The diary strip has become a nearly ubiquitous form of expression in the world of alternative comics, and while there’s certainly something to be said for that old adage about writing what you know, it’s rare to come across an artist that breaks free from the pack.
Thanks in large part to her primarily autobiographical series, Lucky, Gabrielle Bell has managed to do just that, with oft introspective short stories that focus more on the power and humor of universal experiences than the pursuit of extraordinary circumstances.
In this second part of our interview with the author, we discuss the ups and downs of autobiography and the role that the Internet has played in Bell’s storytelling.
Are autobiographical comics inherently self-indulgent?
I think you need to evaluate that on a case by case basis.
Were you reading other strips in that style when you first went ahead with Lucky?
Not really in any consistent way.
Not with the intention of influencing your work?
Well, like I said, I’ve been doing diary comics since way before I knew that other people were doing them. Perhaps it was other people doing them that gave me the courage to do them myself.
You mentioned working on pieces that you had no intention of ever releasing. Are those diary strips?
No. I think it’s sort of the difference between a diary strip and a personal journal or essay. Lucky sort of started out as diary strips, recounting something that had happened. But even then I was selecting themes to bring out, because there is always an element of storytelling. Nowadays it does seem like a diary, but I’m really looking for something else. I like diary strips, too, but I’m really trying to bring stories out of them.
The “Myspace” story in the new Lucky is certainly more fantastic than just straight diary. Is that an area that you’re interested in pursuing further?
In that case, it’s more of a personal essay. It’s starts as a diary, because something will happen and I’ll write about it, but that’s more of a launching pad. I like that kind of stuff very much. I’m always aiming for stuff like that, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
You’re looking for less straightforward methods for telling the same story.
Well, I guess the idea is my being addicted to the Internet, which I guess is something that people struggle with, nowadays. I was just making a story around that.
Having you being working with the Internet much, in terms of the comics that you’re creating?
I use it a lot for general research, but I actually don’t use the Internet very well [laughs]. I was reading an article about the way the Internet affects the way we read—I guess it sort of proves his point that I couldn’t read the whole article—but it was about how we read and look at some things here and there and go from link to link and skim things. We don’t really read whole articles. Our concentration is very fragmented. It affects the ways that we read books and magazines. Most people are reading less. I think that I never really learned how to read in that fragmentary way, because I still read novels.
That’s interesting, because most of the pieces in Lucky are only a couple of pages.
Yeah, well, it takes me a long time. I wish I could write a graphic novel. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing for people to jump from subject to subject and skim links. Our attention is divided up. We can be reading an article and checking our e-mail at the same time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it’s a good skill. Unforuntately, I don’t have it.
Researching and reading on the computer and the Internet.
Is it the lack of technical savvy or more an investment in the physical format that sees so much of your work coming out in print?
Well, I don’t really read a lot of comics on the Internet myself. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it. Maybe I’m just getting old [laughs].
[Continued in Part Three]