Saturday, November 21, 2009

For all the talk about how "comics" is a misnomer, there's certain trends in humor that seem to find their first expression through the medium of combining words and images. Jules Feiffer's Village Voice strip, with its neurotic Jewish male dialogues, is an expression of worldview that, when viewed with Feiffer's Little Murders, becomes this connective tissue that leaks down into Larry David. That, combined with Matt Groening's Life In Hell metamorphosis into The Simpsons, starts to define the 1990s. There's also Gary Larson's The Far Side, which was sort of dismissed as a comic but influenced a generation of people's sense of humor, like Ben Jones.

Lisa Hanawalt's I Want You combines this absurdist sense of humor, totally well-drawn, that you can read in Michael Kupperman's comics, and then jettisons the emphasis on cultural detritus, like 1970s cop shows and 1950s comics, in favor of looking at the self and interactions with other people and feeling like a creepy weirdo. This shouldn't make the comic seem derivative: It's a huge leap forward, in using that sense of humor for personal ends, as an expression of what the cartoonist is like in real life and how she feels about things. You feel as if you know her, and confident that she's much more interesting than the people that do autobiographical comics.

It's a great comic, and I hope Buenaventura Press can afford to print more issues, because her minicomics are harder to find. I want her stuff to keep coming out, and being encouraged, because even though it's a fascinating creative voice, it seems possible that she could do weirder and deeper work in the future. Hanawalt cites Renee French as an influence, and that's certainly someone whose work has changed over time into something different from what it was. I also recently got my hands on Shary Boyle's Otherworld Uprising art catalog, and learned that Shary was in her mid-thirties by the time she started doing the more fantastical work she's doing now. This isn't to say I'm waiting for Hanawalt to abandon her sense of humor and make serious work- I love humorous work, and think the sense of humor on display is inherent to Hanawalt's experience of the world- rather I'm trying to orient understanding of the nature of the consciousness on display by bringing up these artists rather than mentioning specific autobio cartoonists.

No comments: