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Every time I read a new interview with or profile of Joyce Farmer, the underground comics trailblazer who recently returned to the forefront of the medium with her moving memoir Special Exits, I’m struck by how intense the creation of the book was. Josie Campbell’s report on Farmer’s in-store appearance at Los Feliz’s Skylights Books for CBR is no exception.
Even beyond the fact that Special Exits about the slow decline and death of her parents — brought on in part by a nursing home’s careless treatment of her step-mother, as referenced in the quote above; “You drop an eighty-six year old person three feet to a concrete floor, it’s going to end their life,” she says bluntly — the process of creating the book just seems to have been so demanding, almost punishing.
Farmer famously threw out the first thirty-five pages of the book and drew them all over again when she decided they weren’t up to snuff; she tells the audience at Skylights that “Every page has about thirty errors on it I fixed with white-out.” She goes on to say that the book’s creation basically swallowed her whole — “I had no private life, I had no public life, I didn’t read anything” — and necessitated eye surgery for macular degeneration upon its completion. All this in service of a 200-plus page book she figured she’d have to self-publish because no one else would want to. Thank goodness (and Fantagraphics), she was wrong: Special Exits was one of the most powerfully moving comics I read all last year, and I think it’ll move you too.
P.S.: Make sure to click the link — the story has a happy ending that nearly moved me to tears all over again.