A Year of Cool Comics - Day 6

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here's the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Lynda Barry's What It Is...


Lynda Barry is one of the pre-eminent independent cartoonists of the last fifty years, and with her work, What It Is, she demonstrates why she is held in such high regard, in a unique work that serves as both a memoir AND a teaching tool!

I was about to say that the book is split into three distinct parts, but I realize that that is not really true, as the three aspects of the book actually serve to inform each other. The book is split into a memoir of Barry's life through college plus a series of questions designed to get you thinking about writing and then, finally, an "activity book" of sorts whose goal is ALSO to get you to write.

Barry has been teaching a class called “Writing the Unthinkable” for many years, and this book is, in many ways, a summation of her teaching philosophies.

The memoir sections of the book are excellent, as Barry's evocative drawings really take you to the recesses of her memory, and her thoughts on her life are interesting and surprisingly direct.

Here are a few sample pages (all courtesy of the sample excerpt available at the web site for the book at Drawn & Quarterly)

As great as the memoir sequences are, the "star" of the book clearly is the collage artwork that accompanies Barry's many pages of questions meant to drive you to thinking differently about the very nature of writing and drawing.

Here are some sample pages...

The book continues much in this vein for most of it (until it becomes an outright "activity book" at the end), alternating between interesting stories of Barry's life (made all the more interesting due to the depth she reveals about herself) and thought-inducing questions about writing/drawing. The latter of which are wrapped up in these stunning works of collage where each page looks like it took weeks of work, it's such rich with possibilities.

The world of comics is blessed that we have people like Lynda Barry out there on the cutting edge, re-imagining what you can achieve with graphic works.

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