Total Crud Face Universe and Galaxy
September 24, 2009 1:13 PM   Subscribe

I am obsessed with artist&writer Lynda Barry, and don't believe she has any peer or equal in the world of comics. Prove me wrong; who else would I love?

I like how the art is appealing but from a totally different planet than the enviable mechanical precision of, say, Chris Ware.

Her work represents how my youth actually was; instead of a bland suburban innocence that doesn't really exist, she depicts the bloody skinned knees and lack of parental supervision and messy school assignments and gnawing anxiety and fear and destructive crushes and cruel teachers and wild neighborhood dogs and bittersweet memories of childhood.

Reading her work is having the feeling "I had no idea anyone else felt like that!" over and over. She manages to be nostalgic without kitschiness or saccarine sugar overload.

The closest I've found is Rebecca Kraatz's House of Sugar. I know I'm totally slacking by not having read any Ariel Schrag. Your suggestions don't have to be female, or even comic book artists, if you feel the feeling fits.

I know bonus questions are frowned upon, but how many Ask theads about Lynda Barry can I possibly start? I want to know how many more Lynda Barry books I need to buy before I have a reasonably complete collection of all the Marlys-Maybonne-Freddy-Arna-Arnold stories. I currently own Down the Street, It's So Magic, The Freddy Stories, and The Best of Marlys (which collects a lot of the strips, but not all). I still need My Perfect Life, Come Over Come Over, and The Fun House, I know. Do any of her other books contain Marlys-Maybonne-Freddy-Arna-Arnold stories?
posted by Juliet Banana to Writing & Language (30 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
To clarify, are you asking for work that represents youth or Barry's style of writing/art or what?

Ed Brubaker's early stuff is kinda similar in tone, but for the late teens/early 20s set.

Jason Lutes' Jar of Fools was amazing, though depicted an older demographic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:22 PM on September 24, 2009

I'm just discovering and really enjoying Ellen Forney, who, for me at least, scratches the same itch as Linda Barry does.
posted by EatTheWeek at 1:35 PM on September 24, 2009

I can't think of anyone like Lynda Barry, certainly not in Anglophone comics. My advice is to check out the Francophone world and manga. You might find what you're looking for there. Hopefully someone more knowledgable than me can point you in the right direction.
posted by Kattullus at 1:35 PM on September 24, 2009

Chester Brown - I Never Liked You
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:36 PM on September 24, 2009

Girl, you're in Chicago? Just go to Quimby's (1854 W. North Ave), one of the five or six best comic book shops in America, and ask. They're smart folks.

(They also have lots of readings and other nifty events.)
posted by rokusan at 1:37 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Posy Simmonds perhaps?
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on September 24, 2009

btw, you should read her novel Cruddy if you haven't already. It's awesome.
posted by chbrooks at 1:44 PM on September 24, 2009

You might like Alison Bechdel, probably Fun Home more than the DTWOF stuff. I think Ellen Forney is a good recommendation, too.
posted by box at 1:44 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I guess I'm more looking for the "holy shit, that is exactly what it really feels like" feeling than depictions of childhood in particular.

As long is it's not "wow, that's exactly what it feels like to be a rather successful independent male comic book artist!" (James Kolchalka, Jeffery Brown, who I do love in a different way)

I lovelovelove Ellen Forney and Allison Bechdel.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:54 PM on September 24, 2009

Unlovable by Esther Pearl Watson is great, and owes an obvious debt to Barry.

(I had no idea there was a book until just now. I've been reading them in Bust magazine.)
posted by JoanArkham at 1:58 PM on September 24, 2009

I love Barry--also Bechdel, Forney and Schrag.

One of my latest interests is Lucy Knisley--she's real young and probably suburban, but I really quite like her drawing style and autobiographical stuff. (Barry is also an idol of hers; Knisley studied with her at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont.)

For older and rawer stuff, Phoebe Gloeckner and Aline Kominsky-Crumb.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:00 PM on September 24, 2009

Oooh, and it's out of print now, but if you can find Naughty Bits by Roberta Gregory you should take a look.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:00 PM on September 24, 2009

Also, are you a Keith Knight fan? Given the wordiness and busy-ness of his cartoons, he almost reminds me more of Barry than anyone else.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:03 PM on September 24, 2009

You've probably seen this, but I've gotten that "holy shit" feeling from Pathetic Geek Stories. I think the art in that strip is fantastic and the fashions are dead-on.

Also, I LOVE lynda barry. When I get home I'll go through my collection and see if any of my fave books aren't on the list you posted.
posted by capnsue at 2:04 PM on September 24, 2009

Ooh, Keith Knight, that's a good suggestion.

You might like Sophie Crumb--there's a lot of her father in her style, but there's some Barry in there too. Maybe Julie Doucet?
posted by box at 2:12 PM on September 24, 2009

I'll second the suggestion of Roberta Gregory, although she spends a lot more time being angry than Barry.
posted by rodgerd at 2:55 PM on September 24, 2009

Definitely Phoebe Gloeckner, if you've got the Alison Bechdel covered.

But I really think that no one is as good as Lynda Barry. ONE!HUNDRED!DEMONS! isn't Marlys, but it's just as good for the nostalgia factor, which is what I love about Barry, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:55 PM on September 24, 2009

"holy shit, that is exactly what it really feels like"

I get this feeling from Harvey Pekar's early American Splendor work. Very, very personal stories (and all true, I assume), and very evocative of the time period (mid-to-late 70s, IIRC). And also from Peter Bagge's Hate/Buddy Bradley stuff, which is so "real" it hurts (but only when you laugh).

