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Eek, Autobiographical!

What is it that both fascinates and averts us to autobiographies? When we see “autobiographical” on a comic we’re more likely to skip over it. “Who wants to read about someone brushing their teeth?” Yet when we read something that we know is from life it adds more power to the story. It’s a double edged sword. The public must be tricked into reading autobiographical comic strips but once they’re sucked in then there’s only that much more flavor because it’s “true to life”

Examples

My favorite webcomic journal is Everyone Drunk But Me:
http://www.bigcheesepress.com/brandt.php
I usually think of that when I think of a good journal comic. In the print world, Jim's Journal is the epitome of the anti-joke, which makes it hilarious. I know I couldn't do a journal style comic though. My life is waaaay too boring.

Dammit! I did NOT need to

kjc's picture

Dammit! I did NOT need to be addicted to another webcomic. (Goes back to reading archives)

In my humble opinion, Drew

djcoffman's picture

In my humble opinion, Drew Weing's "Journal Comic" was the best friggin Journal Comic ever. He could take the most boring things (what life is REALLY like) and make them interesting to look at through his eyes. I loved that comic and was sad when he stopped it, but I can respect that. I have all the original minicomics as prized possessions. He even drew me a THOR on one-- hah...

I tried American Elf and could never get into it.

Overcompensating is just sheer utter MADNESS and I love that.

Hmm... FILTH HOLE Might be my favorite journal comic now though-- hahahha

Journal Comic was

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Journal Comic was magical... Overcompensating is crazy but really not a "journal comic"

American Elf I think has lost a lot of whatever it had after Kolchalka became a dad. As a father I hate to say that - I don't see why the two have to be connected but AE seems less "truthful" now and more sacharine...

I like this week's guest blogger Jennie Breeden's The Devil's Panties which is often autobiographical and I also liked BoxJams Doodle which is often autobiographical (even more so in its earlier years).

We've done two issues of Comixpedia on this topic - there are some really strong works out there even as - just with all webcomics - there are a lot of others that aren't as good.

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Xaviar Xerexes

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Other's people's lives CAN be interesting

kjc's picture

I reviewed a couple of journal comics for an issue we (Comixpedia) did on the subgenre and I found a couple that I really liked.

One was illustrated with adorable doodles (ProxyRoxy). The other chronicled the life of an comics artist trying to get his comics going and as such periodically included experimental art about, still covering the basic details of his day/week.

ProxyRoxy ended a while back. Drew Weing's journal comic ended and then came back. And there's no denying the popularity of American Elf.

My point is, not all journal comics are wankfests. They are, like anything else, what you make them.

But! But! My Life Is interesting! [to me]

Kisai's picture

The problem I find with comics as journals, is that the average person's life is not that interesting unless they are:

a) a celebrity, in which invasion of privacy is every ones god given right apparently

b) hiding something, in which curiosity killed the cat and then buried it in cement

c)Â they are you ex-roomie, ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, ex-employer, ex-employee which case your paranoia has got the best of you and you want to make sure they aren't bad mouthing you in anyway. Just keeping those lawyers busy ya know.

But really, who cares about the two guys who sit on a couch all day and drink beer while playing the latest video game, those people have no life, so they have to invent one. They undoubtly have a job they are too good at, with an idiot boss and some hawt co-worker, and they suddenly get hawt girlfriends that are *shock* also good at video games, but not as good as they are, or they would dump them, OMG.

Real life can sometimes be stranger than fiction, but we all know what happens with fishing stories, each time it's told, the fish gets bigger, till it becomes absurd, jumps the shark and drowns.Â

Or it's a mother crunking

djcoffman's picture

Or it's a mother crunking lie.Â

 

DJ Coffman yirmumah.net

This is why I'm really

This is why I'm really hesitant to read any vanity strip/journal comics. Unless it's really over the top (like Overcompensated), it just sounds like either bragging or self-pity. "Slice of life" that doesn't feel like it's actually anyone's life.Â

Kristofer Straub www.starslip.com

Kristofer Straub www.starslip.com

It got too close

I totally agree. I am guilty of drawing a journal comic myself. It was my first webcomic. It was a good experiment at the time but it started getting too close to my life. I didn't want to share that anymore. I rehash the comic here and there because aside from bragging and self-pity, It can be a therapeutic process.

