Comics capture real life stories

“People always blame strange occurrences on a full moon, but I think shit is weird every single day.”

“That’s a lie.”

“I’m going to get us some wine.”

–excerpt from Time Clock by Leslie Stein

Up until a year ago, I was unenthused about graphic novels, but Time Clock by Leslie Stein captured my interest. It’s a great example of the genre’s burgeoning popularity and adult appeal.

Published by Fantagraphics in 2016, Time Clock is the third in the Eye of the Majestic Creature series. It centres around Stein’s semi-autobiographical alter ego, Larrybear, and her group of friends as they wander through “the vicissitude of everyday life.”

Larrybear is a typical struggling artist living in Brooklyn; she has a passion for building sand sculptures and pays rent with her serving job wages. Within this familiar story Stein includes a touch of magical realism, the supporting cast includes Larrybear’s two roommates: a cigarette-smoking, pie-baking, gardening guitar, and Marshy, the Marshmallow.

The plot: When Marshmallow slides into a depression and Larrybear receives an order of defective sand, they head to the countryside for a much-needed timeout. But after a short while, Larrybear’s job calls her back to help manage the restaurant. On her premature return she starts drinking heavily to cope. Life starts to get sloppy, is Larrybear losing control?

Time Clock depicts people who get high, get drunk, get sarcastic and get naked (in that HBO Girls kind of way). In a 2016 interview with Comic Book Resources, Stein says that she uses her characters to show an “honest take on what (she’s) witnessing and experiencing on the planet at the moment. Everything is really sad, beautiful, and funny.”

Like any artistic medium, graphic novels can be entertainment, a glimpse into another life and/or social commentary. Stein is candid about describing a young woman’s efforts to scrape by and the result is a saucy capture of being a twenty-something in our modern world.

Graphic novels use images in a sequence to express a story — like a comic book — and  have a looser structure than a traditional novel. Graphic novel express the voice of the author through the aesthetic of the images as much as in the written words. Connecting with the artwork creates an understanding of the tone and artist; this distinctly visual interpretation offers an additional dynamic to the reader’s experience of a story.

In Time Clock, Stein uses simple, cartoon-like imagery for her characters and the irreverent nature of her style lends comedy to the rather melancholy material.  

Time Clock is evidence of how much more than comedic indulgence — or sagas of superheroes — graphic novels have to offer. If you haven’t indulged in them yet, I highly suggest giving them a try.

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