Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Julia Gootzeit's Parent Thing

Julia Gootzeit is yet another North Carolina artist (and Durham in particular!) who demonstrates how the scene here is thriving and vibrant. Gootzeit dabbles in any number of genres, from science-fiction to memoir, and Parent Thing is a diary comic about her first two years of parenthood. I've read a number of comics about birth and the early years of motherhood (it's been a burgeoning genre in the past few years), but Gootzeit's hilarious and raw observations are some of my favorite. 

Gootzeit resists the urge to turn the whole experience into a smooth narrative. Indeed, she almost takes the opposite approach in this series of (mostly) four-panel diary strips. The theme in this comic is an almost constant state of bewilderment mixed with awe and sheer panic. Gootzeit's scratchy, scribbly style is an excellent match for this kind of storytelling, especially with the splashes of color that appear in many strips. Like everything else here, the color isn't naturalistic; instead, it helps relate the emotional narrative of these stories. Gootzeit uses a lot of reds and oranges for heightened emotions and anxiety, and cooler blues for calmer moments. 

There is a running theme of running out of time and time going too fast, but also moments of almost stultifying stillness. There's also a sense of realization that in the early days, a baby is pretty much just a blob, like in one hilarious nine-panel strip where Julia simply exclaims "Hi baby!" to her uncomprehending infant over and over. The way she draws the baby's eyes going all over the place is an especially funny detail. 

That shifts as the baby grows, and then there's a more naturalistically-drawn strip that's captioned "Gotta draw the baby quick...before he grows up!" At the same time, Gootzeit also falls into that baby rhythm where all the days look roughly the same: "Run. Draw comics. Read comics. Stare at baby." Some of the drawings are beautiful, like an ocean scene where Gootzeit draws the water as both ominous and majestic in expressing her admiration in one panel, then presenting the look of sheer terror on her kid's face and noting "my baby isn't such a big fan yet."

There's a sense of not doing enough, then reeling that in and managing to enjoy moments. There's one great color strip that features Gootzeit, her partner, and the baby that turns into colorful whorls that's captioned "small moments twisting into a haze." The book ends with the beginning of the toddler years, also known as the era of permanent exhaustion. There's less time to think as she is simply chasing her very active kid around, and that's an excellent place to leave this funny, frantic, and tender collection of experiences and foggy memories on. 

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