Pin It

Three to Start With 

by Sheri Boggs

One Hundred Demons -- Lynda Barry -- One Hundred Demons evolved from Lynda Barry's hilarious comic strips from the '80s and '90s -- collected in books like Boys + Girls, Down the Street and The Freddie Stories. Originally published on, Demons isn't a graphic novel so much as collection of visual short stories. Still, the same qualities -- multi-layered narrative, character development, interplay between art and text -- that operate in a graphic novel are also evident here.

Calling these vignettes "autobifictionalography," Barry combines the wild originality of her early work -- she was the first cartoonist to openly mock women's magazines while simultaneously loving all the Tic-Tacs, lipstick and big hair-dos of being a girl -- with her most personal and autobiographical material to date. If anything, One Hundred Demons feels like graphic memoir.

Barry, the fun-loving, Bush-hating, dog-rescuing adult emerges in One Hundred Demons from Barry, the quiet girl on the block who savors kickball games and works for scary hippies as a teenager. The collages -- comprised of bits of ric rac, glitter, googly eyes and origami -- that introduce each story are a good foil for some of Barry's darker stories, including childhood sexual abuse, a friend's suicide and freaking out on acid. Even in her novels, The Good Times Are Killing Me and the deliciously bizarre Cruddy, art is an inextricable part of the whole package.

"Art Saves Lives": Sometimes that old saw fits; sometimes it feels histrionic. In the case of Lynda Barry, it feels essential, true and in her own words: "right on."

Maus: A Survivor's Tale -- Art Spiegelman -- Maus was one of the first examples I can remember of working in a bookstore and needing to be extra-aware that "comic book" does not necessarily mean "funny." The hollow-eyed mice and barbed wire on the cover were kind of a giveaway, but every now and then a customer or a new employee would park Maus in the humor section, unaware that the cartoon animals, red spines and bright pictures were actually telling a story about the Holocaust.

Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize for the two volumes of Maus in 1992. The unflinching story of his parents and how they suffered in Auschwitz and Birkenau -- and also of the author's own modest success as a cartoonist -- Maus is a tangled skein of guilt, senselessness and love. Spiegelman has been roundly criticized for setting up his own form of racism in the book, casting his Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, the Poles as pigs and even the Americans as dogs. But the decision to use animals is brilliant, referencing the Nazis' own characterization of the Jews as "vermin," the dehumanization of the "Final Solution" and ultimately the brutality and innocence of the animal world.

Spiegelman's most stunning achievement, however, is not so much how effectively he portrays the horrors of Nazi-occupied Poland but how he evokes the Holocaust's legacy even across time and generations. His relationship with his parents is a troubled one; even though he understands that the war has made them the way they are, he portrays them as crabbed, depressed and doomed, and himself as an insensitive ass for not being more sympathetic. Maus is one of the bleakest stories in the annals of graphic noveldom, but it's not without its own strange and bitter loveliness.

Acme Novelty Datebook: Sketches and Diary Pages in Facsimile 1986-1995 -- Chris Ware -- There is something so awesomely precise, so elegantly tiny about Chris Ware's work that they feel like products of another age. Part of it is that he does so often visually refer to the typefaces, imagery, design elements and layout structures of an earlier age. Part of it is that his love for detail flies directly in the face of our early 21st-century obsession with time and speed.

There's no such thing as flying through any of Chris Ware's works, whether you're perusing Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, Quimby the Mouse or any of his beautiful Acme Novelty Library creations. His Acme Novelty Date Book: 1986-1995 is no exception. Compiled of early Jimmy Corrigan and Quimby sketches, ratty journal entries, occasional naked lady drawings and lots of experimental pieces, the "date book" is the graphic novelist's soul laid bare.

In some ways, graphic novelists can be considerably more fearless than any of their strictly literary counterparts, and in this regard, Ware is especially so. His R. Crumb-ian self-loathing informs every page, and he comes across here as being a lot like an exceptionally talented 13-year-old boy. There's a pervasive and troubling sexual hostility running through much of Date Book -- the women in his drawings are creatures of endless fascination and frustration, and Ware conveys himself in terms of disgust and absurdity for lusting after them. It's not uncommon for him to draw himself like a great big ridiculous penis on some of these pages, or to utter scary phrases like "I ain't gettin' no girlie action!"

This book is a lot rawer -- in every sense of the word -- than his previous, more novel-ish material. It's also a remarkable view into the evolution not only of an idea, but of an artist's execution, subject and style.

Publication date: 04/01/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Won't You Be Our Neighbor?
  • Won't You Be Our Neighbor?

    The people, places and moments that defined and shaped the Inland Northwest's distinct neighborhoods
    • Jul 28, 2016

    An influx of creativity and businesses has this Northside neighborhood looking good
    • Jul 28, 2016

    Two names and a community bridging new and old
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Lion's Club Train Rides

Lion's Club Train Rides @ Ione

July 30-31, Sept. 3-4 and Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Oct. 23

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Sheri Boggs


    From puppies to a new James Bond adventure, there are tons of great reads this season
    • Dec 3, 2015
  • Beer and Branding in PDX

    • Sep 15, 2005
  • Nightlife- Jukeboxes of Note

    The Baby Bar 827 W. 1st Ave. * 471-1234 I love the Baby Bar for so many reasons -- the intimacy, the bartenders, the d & eacute;cor... But most of all, I love it for its jukebox. This is no hellhole of Sting/Celine Dion adult contemporary; it's a well
    • Jun 23, 2005
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Lane Ends Ahead

    Spokane wants to improve a mile-long section of Monroe — but that means taking away two lanes
    • Jul 7, 2016
  • Too Smart for School

    What happens when a 12-year-old prodigy tries to go to college in Spokane?
    • Jun 30, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The <i>Real</i> Rachel Dolezal
  • The Real Rachel Dolezal

    The story goes far beyond just a white woman portraying herself as black
    • Jun 17, 2015
  • Hopeless for Heroin
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation