Monday, February 24, 2020

November Garcia's Malarkey #4

At this stage of her career, November Garcia's one-woman anthology Malarkey is mostly comprised of reprints from other venues. Popula, Pen America, and The New Yorker featured some of the stories here, and it speaks to her versatility as a cartoonist in how she tailored each of them for publication while still retaining her essential irreverence. Of course, there are plenty of her own strips in Malakey #4, and they are very much in keeping with past work. For example, there's her obsession with the band FIDLAR, a loud and trashy rock band whose fans tended to be teens. Her obsession and crush on the lead singer are funny, but Garcia also notes that as a middle-aged woman, she's right on track for regressive behavior.

No one does self-deprecation funnier than Garcia. Take her story about being a young cartoonist and submitting a book to Fantagraphics, for example. Convinced of her own genius, she had the chutzpah to send it to her idol Peter Bagge (along with the rejection letter) and asked if the problem was the story or the art. His reply, "It is both," led to her thinking "With that, I officially entered adulthood." Garcia's willingness to deeply mine her memories of embarrassing events is what makes her so funny. A key element of that humor is her subtle mastery of pacing, Even in stories that are mostly dialogue and text captions, Garcia has a way of making them easy to absorb thanks to her understanding of how to use negative space.

"Travel Tips From A Tokyo Trip" was originally published in The New Yorker, and Garcia is much more reserved than usual. It's still a funny strip with a good punchline, but the tightness of the strip and punchline is different from her typical pleasant meanderings. Compare that to the next, wordless story. Garcia drops a nameless drug at the beach, listens to music, and rocks out. "Blind Faith," from Pen America, is about her religious upbringing and Catholic school days. Garcia smartly notes how omnipresent religious practices are when virtually everyone in the same country is brought up Catholic. A Filipina, Garcia shed her beliefs when she moved to America, but what was interesting was how lazy her own parents' practice was. Sure, they had to pray the rosary growing up, but it was ok to wait til after Melrose Place. No issue of Malarkey is complete without a funny story about Garcia's mom, and this issue featured a story about her mom's obsession with beauty regimens, culminating in something horrific called a "blood facial."

"Hole Number One" is a companion piece to "Blind Faith," as Garcia talks about trying to get laid as a teen and finding it hard to get privacy. Garcia talks about using confession as a way of getting rid of her sex-related guilt so this story takes the reader from under her bed to abandoned houses, a park, and finally a golf course. A neatly-trimmed green works every time. The final strip involves Garcia giving advice to her younger self about hard living, being cool, and how she will never lead a conventional life. Garcia's use of color throughout the comic adds a lot to each story; her use of blank space invites conventional, psychedelic, and decorative uses of color. Garcia's increasing confidence and command over her page makes all of this work some of the most entertaining autobio currently being published.

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