they take advantage of her or her husband. When "little Helen" requests a last glass of water after being tucked in, Fawkes makes fun of her and Helen simply moves on by yelling "Daddy!". There's a real sense of joy in this comic as the kids are still at an age where the kids are still demanding her presence even if they're pushing back a bit, and Fawkes can still get silly with them and draw a reaction.

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