Sunday, December 3, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #3: Jarad Greene

Jarad Greene is a cartoonist who was obviously going to go on to success doing YA and middle-grade comics even when he was a student at CCS. He's just a natural at that kind of storytelling, be it fantasy fare like Scullion or slice-of-life fiction in A-Okay (and the upcoming A For Effort). His latest mini, This Diary Will Self-Destruct, is a hodgepodge of travel diaries and Hourly Comics Day strips. Hourly Comics Day is more interesting as a discipline than as something to read, since it's almost entirely a series of fairly diffuse anecdotes. That's mostly the case with Greene here, although his hourly strips are beautifully drawn. They're mostly interesting just as a document for his work process, as we see him working on his thesis and then later on various book projects. Later, it transitions as he becomes a teacher at CCS, and the hour-to-hour activities take on a different meaning. Throughout, his line is wonderfully loose and expressive, as he mostly works either in pencil or directly with a pen. The quotidian, anecdotal stuff (meals, exercise) doesn't add up to much, and even interactions with friends feel strictly surface. Greene understands the assignment here and isn't interested in going much deeper; his fictional work feels far more personal than these hourly strips. 

The winter travel diaries, however, feel much more intimate. The sheer difficulty of trying to travel from White River Junction to pretty much anywhere is part of what's interesting here, but the contrast between his hermetically sealed life at Cartoon College and his opportunity to relive his childhood while staying at his parents' house is fascinating. Travel diaries always have a built-in sense of narrative propulsion while still offering moments of personal reflection, which makes them ideal for visual experimentation. The more leisurely pace of these diary comics allows Greene to really go to town on the pencils, as he goes out of his way to make pretty boring events seem so much more interesting because of his highly expressive and exaggerated figure work. Considering the way he has to rein it in a bit in his professional work, it was especially fun to see him distort his figures and use a bunch of different storytelling tricks and techniques. Greene isn't looking to reinvent the wheel here in terms of the stories, he's just looking to have a good time with a few constraints thrown on. 

Greene also contributed the short zine Former Event, a comic with a die-cut front and back cover that give glimpses into the story. It's another memoir zine, but this time it's much more focused than the diary comics. It focuses on the changes he perceives in his life: he no longer reads, eats, works, or reaches out to others with quite the same intensity or frequency that he used to. Greene reaches no particular conclusions about this, other than to note that he feels "breaks and boundaries have taken hold of the steering wheel." In other words, he's naturally course-corrected to not exhaust himself in any category, even pleasant ones, in order to maintain his own health. Indeed, the way Greene portrays himself here is contented, calm, and relaxed. He ponders the ontological question as to his own identity for a moment, then lets it slip away. His line here is as inventive and lively as ever; there's a small sense of irony at work in that it's clear he worked very hard at this mini about working less.