Debbie Drechsler's work reminds me a bit of Barry's, but I don't think it's nearly as good, and the artwork isn't as unique.
posted by scratch at 3:36 PM on September 24, 2009

Hmm, The Good Times Are Killing Me wasn't on your list. If you haven't seen it, go get it NOW.
posted by scratch at 3:39 PM on September 24, 2009

I'm going to do something perhaps inappropriate and say that I'm launching my graphic novel next Tuesday. It's called The Hipless Boy and it's a collection of short stories told in the graphic novel style. Here is the first story in the book. It's off my facebook account, and you can click through the panels like looking through a photo album.

The thing it'll hopefully remind you is being in your 20's, in art school. But then your 20's might have been very different than mine.
posted by Sully at 3:58 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lauren Weinstein's Girl Stories is worth picking up. The negative reviews there are hilarious and should sell you on it. The Amazon page points to Stuck Rubber Baby, which you might also like. Very bittersweet, very absorbing in a DTWoF way.
posted by kmennie at 4:09 PM on September 24, 2009

I've always thought Roz Chast had a similar style, although she is less concerned with telling stories and more of a panel person.
posted by quarterframer at 4:38 PM on September 24, 2009

Thirding Phoebe Gloeckner, for that "holy shit get out of my childhood" feeling. YMMV, however, as Gloeckner is much, much harsher than Lynda Barry.

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki is good in that vein, too, and less harsh than Gloeckner. Also, if you can find it, Optic Nerve (by Adrian Tomine) has short comics that echo this feeling into adulthood.

Naturally, My New York Diaries by Julie Doucet, to whom my username is an homage.

My partner recommends School Is Hell by Matt Groening.
posted by ellehumour at 4:41 PM on September 24, 2009

WRT Ariel Schrag, I've got her high school collections--Awkward and Definition, Potential, and Likewise--and they're similar in theme (if not in style; one of Barry's enduring strengths is that there's really no one like her). However, one of the things that makes Schrag unique, and very much unlike any other cartoonist, is that she created the comics at that age as a diary, instead of looking back as an adult. Maybe unsurprisingly, the later comics (in which she details her inability to get over the girlfriend who dumped her) are better than the early ones (in which she spends an awful lot of time talking about how awesome Juliette Lewis and Gwen Stefani are), but they're still fascinating in aggregate to see how she evolves as an artist from year to year.

Anyway. I'd suggest that you'd go with the anthology that Schrag edited, Stuck in the Middle, which includes a lot of big names (Clowes, Joe Matt, etc.) with some people that you've likely never heard of, all having to do with being at or about junior high/middle school age. Some you may not like at all, but it's a good sampler of cartoonists, many of whom have published other things that you might pursue. It's how I first found out about Gabrielle Bell, for example.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:12 PM on September 24, 2009

Not really Barry-ish at all, but re: "holy shit, that is exactly what it really feels like," I'd like to point you in the direction of Eddie Campbell's Alec: The King Canute Crowd.

Also: Really, nobody's mentioned Vanessa Davis yet?
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 5:48 PM on September 24, 2009

Emily Flake.

Sophie Crumb--there's a lot of her father in her style, but there's some Barry in there too

I don't see any Lynda Barry there. What I do see is her mother, Aline Kominsky Crumb, whose style is similar to Barry's in some ways, both visually and in terms of fearlessly autobiographical wacky realism. I think this is a birds/bats homologous evolution thing.

A lot of the comics artists who worked on Twisted Sisters do really smart autobiographical stuff. Julie Doucet, who is great, has already been mentioned; I am also a giant fan of Carol Tyler.

Why I Hate Saturn by Kyle Baker and Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson are weirdly resonant with the weirder and nerdier moments of my life. But then again, so is Migraine Boy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:11 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks to Sidhedevil for mentioning Alex Robinson because I can't believe that I forgot Too Cool To Be Forgotten.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:37 AM on September 25, 2009

Response by poster: Ellehumour, "holy shit get out of my childhood" described what I wanted way better than I did. Thank!

Rokusan, a few hours after I read your comment I was down in Wicker Park to go watch some kids give a presentation on how to use trackers on old school Amigas to make chiptuney breakcore(lesson is: you don't, it's really hard and your Amiga will eventually die in the middle of a show). I walked past Quimby's and without you, I wouldn't have gone in. But I did, and oh my god, as soon as I get a job I am going down there with an envelope of cash pinned inside my cardigan and I am spending every cent. It is a wonderland, and it smells like comics in a really sexy way.


I could go on and on about which of these books I've already read and which I have never read of and am excited about and which comic strips I totally forget existed but am happy to rediscover and how much I am put off by the Crumb ladies but suffice it to say, this is an awesome thread and I thank you very much.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:57 AM on September 25, 2009

Seconding "I Never Liked You," by Chester Brown, also his other book "The Playboy."

In a similar vein, "Fair Weather" by Joe Matt, although the rest of his work is very different.
posted by pete_22 at 12:49 PM on September 25, 2009

Dame Darcy isn't that similar to Lynda Barry in content, but her work reminds me of dreamy teenage musings. She definitely has a unique style.
posted by benzenedream at 1:56 PM on September 25, 2009

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