Friday, March 27, 2020

The Minis Of Fifi Martinez

The best autobiographical cartoonists are willing to put it all out there, being honest about their pain and their lives and how they depict it on the page. Fifi Martinez goes the extra mile in her comics. Her intense dedication to depicting the rawness of her emotional state is palpable on the page. It's You, Beautiful And Sad (Diskette Press) is an account of a one-night-stand with a man she deliberately alienates after they sleep together, in order to avoid being dumped by him first. The raw ache she feels throughout is powerful. First, there's her worrying about being weird and awkward, begging herself to "act normal." When they have sex, it's a powerful, transcendent experience for her--so much so, that it's almost frightening. It's Martinez's cartooning that makes this so effective; the scribbles that veer into abstraction on some of the pages tell more of the story than the text does.
Silver Lake is a shorter comic that abstracts some personal details and takes away specifics. It's about a couple that finds ways to hurt each other but is still inexorably drawn to each other. Once again, the manic energy behind the scribbles pulses on every page. In particular, the way Martinez draws eyes as sunken voids expresses the sense of both connection and desperation in this comic. Too much damage has been done. I Hope You Have A Nice Day focuses more on mental illness and an internal monologue; she also dabbles with more of a traditional grid on some of the pages as a way of sectioning off both time and emotion. The comic is a little less immediate and intense as a result, and the drawings are more polished in the first half. In particular, it touches on the agony of being surrounded by so much beauty (and beautiful people) and feeling so horribly "sad and ugly inside." It's a feeling that warps perception, can induce anhedonia, and spur self-harm in a variety of different ways. Martinez tackles this head-on in her comics.
It Felt Like Nothing (2dCloud) repurposes a few pages from I Hope You Have A Nice Day and adds other material in a visually sophisticated way. Martinez throws the kitchen sink at the reader: sepia wash over cut-up images, deliberate erasure of text and image on the page (either with white-out or scribbling into child-like images), a double-exposure technique, some standard comics in a traditional grid, and other effects that get across that sense of not just a broken connection, but a sense of the impossibility of connection. The variety of approaches makes this her single most powerful work, as she keeps the reader off-balance while staying on-point with her themes. Every comic she does is visually sophisticated and honest to the point of pain.


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