Why are mainstream comics readers so adverse to reading about everyday life? Sure, superhero fans clamor over the human elements in the Morrison/Millar “Day In The Life” story with the Golden Age Flash (and it is a highlight of their run) or the Samaritan stories in the original Astro City series (*sigh* he dreams about flying…). So why doesn’t that transfer to a love of the late Harvey Pekar or other autobiographical comic creators?
Young New England comics creator Allie Kleber has a comic strip that addresses briefly but succinctly the gross-out factor found in a lot of autobiographical comics. In a way, the shock elements seen in a lot of the well known autobio cartoonists have become what fight scenes are to superhero fare. That’s why it’s nice to have someone like newcomer Kleber come along with her more subtle work.
It seems silly to review her Turtle Soup zine when the same comics are available on Kleber’s website. Still, I might not have run into these if not for her print collection on sale at Modern Myths in her hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts. I’m glad someone still believes in the small press.
When I read through these strips, Harvey Pekar came to mind by way of comparison. Maybe a bit too quickly, I first thought. After all, there are several diary-style strips out on the web now. Maybe it was her drawing style, much more detailed than I’m used to with other “Kochalka-esque” strips. Such rendering gives Kleber the ability and opportunity to pay attention to more even more subtle nuances of everyday life. Strips such as “Inappropriate Office Behavior” tend to break down her slice of life tales into smaller slices.
This skill suits her well in her older mini comic Fruitless (also found at Modern Myths). Kleber is a self-proclaimed sci-fi geek and, as seen in her contribution to Inbound 5, can play well with fantasy elements. Subtitled “a post-apocalyptic love story,” Fruitless combines the feel of the everyday with a sci-fi background and even adds fable elements with a naive, lovestruck robot and a trickster squirrel. All in just nine pages. This is a show of skill and play lost on many mainstream writers who claim to draw from life.
I’ll be curious to see what Kleber’s first project at the Center for Cartoon Studies will be. It could either go either way as a straight on science fiction/fantasy romp or an engaging nonfiction tale. It’s nice to know early in the game that she already has the ability to apply her skills so effectively to either genre.