Forever and Everything #7
The pandemic comics are finally starting to arrive, and this one covers a few areas that I had no experience with in my particular bubble. Early in-person voting, sure, I know all about that (98% of the people were great, but that 2% who weren’t, whooo boy), but what happened in schools was all hypothetical to me until reading this comic. This one reads more like a regular comic than most of his books, if that makes any sense. Kyle tends to keep his observations short in past issues, but this one started with the first time he heard about the coronavirus, how he dismissed it several times along the way and downplayed the severity of it when it did hit, all taking up maybe the first half of the book. It also showed how he tried to comfort his students, their reactions when they got the news that the school was shutting down (mostly centered around how anxious they were to be able to take their art supplies with them), and a bit about how he handled classes remotely. Other stuff in here is similar to how a lot of us had to deal with things, going from not being sure if it was OK to touch anything to figuring out how it was all about the masks. Other subjects include the oddity of fishing on a random Wednesday afternoon, trying to get some work done while being attacked by his children, going to the doctor for what he was sure was the corona, and dealing with a sudden glut of homemade masks. As we in America are mostly in the clear (this is July 2021, dear readers, so if the Mechagodzilla variant has hit by the time you read this, my apologies), there’s been just enough distance for all of this to be fascinating to me. Your mileage may vary! Maybe you’ve heard more than enough about the virus and want some distance. If so, give this one a while before checking it out. Otherwise, all I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In case you’re curious if a guy who does regular diary style comics kept going during the pandemic, the subtitle of this one is “the pre-pandemic naivete issue.” Which makes me naturally curious to read the next issue, as I’m oddly fascinated to see how artists handled the past year, so I may break my usual “don’t review the same artist twice in quick succession” rule. Which gets broken every now and then anyway, and it’s not like I have a boss breathing down my neck one way or the other. Anyway! This is a collection of this strips from right before the pandemic, which was formerly known as “normal life.” Subjects include watching a bird frenzy, modern technology helping with the lawn mowing, trying to explain that he’s not up the task of making a phone call to the doctor adequately, the checklist when he leaves the house, termites, dipping fries in milk, the thought of being trapped in a dentist’s chair listening to the hygienist, trying to maximize his reading time, attempting the ill-advised trick of urinating into an empty bottle while driving, explaining the meaning behind the terminology of ska fans to his young daughter, and a few other things that I’ll leave as a total surprise. As always, I chuckled more than a few times reading this, and yes, that does count as a recommendation. This is also a series where you’ll be OK if you haven’t read the first five issues, so jump in wherever, give it a shot! $5
Forever and Everything #5
I’ve become a fan of Kyle’s method of taking exactly as many panels as he needs to tell each story (then just starting the next story in the next panel), but boy howdy does it make it tricky for sampling purposes. It’s almost like that’s not his top priority in making his own comic! This is another solid entry in Kyle’s personal story, and I laughed out loud quite a few times in this one, which is always a good sign. Odd, because a good chunk of this is about suicidal thoughts and depression, but there it is. My impression is that he didn’t come close to actually harming himself, but the thoughts were there; his concern was mostly the loss of options for himself in his life as he raised two children with his wife. And turning 40. Both natural things to be thinking! Other subjects in this issue include seeing a new therapist and getting new meds (then quitting said therapist and meds, then getting back together with the therapist and meds), lots of short pieces about aspects of depression, falling into old habits when he finally has a night to himself, his anarchist child, thinking about moving, installing a headlight and putting together a treehouse, noticing gradual improvements in his mood, getting his car broken into (and only having a phone charger and a book on making comics stolen), the instant rage he sees at noticing a Trump bumper sticker, making a damned odd sandwich, and a few more stories I’ll leave as a surprise. It’s another solid issue, and he talked about putting together a “best of” book with pieces from the first 4 issues, so if you missed them, maybe hold out for a bit longer and you can still get all the best bits. But that doesn’t include this issue, so give it a shot!
