Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Diary Comics

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I’m nosy by nature. I love to peek inside someone else’s mind and see how they think and what their life is like. Sometimes it’s a learning experience, and sometimes I discover someone is more similar to me than I’d thought, and I feel less alone. Because they haven’t yet made a real version of the key from Locke and Key that lets you open someone’s mind and poke around (or, you know, an ethical way to use it), I read diaries for a deep look at a character or person. Here are the latest ones I’ve read, reviewed in buy, borrow, bypass format.

Everywhere AntennasEverywhere Antennas by Julie Delporte: Our anonymous narrator has chronic, debilitating headaches, and as she starts to suspect they’re caused by a sensitivity to radiation from the electronics all around us, she becomes more and more uncomfortable in our modern world. I loved how Delporte captured the melancholy and loneliness of illness, contrasted yet enhanced by the colorful, joyful art. Bonus nerd points for the final page where she catalogs the colored pencils she used in order of appearance.

Verdict: Buy


Bright-Eyed at MidnightBright-Eyed at Midnight by Leslie Stein: On New Year’s Day in 2014, Leslie Stein began a daily comics project for the year, which she describes as a “trendy but fun” idea. She’s right–on both counts. While part of me is tired of the “watch me do something, anything for a year” trope, I also can’t deny that sometimes it works. With Stein, from childhood memories of her little-boy haircut and love for Jimi Hendrix’s Star-Spangled Banner to thoughts on feeling like a failure amid life’s messiness to simple sketches, she is charming, funny, and honest, and it works.

Verdict: Buy. It even has a super colorful spine that will look awesome on your bookshelf!

The Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner: Partially based on the author’s own teenage diaries, this is a novel that combines prose entries, full-page illustrations, and comic strips to tell the story of Minnie Goetz, a 15-year-old growing up in 1970s San Fransisco who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Gloeckner’s immersive writing and intricate art had me feeling the pain of what it’s like to try to love and be loved when the people who should be there for you aren’t, but I was disappointed by the story’s pacing, dragging at times and then wrapping up quickly, and especially by the casual racism of Minnie. Sure, it’s how some people really think, but when are we going to stop using that as an excuse to drop the n-word?

Verdict: Bypass

My New York DiaryMy New York Diary by Julie Doucet: After attending art school in Montreal, Julie Doucet moves to New York to live with her jealous boyfriend and to try to make it as an artist. By seeing her sometimes poor decisions and confusion in the messy stage of early adulthood, I felt less guilty for not having my life together either, but some of the other books on my list felt more insightful, and Doucet’s hectic, overly detailed art style isn’t my thing.

Verdict: Borrow if you’re a big fan of graphic memoirs and think her art is more to your taste.


Journal Julie DelporteJournal by Julie Delporte: Put simply, Journal is a memoir of Delporte working through a breakup, but it’s also about connection, belonging, self-discovery, finding time and space for yourself, self-expression, and accepting imperfection in art and relationships. As she puts it, “I’m experimenting with colours as we’re experimenting with new lives.” Every word and drawing is simple yet essential, and it absolutely cemented my talent crush on Delporte.

Verdict: Buy

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