Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Minis: Kyle, S.Glock

Forever and Everything #2, by Kyle. This is autobio that's formally reminiscent of early Jeffrey Brown, as each segment is given a title and is relatively short. Of course, Kyle (who does not use his last name for reasons that are made clear later) is older and in a much different place in life than Brown when he did books like Clumsy. Kyle is married  to a woman named Penny He uniformly uses a 12 panel grid and a simple drawing style that reminds me a bit of what Kevin Budnik is doing. His storytelling is clear and sharp, allowing for just enough negative space to make his pages breathe a bit. The storytelling is as simple as Kyle's line, at least at first, as there are funny little vignettes about spending time with his son, going on vacation and doing a silly art installation with his wife, who is also an artist. In fact, Kyle reveals that they met in an art class and first kissed working on a project together.

About midway through the comic, the stakes change. Penny's suggestion that they might have another child throws Kyle into crisis; he claims because he's worried about having even less time to draw, but the reality is that he was having serious second thoughts about what he was doing. He felt the pang of guilt that many autobio artists feel when they wonder if they're revealing too much about themselves and the people in their lives--especially his son. It got so bad that he actually quit drawing for several months, but felt the pull quite often. In a moment of self-awareness, he sought out therapy and teased out his issues, with his therapist being very supportive of him making art. Later, when Donald Trump was elected president, Kyle essentially had a mental break where he abandoned reading any kind of news sites, any news of what horrible things might be happening. It wasn't until he saw a flyer for a protest that he realized that pushing his emotions down like this wasn't healthy, and he went to the protest as a way to react against that feeling. What's interesting about these comics is that Kyle is comfortable relating a bit of quotidian detail on one day and then telling the audience about extremely personal details like anxiety, disagreements with his wife on major points, details regarding therapy and more. He's clearly just trying to be as honest and principled as possible with regard to his responsibilities as an artist, while maintaining the sheer joy he feels when he's drawing. Not every strip is especially interesting, but every one at the very least is well-paced and part of an overall strong sense of rhythm, from panel-to-panel and page-to-page. There's nothing new about what Kyle is doing here, but his sincerity and willingness to really "spill some ink" make it unusual for many diary comics.

Passport #1, by Sophia Glock. Glock (formerly Wiedeman) turns her focus from fictional and fairy tale families to her own life growing up overseas. Working from pencils (and maybe charcoals on some pages?), Glock has a way of drawing children that's especially heart-rending: fragile and tiny, with coal-black eyes like buttons and simple squiggles for lips and a nose. It's a powerful sense of innocence and vulnerability, and this story is an exploration of how five-year-old Sophia processes the world while living in Greece. As she notes in the introduction, the three things she loves above all else are her mother, her older sister (who is often not very nice to her) and her country. The love of all three is tested and pushed throughout the course of this comic.

While the faces of her characters are drawn iconically, Glock really goes to town with her dense, naturalistic renderings of buildings and gardens. There is power in these drawings as Glock tries to relate the way those buildings felt to her as a child--especially buildings like in the Acropolis of Athens. At the same time, she was trying to figure out what seemed to be a mysterious and coded world of adults, one made all the more mysterious by her enigmatic father's intentional vagueness as to what he did for a living. Her older sister Julia is an entertaining character, one who thought having a five year old following her around was a constant drag, but one who also was mean to her sister in hilarious ways. For example, a confused Sophia asked her sister if they were really getting a horse when they went back to America, and her sister egged her on by saying yes. Julia would also wake her younger sister by shoving her foot in her face.

Children of that age seek knowledge, but they seek some sense of control even more. The middle child in what was about to become a five-child household, Sophia had no interest in her younger brother (a baby) or her newborn brother that arrived when her mother returned from a hospital stint. There was a warmth she shared with her older brother that was paternal, like when he helped her get dressed for school; she even admitted that she knew how to do it but liked it when he helped her. It's telling that this wasn't something her father was even around for. That sense of control was finally granted when her mother allowed Sophia to claim "ownership" of a plant out on the balcony. She finally had her own little corner of the universe to herself. It's notable that one of the few interactions she has with her father is when he spanks her for telling a local that she's an American, something her parents forbade her from doing without explanation. The other feeling that Glock evokes is that sense of feeling terribly lonely even when a lot of people are around, as her siblings would find ways to ditch her when they played outside, leaving five-year-old Sophia to wander the streets, "play" with alley-cats, etc. Luckily, it was a small town, but it still pointed to that intense feeling of a lack of belonging, of an intense desire for connection that wasn't quite returned, and a sense that these feelings were powerful and would last. This is a tremendous start to what promises to be a wide-ranging series about alienation.

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