I’ve been trying to write this post for the past four hours, but between the distractions of G.I. Joe trailers, skittles, cute girls and Patrice O’Neal stand up, I have yet to accomplish anything up until the very typing of this God awful sentence. Fuck it. Gotta start somewhere.
This sense of procrastination exists because I feel the need to be negative and critical as I review this comic by Kat Roberts. Not that I found it awful – quite the opposite – but because I’ve been on a positive, everything-is-flowers streak lately. I’m sure someone reading is questioning my integrity as a “critic,” and I feel that in this day and age of “comics criticism” where everything receives automatic love, I need to expect more of what I read and push my own critical bar. Or that in order to prove my blog worthy I need to rip something to shreds and then take a massive shit on those shreds. Because that’s what critics do, right? They’re the ultimate judges. The Comics Journal as well as individual dudes I enjoy reading work that way.
But see, those voices do negative within reason, and they provide fair analysis by way of their intellect. For the most part, I don’t believe any TCJ writer rips into things without a sound purpose. Those guys are considered professional critics, so they know better. Although, when it comes to the super hero, genre stuff … I think they can lose some of the self discipline and spit unnecessary insults.
I guess what I’m trying to say is I became self-conscious of my critical voice today after a few days of suspicion. I give a shit about this blog, and I’d like to be recognized as a legitimate voice of some sort at some point, you know? I’ve been reading a lot of pieces by a lot of different sites and individuals lately, and while not everyone has impressed me, each one that I’ve read has been able to hold to a high standard or expectation. I then look at my own stuff and wonder how I could improve, and I’m just wondering whether or not I’m critical enough to be a legit critic. So coming to type this review I’ve been searching for a way to not absolutely high-five Kat Roberts and this comic. Just, you know, looking at it tougher and pushing my own way of thinking about it.
So what does this “writer talking about his own writing” intro have to do with Kat Roberts and her comic? Not a whole lot besides being the context in which I am forming this blog post. Oh, and because even though I’ve been on a positive streak it doesn’t mean I should just tear something apart for no reason other than to shit. Sure, it’s one thing to be critical and set a high bar, but in this instance of reviewing this particular comic the tough attitude doesn’t seem necessary. You Are Always on My Mind deserves a pat on the back, and even though I’m looking at it hard in order to issue a complaint, I really can’t find a whole lot. So, whatever. I guess I’ll save the negative for another time and get this review started. Thanks for hanging out throughout that first couple hundred words. Just writing out thoughts.
*by the way, none of that intro is a rip or complaint of negative reviews. I’m not trying to make a point against them. I literally mean what I typed. I’m uncertain of my critical credibility.
So, the comic. I should write about that and get past this self-conscious, oh poor me bullshit. The internet’s seen enough of that lately, anyway.
In case you don’t know anything about Kat Roberts, she’s a cartoonist and all around creative person residing in Brooklyn. She has this blog about DIY fashion, and she’s also published this series of web comics called “Fever Dream.” I believe she’s relativity new to comics, but guessing from her work I’d say she already knows how to contribute a solid effort.
You Are Always on My Mind weighs in at 12 pages but packs 4 well-crafted shorts that invite you in and let you explore the notions of embarrassment and self-conscious worry. Roberts uses dreams as the base for her brief narratives. Some are even said to be real ones she’s had. But, real or not, these dreams paint quirky situations that lend themselves to some discomfort as well as a good laugh.
What makes these shorts so enjoyable though are their execution. In terms of shorts, every beat counts. We all know that, but Roberts makes that fact feel fresh again. I don’t feel like I’ve had that thought before when I read her comics because the way in which she sets up her stories and hits the punchline per say makes you smile and turn the page. The progression in the narrative and the visual cues feels mechanical, yet not so that it comes off as stiff or hollow. Instead, the flow feels rich and tight. Like a well-oiled machine or a drummer hitting a snare drum on cue.
Roberts isn’t shy about implementing creative signals to move her stories along. There are quite a few instances in this comic in which she applies clever, even cute, visual bits. My favorites have to be the two panels above. The warped speaker box just oozes those “thoomps”, and the little blocks depicting fingers in a countdown descend so nicely. Just interesting tidbits like that turn a normal progression of panels into something a little more colorful and personable.
There’s also this use of facial express in which she completely capstones a whole story via one panel, and it’s done so well that the beat is met and I, as the reader, laugh.
And, hell, this one panel manages to look cool, tell the story and echo back to Abbey Road in a rock ‘n’ roll centered story about crushin’ on Jim Morrison.
But I like the order of the 4 stories the most, believe it or not. Roberts opens her comic with the short “I Lost My Virginity to Jim Morrison,” which reads more like a traditional comic book narrative, and closes it out with a dialogue-less, more subtle short entitled “Dream in June.” Between the two, Roberts expresses a bit of a dark side with tales like “Nude Suit” and “Sin Eater.” What I take from this progression is that Roberts structured the content of this mini comic in order to pull you in so you can’t escape her more awkward points. There’s a feeling of “easing in” all throughout the book up until you hit the heavy stuff. You go from “Nude Suit,” which is slightly awkward yet still packs a laugh, to the almost haunting green pallet of “Sin Eater,” and I think it’s in “Sin Eater” that the core of the book conveys itself. Think of the idea of sins and sinning. That shit’s supposed to stick with you. They are the mistakes and missteps you’ve made. They are your faults. The things that remain on your mind. It’s in that tale that Roberts’ fictionalized self must face her wrongdoings, yet even then it’s done with a chuckle as the cartoon version of the author makes a disgusted face after her first gulp of sin worms.
But it’s that idea of shit you can’t escape Roberts is after, and by selling the point through dreams I’d say she does an affective job. I mean, dreams are theorized to tell us things about ourselves, correct? Or more so, if you can’t escape something even in your sleep, where are you supposed to go? Same thought process as A Nightmare on Elm Street, but instead I think You Are Always on My Mind speaks more to self-conscious judgements than not being able to completely protect your kids.
The comic strays away from being a complete awkward downer though by way of its finale “Dream in June.” It’s here Roberts suggests a positive outlook and a way to escape the nags and worries. A fitting end, if I may say.
So, that’s my review. I hope it worked in some regard. I’ll probably ponder its faults tomorrow.