The saga of the growing children continues! OK, it’s a stretch to call raising children a “saga,” but I’m sticking with it. This one starts out with Kyle bringing home baby Polly, their new daughter, so I clearly missed an issue or two. The format of the comics themselves seems the same: Kyle uses as many panels as he needs to tell his story, then puts up a title card and moves onto the next story, with all of the pages getting filled in this manner. I’m still a big fan of this idea, of not boxing yourself in to a set number of panels per strip per day. My only quibble is that I wish he’d put a date on each strip. Not essential (the strips are obviously in sequential order already), but helpful. Subjects in here include adjusting to life with a new baby, keeping up with the other child (Jamie), Kyle getting back to work after paternal leave, his house getting broken into, why we have to wear pants when we go outside, and getting beaten up by a baby. I was impressed that he even mentioned politics; so few cartoonists do any more. He has to deal with getting a racist text from an aunt, making the decision to not attend a July 4th celebration due to too many racist relatives, and just dealing with the fact that that gross thing is still president. It’s June 2019 as I’m writing this, so fill in his name if you’d like. He also makes an idle observation that perhaps he needs more therapy to deal with his relatives more easily, to which I say: don’t bother! You’re in the right, they’re racist as can be, and you continuing to go and be in their presence, striving all the while to make THEM feel better about themselves, is the absolute wrong way to handle it. The only leverage you have to get them to better themselves (as their child, nephew, grandchild, cousin, whatever) is your presence. If they want to see and be around those adorable children, they have to give up the racism. Seems fair to me, but that’s just my opinion. Meanwhile, if there’s anybody out there keeping track of such things, this is one of those diary strip comics that I thoroughly enjoy. There are plenty that I don’t, so that’s notable! $6
Forever and Everything
I do very much love it when artists don’t get offended by a past criticism of mine. It doesn’t happen often; the most common reaction when I get a response to something critical I’ve said is thanks, that at the very least maybe I’ve made them think about things in a different way. And sure, sometimes people get mad, as it’s not like I’m going to be right in every thing that I think, and there are even times when I’m having a shitty day and I say something awful in a review as a result. Very rarely, and I’ve gotten better at that over the years, but I am only human. Anyway, long and pointless intro short, I mentioned in the review of Kyle’s last comic that his early drawings “looked like garbage.” Instead of taking this personally, or even giving up because one guy on the internet said something bad about an aspect of his comic, Kyle thought it was funny and even mentioned it in his intro. To be clear, the rest of my review mentioned how much better the book got as he went along, and that sloppiness was an inherent danger of daily diary strips… eh, that’s why I keep an archive here. Read it yourself for the whole story. My point being: artists, never take critics all that seriously. Me, I’m just in it for the free comics. So how about this comic? Kyle has decided to keep going with his strips, but instead of continuing to do them daily (with a small child that’s a dicey proposition anyway) now he just draws them when possible and “as funny or interesting things occur.” That right there should be the motto of all daily diary artists, but then I guess that would take the “daily” out of the equation. Kyle also makes the interesting choice to really maximize space, as strips fill out each page, with them being continued on the next page until they stop. Meaning a strip can be four panels and done or 12 panels and done; once that happens he puts up a title card to signify the start of the next strip to move you along. Environmentalists, shouldn’t you have figured this out years ago? Think of all the paper just this one guy is saving. Subjects in here include the ongoing development of Jamie, having chickens, not having chickens, making a mural, injuring himself, being away from the family, the personal woe of headaches, accidentally getting a faux hawk, and jury duty. It’s some pretty solid storytelling, but the only complaint I have is that after ten minutes of looking around online I’m still not sure where exactly people can buy a copy of this book. The only thing I’ve seen is an Etsy listing that has this for 69.93 SEK, which sounds totally made up. That should always be easy to find for anybody looking for your name. But hey, send the guy an email, that should do the trick too.
