Repost from old blog, 11/5/2009
I recently read some new comics.
Spent by Joe Matt
Joe Matt writes autobiographical comics that lay starkly bare his less desirable personality traits. Nothing much happens in Spent: Joe Matt masturbates, goes out to dinner with friends, buys porn, masturbates some more – but I ripped right through it nonetheless, I guess because the psychology behind the whole project is fascinating. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy, even when he’s making himself look really pathetic and assholish, and maybe it’s because you suspect he’s being quite deliberate in what he shows. Or maybe it’s because he draws himself as sort of, well, cute (but, sorry to say, the author photo tells a different story). There are long stretches in the comic where its the Joe Matt character just talking to himself, describing what goes on his head as he edits his porn or jacks off, which is kind of a ridiculous device, but it works for what he’s after. And it gets really interesting when, a few pages later, you see Joe Matt at his drawing board having a crisis of confidence and brutally criticizing the scenes you’ve just read before erasing them, then re-drawing them. Poor guy.
Interesting fact: When I Googled Joe Matt it took me to his MySpace site, where there was a video, and when I clicked on the video my browser tried to download a virus, and that seemed appropriate, somehow. Anyway I found the video on YouTube and Joe Matt looked better there than he did in the author photo.
What It Is by Lynda Barry
I’ve never read much Lynda Barry because the style of her art never appealed to me. But a few years back she had an autobiographical piece in McSweeney’s where she talked about the hazards of making art and self-criticism. That piece is reprinted in this book, which is really like nothing I’ve ever read or seen. It’s sort of a text book for the creative process, with many pages of collages, questions, more autobiography, and finally writing exercises. This is the kind of book you instantly want to own. It would be too much to read it straight through from cover to cover. You peruse it, live with it. I still found the autobiographical stuff to be the most interesting, but there is some great commentary on making art and writing here, stuff that’s definitely stuck in my head and has influenced what I do. I put it up there with Stephen King’s On Writing in terms of providing sane, down-to-earth inspiration. Highly recommended.
Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse
Howard Cruse is a sort of legendary figure in gay comics, and this is the first work of his I’ve ever read. It’s a highly personal account of the early-60s civil rights movement in the south. At the same time, the narrator is dealing with his sexuality, and you get a really great picture of gay/black culture at that time. This book is a wonder, really, for both its art and its narrative. The art is so detailed and dense that you could spend an hour on each page just soaking it in. And the narrative is effortless in the way it jumps forward and backward in time. Great characters, too – I read the whole thing thinking that it must have been autobiography, or based on an autobiography, but turns out it was fiction, though based on the author’s and other’s experiences. It seemed very authentic. I couldn’t put it down.