Friday, November 17, 2006

True Story Swear to God #9

True Story Swear to God #9, Clib’s Boy Comics
writer/artist: Tom Beland

True Story Swear to God, a comic book about a long-distance relationship, coupled with my brief review of The Tick Incredible Internet Comic, has spawned some thoughts about the A Comic A Day experience that I hope will embellish last night’s lack of effort. You see, on more than one occasion during this fanatic experience, I have been without a comic book to review well into the late hours of the day, limiting my options as a blogger that seeks to read issues from a diverse pool of creators, publishers, and genres. During these evenings, I have been tempted to stretch my own established guidelines and take the easy way out, by finding and reviewing an on-line strip instead. After all, thousands of web comics are easily just a mouse-click away, and as sequential, story-driven art, most of them boast enough material to count as a solid, makeshift single issue. I said I’ve been tempted. I’ve never given in to temptation.

Unbelievably, diverse comics aren’t as easy to come by in northern Orange County, California, especially for a twenty-something like me with limited transportation and an even more restricted budget. If you browse the history of A Comic A Day, you’ll discover a few personal compromises, a few reviews typed through gritted teeth, as I obviously would’ve preferred preserving some mainstream titles for a real emergency situation, or as I would’ve obviously preferred not to read the issue at all. Still, I’d rather spend $3 at Borders for a comic I never would’ve read otherwise than resort to a web comic. The inspiration for these thoughts came in part from publisher George Suarez’s essay in The Tick Incredible Internet Comic, in which he wrote, “Despite the popularity of ‘Web-surfing,’ I suspect that many people still like to have something in their hands to read – in the ‘old-fashioned’ manner . . . As wonderfully effective as the combination of computer+Internet is at providing ready access to a virtually infinite amount of information for all, it’s good to know that this world-shaking advance is not likely to do away with the ‘ink on paper’ medium any time soon.” Agreed. The comic book is an interactive experience, an eye-catching, page-turning tête-à-tête with the reader.

So, from time to time, you can say that I have a torrid, long distance relationship with comics, but it is by no means as insightful as the relationship exposed in Beland’s True Story Swear to God. I’ve heard of this “true story of a real life romance” before, and I’ve seen Beland at the Comic Con a few times, but I’ve never ventured into an issue before tonight. I was pleasantly surprised. I can understand why many would dub this series a “chick comic,” as its romantic overtones offer a sensitivity uncharacteristic of the medium – when romantic comics were popular in the Silver Age, they were too cheesy and melodramatic to appeal on a “realistic” level. They were read for their soap opera value, nothing more. TSSTG is almost too honest, as among other things, Beland explores his experiences with sexual inadequacy – a segment that isn’t as awkward as it is surprisingly vulnerable and introspective. Beland’s monologues are succinct and emotional sophisticated, well put and well written. In short, Beland offers the perfect insight into the joys of new love and the hardship of LDR’s.

Of course, my favorite scene in this book takes place in the comic book store. The premise of this issue is that Tom and Lily have only two short days to spend together, and Tom brings Lily to the comic book store for over an hour – typical geek. Hilariously, I can relate. By telling his own story, Beland captures those tender or embarrassing moments in all of our lives, in some small way. On the topic of comics in general, I will also confess that Beland’s art style is perhaps my most favorite of all of the titles in this format I have sampled. His characters are cartoony but expressive, and he uses crosshatching in an effective way to fill in the otherwise white backgrounds, to add depth to scenes that may have too static without something more behind the characters front and center. I guess Beland’s raw honesty (with a few embellishments for comedy’s sake, I assume) just struck me from all fronts here. I’m pleasantly surprised.

Well, I hope this analysis makes up for my phoning it in last night. I knew when I began A Comic A Day that the holiday season would be particularly challenging, what with my varied personal and professional pursuits. As much as I’d like this effort to be all about comics, nobody can tackle a yearlong project and not include an explanation – however brief – of the daily context, the circumstances behind one’s approach to each issue. Beland will tell you, honesty is the best policy, and the easiest answers won’t always deliver the desired results. This blog is by no means as well crafted as Beland’s opus, but A Comic A Day is a true story, too. And it’s far from over, no matter what challenges lie ahead.

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