By Julie Doucet
Drawn & Quarterly
Julie Doucet is a hostage of the sequential art mafia. Every so often she seems to denounce the form as a soul-sucking medium, and like clockwork, they keep pulling her back in. To her credit, 365 Days isn’t technically a return to form for her—the work collected in the book was all produced between 2003 and 2004, but for her fans it should serve as a bittersweet reminder of what was and what could have been.
Doucet has never made her thoughts on the topic a secret. Prompted during an interview to speak on the subject, the artist will gladly expound on the less than rewarding nature of her Sisyphean output. She puts far too much work into what she does and, at least monetarily, gets far too little back. Fair criticisms of the medium both of them, and hell, we’ve all become quite accustomed to self-loathing in our cartoonists—Ivan Brunetti, Joe Matt, actually it’s probably a lot more difficult to produce a list of underground cartoonists who haven’t engaged in a round of mental self-flagellation.
Opening up 365 Days, it takes one full page to find Doucet engaged in the act again. This is, after all, a diary book, and the subject is clearly on her mind fairly often—in fact, it might actually be construed as something of a ripoff, had Doucet not devoted some of the book to taking the piss out of the medium. Staunch defenders need fear not, however, like any good diarist, the author devotes a good amount of time to taking said piss out of everything, most often herself.
As a biographical work, 365 Days succeeds quite well, with an immediacy that strips down the boundaries that many authors often construct to distance themselves from their work, either the result of elapsed time or something more artificial designed to absorb some of the emotional immediacy.
The work’s true success, however, lies in Doucet’s willingness to experiment with the medium, through collage and non-linear storytelling, largely doing away with traditional panels. Whether the product is a result of being strapped for time, or merely her oft-muttered disillusion with the form, the author rarely holds back from experimentation, and the work is richer from it.
Doucet fans will find a lot to like in her diary—it’s both thick and visually dense, and as such serves all the more a bitter reminder of the form she’s largely abandoned.