I know a couple people whose

I know a couple people whose lives I think are really interesting, and would make fun journal comics. But even they'd feel false, or like showing off somehow. I just have this stereotypical image of a journal comic that I can't shake -- the hero/artist is always shrugging at the inanities all around him, like "that's life! Wonk wonk wonk."

Nonetheless, I have recently wanted to try a journal comic, but it'd end up so far removed from my actual life that I may as well call it something else and change everyone's names.

Kristofer Straub www.starslip.com

Kristofer Straub www.starslip.com

how is this different?

The William G's picture

the hero/artist is always shrugging at the inanities all around him, like "that's life! Wonk wonk wonk."

How is this different from any commentary comic about video games/ tech support/ pop culture/ webcomics? Other than what names get attributed to the avatar?


It isn't

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

And it doesn't work well in those genres either.Â

____

Xaviar Xerexes

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

At the risk of stirring up a shit storm of defensiveness

The William G's picture

At the risk of stirring up a shit storm of defensiveness: Proving one's opinion of the world as the correct one, through the magical strawman of cartoon commentary, is the entire point of a lot of strips.

 To single out autobiographical comics as naughty for this intellectual arrogance (which to be honest, I havent seen too many doing. I guess I'm just not as up on the latest evolution of the genre) while giving the same intellectual arrogance a pass as long as it involves a robot or talking cat just doesnt jive.

Now, I believe a lot of people DO have interesting lives worth knowing about. That's why blogs are so popular. The skills needed to make their lives interesting to read as a comic is an entirely different thing, and is quite often lacking.


Strawman

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

[quote=The William G]

At the risk of stirring up a shit storm of defensiveness: Proving one's opinion of the world as the correct one, through the magical strawman of cartoon commentary, is the entire point of a lot of strips.

To single out autobiographical comics as naughty for this intellectual arrogance (which to be honest, I havent seen too many doing. I guess I'm just not as up on the latest evolution of the genre) while giving the same intellectual arrogance a pass as long as it involves a robot or talking cat just doesnt jive.[/quote]

William - this is kind of a strawman as it's not really what's been said on this thread.

Fictional webcomics have no pretense of "nonfiction" and whether or not their creators use their comics to make points about the world or their worldview (obviously some do - some more hamhanded then others but others do not or do so clearly in the service of the story and skillfully) is really another topic.

Journal comics are often read with an eye to their "truth" or honesty about the creator/protagonist's life. They deservedly get some extra scrutiny that fictional work doesn't - the whole notion of a journal/autobiographical work invites that scrutiny. It doesn't mean a journal comic lives or dies solely as judged through that lens (look at OverCompensating which while aping the form of a journal comic is entirely unconcerned with literal truth - maybe "truthiness" but not the literal truth of Jeff Rowland's life) but a journal comic is going to raise that idea in most readers' minds.

 

____

Xaviar Xerexes

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Something like Liberality

The William G's picture

It has been said, actually. I've pointed out the incorrectness of the criticism. Â

But~ it seems to me that you're suggesting that something like Liberality For All, (I chose it due to it's obvious viewpoint being put forward.) should not be judged on the opinions being put forth about the state of the world due to it being fiction, but American Elf should?

Well, my view on this is that regardless of what expectations the audience brings to the material, all creations are the world filtered through the artist's brain. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes not. But if an autobio comic's protagonist is a snotty arrogant fuck who thinks he's better than the pleebs, then the artist probably is. That's not to say it's a surface trait in their personality... But that's what he is.

 But, the same can be said for artist of the comic about the robot coffee machine who thinks any use of a college-level education is a sign of pretention. All creations are the creator, and thus all opinions placed forth are the creator as well.

