I am eternally grateful to the Free Library of Philadelphia. They have enabled me to expand my knowledge of comics on a old retired geezer’s income. They have a good collection of comics, including “art” comics –comics that aspire to more than spandexed superheroes duking it out (although they do have a lot of those types of comics too).
I currently have on loan Jessica Able and Matt Madden’s Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued. I’m just beginning to dig into it and it looks as rich and valuable as their first textbook treatment of comics that I’ve already mentioned in these pages. I’m sure I’ll want to write a posting on that eventually.
In the meantime I’d like to mention a noted and celebrated cartoonist that has been a big influence on many artists. Julie Ducet continues to be an inspiration for many artists, not just comic book creators. J.C. Menu, cartoonist and co-founder of the publishing house, L’Association, says in response to first seeing her work…”it was time for comics to talk about real life.”*
“Real life,” as we know it, can get pretty dark. Some of Ms. Doucet’s early comics feature self-mutilation, castration, and binge-drinking. Somehow she manages to find humor and skirt despair. One of her images from a recorded dream features a 50-foot naked woman making like Godzilla on an urban landscape, simultaneously drenching the city in menstrual blood. Many of the stories seem to capture the disillusionment of youth who feel that our civilization is irreparably flawed and doomed. These are not points of view that can be easily dismissed. If this sounds intriguing, you might also want to check out the appreciative article on Ms. Doucet in Paris Review.
There is a Buddhist angle on any work of art that seeks to see things as they are: stress, irritation, excruciating suffering (dukkha); impermanence (anicca); and not-self (anatta). But the deepest realization of these aspects is paradoxically liberating.
I would like to praise a work of Ms. Doucet’s that I borrowed from the FPL: 365 Days: A Dairy by Julie Doucet, published in English by Drawn & Quarterly in 2008.
This is a remarkable journal in comic format. Without a lot of reflection or intellectualizing, it describes the day-to-day existence of an artist. Some of the reviews on Amazon.com describe it as “boring.” But this honest depiction of the time and energy involved in cartooning, the way it can eat up your life, was fascinating to me. “I couldn’t put it down,” as the cliché goes. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of journal I would produce if I tried the same sort of project. I’m not at all sure I’ll ever have the energy and stamina it would require.
Julie Doucet stopped cartooning years ago. She is quoted in the Wikipedia article on her as saying:
I quit comics because I got completely sick of it. I was drawing comics all the time and didn’t have the time or energy to do anything else. That got to me in the end. I never made enough money from comics to be able to take a break and do something else. Now I just can’t stand comics.
I don’t seem to have reached that realization yet, but I’m still a newbie in terms of comics. Also, thank you, universe, for not making me dependent on comics for food, clothing, shelter, or medicine! Otherwise my take on making comics might very well be as dark as the darkest comic book artist!
I do hope that Ms. Doucet finds joy and satisfaction in the other forms of art she creates.
Next time: Four more pages of “The Case of the Renegade Refrigerator,” plus whatever stray and diverse thoughts happen to emerge. Likely, I’ll post a few bits about Edzl the Nebboid from the Vague Nebula, the protagonist in my new work in progress, Pause & Reflect Comics. In the meantime, enjoy the present moment!