Man, talk about a comic that takes you on a journey. Or me, anyway; I have no idea what journey you’ll have on reading this book. I should point out that I’m single and childless, meaning that a book full of diary strips detailing a pregnancy and the early days of a baby wasn’t something that I was really looking forward to reading. Those negative thoughts were confirmed by the early strips which, frankly, looked like garbage. Lousy images, text that spilled all over the place, they were just a mess. An obvious hazard of doing a daily strip, where quantity always wins out over quality, but I almost stopped reading this about a dozen pages in. And yet, by the time it was all said and done, I’ll really glad I stuck with it. The art improved, for one thing. It was a gradual change, but it was also obvious that Kyle was taking more time on it, and that gradual improvement of the quality continued all the way through the end of the strip. I would have understood if it hadn’t, as I expected it to stop altogether once the baby was born, but instead it kept getting better all the way up to the end. Oh right, I should give you a synopsis of the book that I’m reviewing. Kyle and his wife Jenny are about halfway through her pregnancy when this book starts up. We see lots of different happenings, their uncertainties about what they’re in for, picking out a baby name (although naming the book after the baby took a bit of the drama out of those strips), planning out future work obligations, finding a doctor, etc. Then the baby is born, and we get to see roughly a month of life with a new baby. Kyle even wraps it up with a six page afterward, detailing why he did the comic, how he got into comics at all, and what he has planned now, if anything. He even mentions that he read American Elf (the daily strip by James Kochalka) AFTER he finished his series, which is kind of hilarious. I go back and forth on the value of daily strips all the time, as is evidenced by even a quick search through the archives here of my reviews of other daily strip collections. Sometimes they seem to go on for years past when they make any sense, sometimes I never see the point of them to begin with, and sometimes they’re perfect little sections of time with a fascinating story to tell. I wasn’t expecting this book to fall into the latter category, but it completely won me over by the end. And if you’re having a kid or planning to have a kid, I have to imagine there’s plenty for you to learn from this book. And if Kyle is stuck on a comics project to start next, he could always tell the story of how he became religious in his mid 30’s. That was a throwaway fact from a few strips, but it’s the kind of thing that always makes me curious. $10
Hey kids, or anybody who has started reading comics in the last few years? Are you interested in the history of mini comics, why they’re such a source of passion for so many people? Well, maybe not in numbers, but in level of interest and dedication in following certain artists? Your answer is this volume. If you have no interest in the history, away with you! This one can be for the old timers. This is a collection of the best of the “Not My Small Diary” anthology, and if you read small press comics in the 90’s and 00’s, you will recognize plenty of these names. In fact, good luck not getting lost in a Google hole or trying to figure out what so many of these people are up to these days. Notable names include (but are not limited to) Jeff Zenick, Dan Zettwoch, Patrick Dean, Raina Telgemeier, Jesse Reklaw, Carrie McNinch, Sam Spina, Roberta Gregory, Kurt Wolfgang… you know what, there are just too damned many names, and they’re all in the tags, so check that part out. If any of those names made you say “hey, I wonder what they’re up to these days” then this book is for you. These are mostly snippets of stories, but they’re all complete by themselves. Sometimes the stories follow a theme, like notable dates or moments in their lives, but really they’re all over the place. If it seems like I’m avoiding getting into specifics, that is entirely the case. If you were around for all these artists when they first started, you’re going to get lost in this instantly. If not, this is an excellent way for you to figure out what the big deal was about these people all along. I guess it’s possible that it’s the nostalgia talking and that people might not connect to these stories now, but screw that. These are tales of human weakness (and occasionally triumph), and those stories are universal and timeless. Most of the original issues of this series are out of print, so this is your best option all around. The book itself is $7.50 if you see Delaine at a convention, but if not $10 should be enough to cover the shipping, and I really can’t recommend this enough. It’s rare for any anthology not to have a weak story or two, but these are all golden.