 To sum up: All commentary is suspect, regardless of the distance between the creator and the creation. Singling one genre out for the practice is needless.Â


Hmmm

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I don't think anyone was making the point you are where you're criticizing comics for thinly-veiled opinions but if you're seeing that on the thread it's possible I'm just not reading some of it the way you are. In any event I think you can talk about some of the unique attributes of journal comics without delving into this subject - we're here now and I'll try to respond to your point but I don't think it has all that much to do with journal comics specifically.

In fact, as far as your point "All commentary is suspect, regardless of the distance between the creator and the creation" - it really all depends on how it serves the work (in this case how it serves the webcomic). Unless you're arguing that creators should never ever have a point of view they want to express in a work of art (fiction or nonfiction) - in that case I clearly disagree.

This point which is more specific to journal comics -Â "But if an autobio comic's protagonist is a snotty arrogant fuck who thinks he's better than the pleebs, then the artist probably is. That's not to say it's a surface trait in their personality... But that's what he is."

Yeah, well you might make that assumption because it's a journal comic. If it was fiction the creator might be mild-mannered Mohotmas Gandhi for all we know. On the other hand, even with the journal format it's not wise to assume a ton about the creator from the work - it may only be a sliver of the full personality of the person.Â

The point Kris and I were discussing earlier was about the pretense to truth the journal form invokes and how that can be both the potential strength of the form but it is also a very common pitfall of the form.

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Xaviar Xerexes

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

I don't think he was

I don't think he was criticizing all comics where people comment on things though. Just saying that the criticism made earlier of "that's life! wonk wonk wonk" and playing off of very familiar every day stuff as if its insightful can be applied to just about any sort of commentary comic made, and it's true, so it's silly to apply it specifically to journal comics. Take the tech support comics, I bet people make stupid calls and don't understand simple things about what they need help with! And parodies and satires are very good at finding things we're familiar with and reminding us of what we think is stupid about them.

It's not a special criticism really. It's just what these comics do, the ones that do them well still do them, they're just more clever about it, and someone who has specific issues with how one genre is probably more of a case of the person not being interested in the familiar commentary that genre makes rather than the type of comic happening to have some unique fault.Â

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

 I like Overcompensating

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

 I like Overcompensating but that's b/c Jeff is good at crafting webcomics as much as anything. Â

 But I think the reason journal comics can be good when they are is when the authors are really honest (and when they're good at crafting webcomics) just like any type of writing that is self-revealing, when we get a portrait that really draws you in then it's good. A lot of the journal comics out there today don't really go there.Â

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Xaviar Xerexes

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Maybe that's the difference,

Maybe that's the difference, or that's the thing that shuts me out. Journal comics kind of have this built-in pretense of honesty, though it's usually not activated. I feel like you end up with a lot of musings like "man, I needs my morning coffee" instead of something more personal and interesting.

And if you have a journal comic and all you're doing is the coffee observational knowing-nod stuff, which isn't so much personal as broad, you could easily swap in any character you want. And when the cartoonist decides to use themselves there, I guess that's where my "they're full of themselves" wires get crossed.Â

Kristofer Straub www.starslip.com

Kristofer Straub www.starslip.com

Yep

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I think to do a journal comic well is actually HARD. It's easy to do the basic format of it - post something about yourself - but unless you're probing your life to say something about the human condition (and really you need to be good at crafting comics to pull off a journal comic well) then more likely than not you're going to come off like a bad Seinfeld-copycat doing observational non-jokes.

I get what you're saying about the pretense of honesty I think. Ultimately there's artiface in even the most honest of autobiographical works but when it's done well we believe in its honesty. When it's not done well we see the pretense too clearly.Â

 

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Xaviar Xerexes

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Gnaw.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

changed my mind!

changed my mind!

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

I like that concept

That sounds cool. A friend recently asked me what I thought of them turning their journal comic to fiction. I told them that it's a great idea. Depending on the final product it could be entertaining.