We Can Fix It!
It’s 2013, and headlines reading “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore” have been cliched for about 25 years. Art Spiegelman’s Maus is a classic, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is widely read and widely taught. The late Harvey Pekar’s name is, if not a household name, as close to one as those of most prose authors get in America. Thanks to Joe Sacco and Alison Bechdel and Jeffrey Brown and John Porcellino and Joe Matt and Chester Brown and dozens of other cartoonists, journalism, autobiography and memoir are successful, respected, even commonplace genres for the graphic novel, which, it’s worth highlighting, is a term that exists now.
In fact, autobiographical graphic novels are so mainstream that Jess Fink’s We Can Fix It reads like an outlier — a subversive, transgressive reversion to the good old bad days of comics. Her new memoir, with its fictive premise, is differentiated from most in the genre by the prominent inclusion of elements from the medium’s trashy superhero and humor past. Its protagonist wears a skin-tight bodysuit, she travels through time in a big, goofy time machine that goes ZIPPITY ZAP, and there’s a sixth-grade lunch period’s worth of scatalogical humor.
Despite the embrace of the low-brow aspects of comics history — We Can Fix It looks and reads like an autobiographical comic book, not an autobiographical graphic novel — Fink’s new work ultimately ends up in the same thoughtful, dramatic, epiphany-having place that the slicker, more obviously literature-focused comics works do. This is a very funny comic book that is functions as an effective piss-take on the autobio genre while, remarkably enough, simultaneously being one hell of an autobiography.
At least one constructive thing came out of Jess Fink‘s latest battle with copyright thieves, I became aware that her new “erotic, robotic” book, Chester 5000, was set to be released this May from Top Shelf. Be advised (if the erotic adjective was not clear enough) that as beautiful as I find Fink’s work, a good majority of it is NSFW, so be aware of that before clicking any links (though in Top Shelf’s defense, its five-page preview carries nothing too erotically risque [though proceed with caution if you're at the office reading this]). Mindful of the fast approaching release date, I emailed some questions to Fink this past week. Here’s the official Top Shelf description of the book: “1885: an age of industrial revolution and sexual frustration. Pricilla is a woman with needs, and her inventor husband Robert is a little too busy with his experiments to keep her fully satisfied. Science to the rescue! With a few gears and springs, the proper appendages, a little lubrication, and a lot of love, Chester 5000 is born! He’s the perfect tool for the job… but what if Chester is more than just a machine? What are the consequences of trying to engineer love?” We also discuss her other Top Shelf book, We Can Fix It!, as well the stress of battling the copyright crooks.
Tim O’Shea: Chester 5000 is definitely erotically charged, but I think you’re also enamored of working diagrams into your stories (Extendo Limbus, for example). Where does your love of things mechanical and diagrams begin?
Jess Fink: I really love mechanical drawings from the 1800′s. Or even just product drawings from adds and catalogs. After photography was invented it was still much cheaper to hire artists to draw your products so we get these lovely, detailed little drawings of just about anything you can imagine. The diagrams in Chester were partly inspired by these. You can find a great deal of reference for Victorian items in the Sears and Roebuck catalog.