Well, it looks like I just missed this eBay auction for a two-day writing workshop with my all-time favourite cartoonist/writer Lynda Barry. Goddamn.
I've had a girlcrush on Barry for years, which started with my love of her weekly Ernie Pook's Comeek and then reached embarrassing proportions after reading her anthologies (my favourite being her odd, funny, heartbreaking collection The Freddie Stories). Oh, and then there was that time I read Barry's novel, Cruddy, and she ripped my heart out of my chest and held it, still desperately thudding, in front of my face so I could study it for a while. She was really nice about it, though.
I like comics. More specifically, I like girl comics. As in, comics created by women for other women. (This is why Betty and Veronica comics don't count.) There aren't a lot of girl comics, or at least not too many that have crossed my narrow little path. Actually, the only other one I can think of that's earned my unswerving devotion has been Roberta Gregory's Bitchy Bitch series, which is sometimes almost too harsh for human consumption... possibly because it nails so many of life's small tragedies in such a dead-on, merciless way.
So, given the dearth of girl comics out there (and I hope you'll forgive my term if it doesn't site well with you), you can imagine how thrilled I was when Rebecca Kraatz's debut anthology, House of Sugar, came my way.
House of Sugar
by Rebecca Kraatz (#38)
Reading this collection, I was reminded of Lynda Barry's comics, particularly books like It's So Magic, which are told mostly from the perspective of Marlys's older, more romantic sister Maybonne. But I would never say that Kraatz's work is derivative, though she openly cites Barry's four-panel style as an influence.
Unlike Barry, with her small cast of amazingly realized characters, Kraatz writes and draws from what feels like a very real, first-person perspective. I found her comics charming, wistful, strange, melancholy, and possessing a humour that I would characterize as very Canadian.
Now, here's the thing about a certain brand of Canadian humour: It's subtle. So subtle you might not even know it's there if you didn't know how to spot it. You don't laugh out loud, and the teller doesn't smile. The joke goes mutually unacknowledged, but it's there. You find it in rural places, such as the prairie provinces or the east coast (both of which are places Kraatz has lived). Some might call it "dry," but to me dry implies a certain smug, self-congratulatory quality, which this type of humour definitely doesn't have. I've been led to believe that this kind of humour has a counterpart in New England, and I imagine in other semi-remote parts of the world.
However you describe it, and wherever you find it, it slays me.
You won't find this collection on Amazon (but wouldn't it be nice if someday you could?), but you can order it directly from the publisher, Tulip Tree Press.
ETA: It turns out you CAN pre-order it from Amazon.ca. Here's the link. And it'll be available in comic shops in February, so watch for it then or pre-order it any time after this month. (Thanks, Hope!)
And if you can recommend any other good girl comics, please do!