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24 October 2008

NOT MY SMALL DIARY #14 edited by Delanie Green

Anthology featuring too many people to name. Edited by Delanie Green.
Two digest size minicomic volumes equaling 138 pages.
Scrapbook style card stock covers by Andrew Goldfarb with black & white interiors.
The contributor list can be seen here.

If you are not familiar with Not My Small Diary then it is time to get familiar. NMSD is an anthology of diary/auto bio comics that started back in 1996. (When the editor was probably like ten years old. You remember the 90's right?) I have not read all 14 editions but I have read a few and for just six bucks it think is pound for pound dollar for dollar the best comics investment you can make. If you are a full on auto-bio hater then maybe NMSD won't be your favorite anthology of the year but if you like comics at all then I'm sure you will find something in this two volume set to satisfy your tastes enough to justify six bucks plus a dollar shipping.  I don't know how she does it but Delanie Green has assembled some of my favorite people in comics for this edition. Ed Moorman, John Porcellino, Julia Wertz, Mark Campos, JP Coovert, Mary Jessica Hammes and Alec Longstreth are just a few of the names that would have made me want the book. I've met Delaine Green at a few shows and she is really nice but I don't' think that is the secret to assembling such a great cast of creators. I think that Green has produced such a consistently great book that talented people simply want to be in it. 
The books look really great. If you check out Green's site it will become apparent that she has a real talent for design. I love the way the books are organized. The books have a concise index. Each page is clearly numbered and features the creators' names so that you do not have to flip to the back of the book. Bigger publishers could learn a lot about how to put together an anthology book from NMSD.
The title of the series should make it obvious that these are collections of diary and/or auto-bio comics. The theme of this edition is dating. One of the knocks I repeatedly hear about auto-bio minicomics is that they are all the same. Stereotypical emo whining. That is not at all the case with NMSD. I was actually surprise to see just how diverse these dating stories are. I feel safe in guessing that most of the contributors are "gen x" at the oldest and "gen y" at the youngest so I expected some commonalities and while it's true we all go through a lot of the same horrible things in the dating game it is really interesting to see how differently each creator processes and recalls these stories. There are several "gosh I can't believe that happened stories" and a lot of "I'm glad that never happened to me".
The entries in this edition are amazingly strong and I would love to talk about all of them but it would take forever and ever.  What follows is a look at a few stories that I think reflect the diversity and quality of the anthology.
(From How George Herriman Got Me Laid by Richard Cowdry.)
First of all, that's a really great title for a story. Cowdry has a minimal but slick style and is a good storyteller. The dialog in this comic is engaging and well executed.  I like my diary comics to read like a diary but I like longer auto-bio stuff to read like a story and to have characters. (Even though I know the characters are real people. )  This fits the 2nd description.  It felt like a small part of a longer story and I'd like to see more.  (Of course, it is a part of a longer story.  That story being the creator's life.  So, Cowdry...  Don't go dying.)

(From Wichery by Nicole Georges.)
I really enjoyed Georges drawing in this comic. It is a light style but the characters have a lot of life in their expressions. Maybe it's just the cute hats but it seems to have a femininity about it  that must come from a place that does not exist within my own being.  There is nothing about this comic that represents the way I would do anything and that is part of why I find it so intriguing.  The story is about two ex-girlfriends and focuses on the resentment they have toward each other. To see how these two girls react to each other after the breakup is probably a lot more interesting than the romance.  Maybe a future NMSD could focus only on after-the-breakup stories.

(From Parting Shot by Alex Longstreth.)
I don't' want to get into comparing the NMSD creators to one another but Longstreth really stands out.  His piece is smart and funny and honest and all that good stuff I love but it's also a really well crafted comic.  Everything about it is solid.  The drawing, the storytelling, the lettering, the cartooning etc.  Longstreth has this whole comic book thing figured out and I hate myself for not getting all his books back when we were both at HeroesCon.  

(From My Worst Date by Sarah Oleksky.)
Just look at that page above.  Wow!  Can Oleksky freaking draw or what?   And she can write too!  I call that cheating.  It's a great little story about an unbelievably unbearable jerk.  Unbelievably unbearable jerks are so awesome when they are in someone else's auto-bio comic and not in your own life.  Thank you Sarah.  I would like some more please.

(From Trout Park A True-Life Tale of Modern Romance by John Porcellino.)
I don't own many issues of King Kat but I like Porcellino's comics plenty.  I think of him as one of the giants of minicomics so I won't waste your time telling you how good he is.  If you follow minicomics, you are probably aware.  All that being said, this story connected with me as much or more than anything else I've read by Porcellino.  It's really sweet and honest and void of irony.  It's almost greeting card sweet but at the same time heartfelt and personal.  

(From The Only Way It's Ever Been Done by Geoff Vasile.)
I had mixed feelings about this one at first.  Yeah, it looks great and the merging of multiple relationships into one narrative is very clever but... Vasile kind of comes off as a jerk in this thing.  Which, I guess is the point but it caught me off guard.  The lovable loser is pretty much the status quo in auto-bio comics but Vasile comes at this from an entirely different angle.  He's the guy that in most comics the main character would be moaning about losing the girl to.  It's like if Reggie got Betty and Veronica and Midge and treated them all like crap.  The story jumps from girl to girl in each consecutive panel.  That non-linear style gives it a separation from the traditional in-the-moment auto-bio thing and makes it feel more like fiction.  When looked at as a whole it makes it feel even more honest though.  It's like a stack of Polaroids from one's dating life are dropped on the floor and and viewed in a random order.  If you pick out just one panel Vasile is an inexcusable jerk but in another you can see growth and regret.  Moving things around like that lets you see the person not as a before or an after but as a whole.  A clever idea well executed with an appealing drawing style.  Well played.

So, what are you waiting for pals?  Go buy this comic.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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