Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Everywhere Antennas (Drawn and Quarterly): Julie Delporte’s challenging, emotionally wrenching book comes in the form of a sketch-filled diary, the words all written in cursive with various colored pencils. It reads a bit like a therapy journal made by someone attempting to crawl out of a breakdown, sometimes sliding back as far as she gets out, an impression furthered by the art, which, like the handwritten text, looks so intimate, “corrections” made by redrawing portions on new pieces of paper, which are then taped atop the pages before printing.
There’s such a lack of artifice to the book — unless there’s a high degree of artifice applied to make it seem as if there’s a great lack of artifice — that it really seems like something you’re not supposed to be reading, something you might have found in someone’s apartment, rather than bought in a bookstore. Delporte does tell a story, but it’s fragmentary, with characters who appear and disappear and scenes that don’t necessarily lead to the next.
It would be tempting to think it was a straight diary comic created during a time of mental crisis — the line “coloured pencils … are her favourite antidepressants” in Delporte’s back-page biography indicates that many aspects of the deeply felt contents aren’t completely alien to her — were it not for the specific ailment of our unnamed, perhaps Delporte-like heroine. She suffers from a rare sensitivity to radio waves and electrical auras, so cell phones, televisions, computers, cell phone towers and power lines give her migraines, and she must find a way to divorce herself from the modern world while still trying to live some semblance of a life in it.
There’s an inherent risk in using your own life as material for your comics: When a comics creator presents himself or herself as an unlikeable person in a quasi-autobiographical comic, it gets hard to separate the artist from the work. It’s sort of a negative aura thing—if the creator looks like a jerk, it’s hard to like the comic.
This became blindingly clear to me recently as I happened to read three graphic novels about roughly the same theme—dealing with getting older—in which the attitude of the main character strongly affected my reaction to the story: Joe Ollman’s Mid-Life, Pascal Girard’s Reunion, and Jennifer Hayden’s Underwire. Ollman and Girard both fell into the trap of making their lead characters so obnoxious I never wanted to see them again, while Hayden’s character was just the opposite, approaching some serious issues with grace and humor—which probably made me like the book more than I should have.
Another Toronto Comic Arts Festival has come and gone, leaving in its wake a lot of broke-but-smiling comics fans, a couple of artists with a new cause celebre, and some interesting reading.
As we reported on Friday, Canadian customs seized all five copies of the Black Eye comics anthology that creator Tom Neely was trying to bring to TCAF. The news was originally reported by Ryan Standfest, editor and publisher of Rotland Press + Comic Works, at The Comics Journal, and Ryan adds in comments that Blaise Larmee’s Young Lions was also seized from Sparkplug publisher Dylan Williams. (For those who are curious about what’s too hot for Canada, here is a preview.) Standfest posted his reaction to the Black Eye confiscation at the Rotland blog; I’m sure there will be more to say about this soon.
The winners of the Doug Wright Awards were announced on Saturday night: Pascal Girard’s Bigfoot won the award for Best Book, Alex Fellows won the Best Emerging Talent award for Spain and Morocco, and the Pigskin Peters Award, given to non-traditional and avant-garde comics, went to Michael DeForge’s Spotting Deer.
Meanwhile, the folks at the Canadian comcs news blog Sequential have posted a special TCAF edition of Sequential Pulp, which you can download as a PDF or read via Issu, with lots of good stuff, including interviews with Jillian Tamaki and Mark Laliberte, books reviews by Tom Spurgeon, Salgood Sam, and others, and pages and pages of original comics. It’s all free, so go, browse.
One of the regular features of the new Comics Journal website is a diary comic by a different creator each week. They started off with Brandon Graham, and as this week’s diarist, Pascal Girard, notes, that’s a tough act to follow. Girard is off to a strong start though; his first comic chronicles the doings of Night Animals creator Brecht Evens, who is already becoming a bit of a MoCCA legend (see Peggy Burns’ epic MoCCA post at the Drawn and Quarterly blog for more). Stay tuned!