*Radiator Days — Recommended

I don’t remember how I found Lucy Knisley’s art journal. As soon as I saw it, though, I knew I needed to read more of her work.

Radiator Days cover
Radiator Days
Buy this book

Her style is so cool. She does slice-of-life material for the most part, punctuated with unique pop culture references, but in a lovely, clear line style with a vibrant sense of color.

Radiator Days contains two years’ worth of her comic strips, over 300 pages of sketches, observations, comic journals, and stories. Although the presentation is bare bones — the self-published book doesn’t even have a table of contents, nor does it carry its publisher name anywhere, and pieces are simply separated by blank pages — the content is worth reading.

Unfortunately, it’s all black and white. That’s not a bad thing, since her work reads well regardless, but I miss the lovely palettes she uses online. You can also tell some of the pieces are early work, where she’s processing her influences, but the range of content is attractive in itself. The book opens with a 24-hour comic that encapsulates her lack of focus (and thus diverse subjects) as well as her changing art styles. How can you not like a book that has the author in charming hat drinking Tang with Oscar Wilde on page 2?

She’s an art school student, like many young comic creators, but her work uses that setting as grounding, not as its only subject matter. Instead, her scholarly status sends her thinking about diversions, fear of the future, the search for emotional security, creative blockage, and the need for sleep, among other things. I could relate, and I felt like I knew better who she was, although I don’t know her, after reading. And that was only the first “chapter” of this thorough collection.

Let’s talk more about her influences. When she uses a brush, I’m reminded of Craig Thompson or Hope Larson. Pen? More Jen Sorensen. Occasionally a little Alison Bechdel. There’s probably many more I’m missing — the point is, these are accomplished artists, and Knisley is firmly in their league. Her layouts are simple while the panels are creative yet easy to read. Plus, she’s clearly got an active, wide-ranging mind, and it’s truly a pleasure to see so much intelligence on the page, combined with fearless self-revelation.

The book is worth it to me just to own a copy of the bookstore love story, in which a girl working at a used bookstore that’s closing starts releasing the books, one at a time, to good homes or those who need them. If I can figure out how to scan it without damaging the spine, I’m also copying the four-panel illustration of a girl surfing a huge pile of books until they overwhelm her; it would be perfect to hang over my bookcase stuffed with review copies to read. There’s even a Batman guest appearance, where he wears a dandelion chain, in a strip about the importance of distraction.

See much more of her work at Lucy Knisley’s website.

11 Responses to “*Radiator Days — Recommended”

  1. Rivkah Says:

    Preeeeeeeeeeeety. Wish I could see some samples of her brush style on her lj/website, though. Her pen and ink and coloring style are gorgeous. :)

  2. Bill D. Says:

    Oooh, I like her artwork a lot. I’m gonna have to check this book out. Thanks for the heads-up, Joanna.

  3. Johanna Says:

    I think this might be brush, but you would know better than I. http://lucyknisley.com/galleries/comics/images/1798

  4. Sebastian Says:

    Yeah, she’s quite good. Found her books a while ago (although there seem to be only three officially published works, so far). Nice style, interesting/weird humor. I think Radiator Days is her strongest work, so far, though. I also read French Milk, and it wasn’t bad at all, but I find the little strips she posts on her blog more interesting. I hope she gets the chance to collect and print some of those.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Three? What’s the third?

  6. Sebastian Says:

    “Heart Seed Snow Circuit”. It’s only an oversized comicbook of some 20 pages, but it’s in color and with thicker cover stock. The main story is posted on her site: http://lucyknisley.com/galleries/comics/images/2193

  7. Johanna Says:

    Oooh, more of hers to read! With an angry apple! Thank you.

  8. MoCCA Art Festival 2009 (Johanna) » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] to buying were by Lucy Knisley. I have fallen in love with her art. Pretty Little Book is, like Radiator Days, a collection of journal comics, but in color this time! (Which means it’s the same price for […]

  9. Illustrated Pickle Recipe » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Knisley has illustrated “how to make pickles” at her blog. The recipe is her own, based on […]

  10. Drawn to You » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] had the pleasure of discovering the work of both Lucy Knisley (Radiator Days) and Erika Moen (DAR) this year. So imagine my glee when I discovered that the two had teamed up […]

  11. *Make Yourself Happy — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] 200 pages of her black-and-white diary comics in Make Yourself Happy. It’s the followup to Radiator Days, similar in content but more recent, covering the past two years.     Lucy […]




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