Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You Are My Life

Spring is in the air, and what's spring without a couple of bunnies? The new seasons of our favorite TV shows are starting up again, but it's reruns here at Bibliowhining. Reruns for the old-time fans, that is. Schoolwork beckoning and spring break in the near future, this entry features a fan favorite: 2008's Bun Home, my parody of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, which also satirizes intellectual posturing. I hope you enjoy this bit of sequential storytelling. I hope to turn it into a graphic novel someday.

You can tell this is old material by my naive use of the blue pencil. Blue pencil is the devil, and turned my early self-publishing endeavors into a nightmare. I recommend clicking on the below image to enlarge it and make it more readable.

It seems that many who didn't grow up reading comics have a hard time understanding them. It's no longer the case that everything that comes out must be approved by the Comics Code Authority, so cartoonists have as much freedom as filmmakers, and many have taken advantage of this. Unfortunately, looking at the available comics/graphic novels in libraries and even many comic book stores, it would seem that there are only three options: Manga, Superheroes, or long self-pitying memoirs completely drained of any humor or imagination. Once Fun Home won Time Magazine's "Book of the Year," comics -- I'm sorry, "graphic novels" were suddenly on everyone's radar, inspiring many copycat books, depressing and uncreative autobiographies about someone's failed hipster romance or experiences with the AIDS virus or physical abuse. While it's fine that these books are published as they are surely a comfort to some people, they aren't the only genre available in the adult comics medium. Libraries typically order only these new books which appear in the reviews they read, and the history of comics is ignored. There is a lot of autobiographical stuff that is interesting, and Fun Home, though not my taste, is at least very well drawn, but a lot of the bios and nonfiction that have come out since just don't do it for me.

In general, libraries started to collect movies only in the past 20 years. And yet, all the DVD and VHS collections I've seen represent the entire history of film, in all genres -- classics such as Night of the Hunter and Taxi Driver and The Wizard of Oz are available on the shelves right next to the new releases. I wish that the comics medium was given the same respect in libraries. I don't enjoy reading the trendy autobiographical comics that are being churned out today, and it's frustrating not to see my old favorites on the shelves for others to discover. Fun Home may have come out recently and catalyzed a mainstream popularity of alternative comics, but that doesn't mean that the medium suddenly came into existence in the year 2005, or that there is no older material of value. Also, even new titles that are humorous/satirical/literary are being ignored for some reason -- maybe they aren't being reviewed?

I encourage librarians to order a greater variety of adult comics for their collections; older titles, and also different genres besides superhero, manga, and autobiography. Fantagraphics is constantly coming out with a variety of quality titles, and they also publish reprints of classic comic strips which I'm sure younger readers will find fascinating. The librarian at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum (formerly the Cartoon Research Library) is a very helpful person to ask about "key" comics that should be in the collection. I have emailed her for several class assignments, and her responses are always incredibly quick and thorough. Or just ask me!

Though I guess I was sort of an underground cartoonist since age 8, drawing strips which lovingly made fun of other kids in class, I first became aware of "real" underground comics when I was a 13-year old kid browsing the stacks of a public library in South Jersey...I checked out the book Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art by Roger Sabin, and became fascinated by R. Crumb. Of course, the Internet being off my radar at the time, and the library being lacking in actual comics (the title I mentioned was more of a history book about comics), I was unable to explore the medium more. I mean, I probably shouldn't have been reading R. Crumb comics at age 13, but you get my point, right?


  1. I think I remeber reading this comic before, Chrissy -- thanks for the revisit! :) Curious as to how you feel about "Maus" in the scheme of graphic novel availibility and enjoyability?

  2. Maus is fine. The art and story are good, not something I read or refer to with any regularity. At first I thought that the representation of Nazis as cats and Jews as mice was overly simplified and obvious -- also, it is natural for cats to hunt mice, but isn't natural for human beings to treat each other like that. Then I read something Spiegleman (sp?) said on the matter, that he drew them that way to distance himself from a traumatic situation. I can respect that.

    You can find Maus in many libraries, and it's a readable way to get aquainted with holocaust history. Certainly an important book. I really like Persepolis, a comparable historical graphic novel. But if you take these books and compare them to "Ghost World" or "Buddy Does Jersey", it's like comparing apples and oranges. I'm sure you liked the books you read in your holocaust lit class, but they're totally different than the Harry Potter series or "Catcher in the Rye" or something. Libraries should represent all genres of a medium. By the way, since librarians know about Satrapi, I notice they're starting to collect her other titles which are more humorous and literary. This is good, but other cartoonists shouldn't be ignored just because they haven't written a best selling war story.

    I enjoy reading on a wide range of topics. I like reading nonfiction books about other cultures and history, but sometimes I need an escape from reality, or an inspiration for my own creativity. All these autobiographies and historical stories about war are the exact opposite of that. I'm especially sick of the dry autobiographies.