What Did I Learn?
This week’s review is on Another Journal Comic by Martyn Cooper. It covers the day to day activities one might expect of a college student. It includes some frustrating moments dealing with fellow geeks and annoying people plus the requisite embarrassing moments and personal outlook. I’ll get back to it in a few paragraphs but I have some thoughts about journal comics to get out of the way first.
At first glance, doing a journal comic probably seems easier than writing stories with arcs or writing new jokes all the time. I sometimes find myself thinking that I should create a daily journal comic because I’ll be able to just draw something that happened that day… but sometimes interesting things worth drawing would happen and sometimes they wouldn’t. I’m also sure at some point you would find yourself including personal things you will later wish you hadn’t. It’s a different kind of balance.
On the upside, a journal comic lets you include your friends, acquaintances and loved ones in your comic without forcing them into a storyline or always making fun of them. You can also reasonably bring in celebrities and fictional characters, if you want to include them. It turns out there are other kinds of requests you would have to figure out what to do with. Huh.
I like the standardized layout of Another Journal Comic. Some of them have a title box but they all have a date spot in the middle, an artist comment on the bottom plus the signature. The strong contrast is something I am predisposed to even though it sometimes can feel limited. Obviously, there are more textures and techniques available but the problem for most comic creators is really what to put behind the talking heads. I’m sure we can all relate.
What we get in this comic is pretty enjoyable because there are some common threads to center the reading experience. We get to see the behind the scenes events of being a water such as restaurant politics, rude customers and getting out of work late. We also see this waiter finding the time and energy to deal with homework assignments, making a comic and hanging out with friends. I think we’ve all been in similar situations and so Another Journal Comic is very easy to relate to. There are also moments which pull you in a little deeper like having a long distance relationship and the trials of being in a place you don’t like (Savannah.)
Part of what makes this journal comic work well is that there is very little screen time devoted to unnecessary things. Some journal comics spend endless time on minutiae that has no story value in the end. It is fine if someone is into (say) collecting teacups but drawing your teacup collection is not going to be interesting to most readers. Now, if you show how each special teacup was acquired through back room antiquities deals and outright theft then we may have some room for creating a more compelling comic.
I’ve recently read Drawing Words and Writing Pictures which speaks to this on page 128 where it talks about the events of a good story being nonroutine in that character’s existence. Something happens which moves the situation a character is in from a normal place to a place with decision. (There is more to it than just a change in life but I’ll just encourage you to get the book for yourself.) Another Journal Comic has many moments of that kind – like the mustard customer I linked to above – it’s outside the bland, menial duties we think of as being what the stereotypical waiter does. You can easily relate but it exceeds your expectations sometimes, too.
On a side note: It’s entirely possible provable that I am incredibly dense but I was incredibly curious how one creates a fold-out poster on the back of an eight page mini comic. Or include another comic on the other ‘side,’ for that matter. My process has always gone something like this which left no empty space for anything else but a seven page story plus a cover. Let’s assume that I am dense because a Google search shows us that this process could be one way to accomplish two comics or even a comic with a poster on the back as Mr. Cooper suggests. And then you can get tricky if you want. Kudos to Mr. Cooper for being technically creative – he has also made infinite comics which is not an easy thing to do in just eight pages, I can only assume.
What Did I Learn?
Journal comics do not have to be Twitter updates in visual form. They can show real story in just a few panels even while focusing on the drama of the mundane. They can also have consistent formatting and give us some appreciation for what other people have to go through daily. I’ve also learned a few new ways to create mini comics, as well. And since the archives of Another Journal Comic only go back to January, you could be up to date with it in no time.
Thanks for reading and tune back in next Sunday for a new review here at ArtPatient.