Stevie might be a bear maybe by John Campbell

Categories:  Reviews

Stevie might be a bear maybe
John Campbell
Loose Teeth Press


Every night, I check the clock as I set my alarm and think, ‘Oy! What have I done all day to keep me up so late?’ If John Campbell asked himself the same question in January, he would have come up with a perfectly good answer.

During the month of January in 2006 and 2007, Campbell documented his life by drawing one comic panel for every waking hour of his day. The trend soon caught on, known as Hourly Comic Day, and was recently celebrated by the public last February.

Among cartoonists, comics have sometimes being compared to athletics. If so, then Campbell has conditioned himself to be concise and responsive to life’s worthwhile moments. Being a bear, maybe, would certainly count as a moment worth living.

Campbell’s mini stevie might be a bear, maybe gets across a very complicated idea with silly disenchanted directness. I loved it! Also, I believe this comic is further evidence of Campbell’s keen eye for identifying what’s meaningful in the present. I don’t even know if Campbell is aware of his hipness, but bears are so hot right now. Look at Jeremy Tinder’s mini Grizzly and MK Reed’s “Mrs. Jeremy Delloroso” from Project Romantic, not to mention my officemate’s ridiculous obsession with Smokey the Bear. Clearly, bears are the new pirates are the new ninjas are the new astronauts are the new Davey Crockets of our day.

I hate to kill the suspense, but I’ve read the book, and I think Stevie is probably not a bear. Stevie’s mom has her own suspicions (that Stevie is retarded), but I’m not buying her theory. We all want to figure out Stevie’s biggest problem, and because there is no clear answer, we can all come away with a different idea about what makes a fictional character so hopelessly wrong.

johncampbellart.jpgCampbell often throws out a warning when he speaks about his work, saying that his comics are “poorly drawn.” The images are not complicated, but they’re certainly well-crafted for his purpose. His characters may look like glorified stick people, but he’s done a great job of making them expressive without being dramatic. The language is quick and smart. The wonderful dialogue is given an opportunity to jump from the page because complicated imagery isn’t tying it down. This is perhaps a very important feature in Campbell’s comics because I often find myself stopping to re-read things to make sure he really just said that, and hot damn he did, and ha ha chuckle that sure was unexpected.

When I first took note of Campbell’s artwork, I thought he must be tracing around real objects to get the strong geometric shapes of his characters. That is, until I noted the shakiness of his line. Now I think he’s making a solo effort to draw a series of perfect circles and well-placed dots atop rectangle bodies and loose, line limbs. If Campbell thinks he’s a poor artist, then maybe he doesn’t know how hard it can be for regular people to just draw circle. This is an important feature of the comic, keeping the simple images consistent and yet unique to each character. He does a good job of this and I rarely get lost on the page, an otherwise open sea of lines without texture.

Stevie might be a bear maybe was a really enjoyable mini, and probably the first I’ve ever seen printed with a barcode. This comic can also be read by you right now on the internet if you visit John Campbell’s livejournal.

—Sarah Morean

No Comments to “Stevie might be a bear maybe by John Campbell”

  1. Alex | May 11th, 2007 at 10:45 am

    I just read the comic on his Live Journal, and it’s either quite good, or completely terrible. It’s like an art film that is either trying to tell us something very profound, or it’s just a bunch of cowboys eating pudding.

    Story content aside, I did enjoy his drawing style very much.

  2. Bill | May 11th, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    I stumbled over this a couple days ago and its really great. I love that subdued atmosphere of the art. It was like seeing those great Don Hertzfeldt for the first time.

  3. shana | May 17th, 2007 at 10:58 am

    love this guy.

  4. Sean Carroll | May 17th, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    I love this comic! Thanks for pointing me to it.

  5. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » May 14, 2007: Fangirls Attacked
  6. www geldspielautomaten de