- Posted by Johanna on May 17, 2010 at 9:08 am
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
- PUBLISHER: Self-Published; $15 US
Erika Moen’s second book of her webcomic DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary takes an interesting approach. Volume 1 collected work from 2006-2008, jumping ahead in the comic to where the material better resembled her current style and then printing a chronological run.
Volume 2 carries on from where Volume 1 left off, reprinting strips from 2009 up until Moen ended the comic (a wonderful strip that not only sums up her life covered by the webcomic but also mimics her style changes over the years — in the book, every six panels make up one page). Then the book returns to the very earliest strips and drawings, so the reader can see how Moen’s art developed. All this is explained with author’s notes to the reader.
It’s an interesting combination, what winds up here, since the book contains both her strongest and weakest work. But it makes sense as a publishing strategy. The first book covers the development of a relationship, as Moen moves from out-and-proud lesbian to married to a British man, rejecting simple labels. If book one had started from the beginning, there might not have been strong enough sales for a second book. But one can assume that a reader coming back for book two will appreciate the art and content enough to enjoy the early background material, and the outstanding quality of the later strips is worth the cost of the book itself. The early work is just gravy (even if it is half the book).
As always, Moen’s work is brutally honest and unafraid to tackle taboo or edgy subjects. One of my favorites of the comics appears early on, when Moen writes about a waxing party. Instead of drawing the actual anatomical areas covered, she has all the women holding cats — which then lose their hair. It’s an obvious pun, but it’s also great cartooning, using visual language to make her point.
There’s more in this book about her relationship with Matt, whether small everyday bits of love or her typically outrageous exploration of bodily functions, like farting and ear wax build-up. Sexual education plays a part, too, with an introduction to vibrators and an appreciation of boobs. Plus, there are some thought-provoking strips about learning to be a working artist and the nature of inspiration.
The early strips are three years’ worth of college life and love mishaps. They’re much more fine art-influenced, concentrating more at times on the image and approach over content and telling a straightforward incident. One of my favorites here was the instruction page on how to make origami stars. I have a pair, turned into earrings, I got at a craft fair, and I’m so glad I now know how they were created. Erika Moen’s work is educational in so many ways.