By Vanessa Davis
Distributed by Buenaventura Press
In May of this year, I bought a hot pink Vanessa Davis minicomic titled Spaniel Rage from Buenaventura Press. It was printed in 2007 and doesn’t share any material with Davis’s graphic novel Spaniel Rage or her webcomic Spaniel Rage, though it does contain diary strips from roughly the same time period.
A friend turned me on to Spaniel Rage a few years ago. I could tell he had really fallen in love with Davis’s comics and it took me no time at all to tumble in right after him.
Probably there are plenty of girls who are into wallpaper patterns, accurate pencil drawings of shoes, gossip-sharing and autobio comics. I used to feel alone, but Davis’s comics speak directly to my demographic. For us observant, over-sensitive, over-analytical, fun-loving people with flaws and shopping addictions, Spaniel Rage should be all the rage.
When I first read Spaniel Rage online, it certainly informed my basic perception of what makes a comic good. Davis’s drawings are sketchy and lack panels but they are more complex than many other mini/webcomics available today. Her level of detail in the people she draws, and their clothes and posture and proximity to each other, is so unique. Especially how she seamlessly carries the action between images and somehow never loses her audience or skips a beat.
The tool she primarily uses for Spaniel Rage is a pencil, which coyly implies that she expects to make mistakes. Each page of Spaniel Rage is a well-blended personal experience in gray tones. The delivery and the detail makes Davis’s comics feel like real, complete thoughts. The kind of memory you’d come up with yourself while on the subway, compulsively and briefly, while you wait to arrive at Point B. It’s the personal intimacy of these comics that makes them so engrossing, and the detailed yet sketchy artwork presents her stories in a believable way. Davis’s comics, especially in minicomic form, feel like a perfect package.
She can even be funny without making jokes. Pathetic without being sad. These are the comics I’ve always wanted to read. There should be more of them.
I was in a Vanessa Davis phase when I went snooping around the net for her older works this summer and got lucky enough to find this recent mini. There are two inexplicable two-page spreads that have nothing on them in the first and last half of the book, but otherwise there’s not a bit of wasted space. The background design from her website marks up the back side of the cover sheet. Inside, the pages are full from top to bottom with her unique style of artwork.
Spaniel Rage, the hot pink unnumbered minicomic, is 52 pages long (minus the four blank ones). It cost me $3. Davis’s comics are distributed by Buenaventura Press. Also, CHECK OUT Davis’s 2006 editorial for the New York Times. It’s about shoes.
She’s currently working on a new book. I wonder if it will also be called Spaniel Rage?