Inspiring me: Gabrielle Bell

I’ve been reading a lot of autobio comics. I like them in general, but am only recently getting past the shame factor in the form (the fear that someone could easily dismiss them as navel-gazey or somehow selfish). I thought I’d share the ones that are boosting my criticism-immune system, in case you hadn’t heard of them somewhere else.

Gabrielle Bell writes about real people, especially herself, but I found her through her Cecil and Jordan in New York Stories, and didn’t know she did autobiography. Both branches of her writing are fantastic. I’m not pretending to review things here – I’ll just share links and images. She’s cool, and if you dig it, there’s plenty to dive into.

Gabrielle Bell – site

Wikipedia Gabrielle Bell




My First Ernie Pook

Chris shared that Now had its archives online (see last post comments), and I went and checked it out. I moved to Toronto in the very end of August, 1989. I guessed at when I might have read my first Now, and grabbed early Oct. 89 out of the ether, and there was the first Ernie Pook I fell in love with. The last line – “already down the driveway, already down the dark street” is burned in my brain.

my first ernie pook

After this I started writing a comic called Sad Cat (lasted maybe 3 strips). In the first strip, the Sad Cat was coming home from school, worried he’d be late for dinner. Then he saw a sick mouse on the road and stopped to help. When he got home, his mother wouldn’t listen to his reason and sent him to bed without dinner.

Everybody I showed it to would read it expecting a joke, and then their face would fall, and they would say something like “Why did you draw this?” I would laugh inside and say, That’s right, motherfucker, you DON’T get it. I was too conflicted to keep it up, but I knew I was on to something. Lynda Barry and I were on to something. She understood.

Thanks Chris!

My Freddie Mystery

Yesterday I picked up a new edition of Lynda Barry’s The Freddie Stories at the Beguiling. I have the older edition, and it always presented a mystery to me:

The Freddie stories were always my favourite Ernie Pook comics, and I read them religiously in the early 90s – they were in Now magazine, the (terrible) free weekly in Toronto. (The good one is called The Grid.) Freddie was a deeply sad but whimsical character – a kid who couldn’t not get into trouble of the beatdown kind. He was bullied, called a fag, was despised by his mother, loved by his older sisters. Eventually – but not explicitly – he seemed to become schizophrenic, seeing things, wearing a crown of flames; eventually he was drawn with weeping faces on his hands and feet. Heavy, but beautiful. He met a weird girl named Spaz Eyes Gigi who he befriended. Then one week, he disappeared. I stopped reading the comic, I was so heartbroken, for several years.

That heartbreak being said, it was the most powerful comic I’d ever read (Ernie Pook was always the one that kept me reading comics when I got tired of jokes and heroes), and I saved a bunch of them. I didn’t stop reading in protest – I just couldn’t bear the loss of the character. So I don’t know what happened afterwards. For this and ten other reasons, I can’t wait for the D&Q full collection to be published, and I’d pay 200 bucks a book if needed.

So: when I saw The Freddie Stories (older edition), I snapped it up – and was stunned that these old, seminally important comics were not in it. Spaz Eyes Gigi was there, but drawn differently; Freddie didn’t evolve into the spinning crown-wearer I loved. Here, let me show you a couple. One I shared waaaay back on BadMonkeyX without comment – this right here is my favourite comic of all time. Sorry for the poor scanning. If I find the paper original, I’ll redo it:

from Lynda Barry's Ernie Pook's Comeek, early 90s.

from Lynda Barry’s Ernie Pook’s Comeek, early 90s.

If I’ve ever referred to you as a dudeladyfagdude, this is where that originates. I’ve frequently considered getting some of this tattoo’d on my body and still may. It’s transcendent.

So yesterday, I bought the new Freddie Stories edition, with extra material added and a note from Barry explaining why certain strips were left out of the previous edition. And to my painful astonishment, the comics I remember are still missing. Some that follow his being sent away are there, so some questions are being answered – but not this one, which is the one that knocked me on my ass for so long:

Want to go for a Ride?

Want to go for a Ride?

I was a tightly wound guy back then, always on the edge of having my heart broken. I wish I hadn’t stopped reading, now. And for this I am glad that the full Ernie Pook will eventually be published. I will look forward, until then, to finding out what happened, in what order. In the meantime, I’m glad for the new edition of The Freddie Stories. If I get a Weirdo tattoo, I’ll let you know.

American Elf!

It’s ending!




Comics Artists You Should Know

I’ve been continuing my search for online communities and info-sources, and I just found Comics College – a column at Robot 6/Comic Book Resources (I can’t tell what the site is called). It introduces a cartoonist/comics artist a month, and it’s great.

Since 2009, it seems they’ve written up a fine mix of artists – from indie to immortal. Artists they’ve intro’d whom I would have liked to give tribute to include Charles Schultz, Marjane Satrapi, Gabrielle Bell, Joe Sacco, Seth, and Harvey Pekar.

Now I don’t need to! I love cooperation. Thanks for the help, internet.

Eat More Bikes

This guy’s work makes me laugh out loud, a lot. Check it out.

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