Lynda Barry Cuddles You with Her Comics
Some days you show up late to work after being pulled over for running multiple red lights on your way there, all because your attempt to cook bacon for breakfast resulted in you nearly burning the house down. At least you’ll surely be tried as a minor because there’s no way a grown adult would attempt to cook bacon in a toaster just to avoid doing the giant pile of dishes in her sink. Now you have to sit in the office with a giant bacon grease stain on your less-than-professional work shirt unable to type due to the toaster burn on your index finger.
You realize that even though you’ve been living on your own and feeding yourself for six years now, you need adult supervision. Your rent is due, you still don’t know how taxes work, and you just want to crawl beneath a blanket made of cotton candy that never runs out and cry, read comic books, and pretend you’re a cowboy surgeon.
Lynda Barry, alternative comic artist and creativity extraordinaire, gets that. With just one comic strip, she can pull you into a super-secret couch cushion fort full of cookies and magic markers and tell you it’s going to be okay.
Looking back on her adolescent years with a refreshing honesty and sustained clarity, her illustrated novels are young adult books for actual adults. Her book Blabber, Blabber, Blabber: Volume 1 of Everything starts out, “THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR KIDS UNLESS THEY HAVE FOUND IT AND ARE sneak-reading it BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HIDE IT WELL ENOUGH.”
Her comic characters connect with her audience simply by being honest about their feelings, even while pushing through the saddest of teenage times and adulthood, which makes you feel like you can too. Maybonne, one of the characters in her most popular weekly comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek, once said:
I’m so depressed. I feel so bad. I feel stupid for even writing this because I know there’s people with way worse lives. I don’t even know what’s wrong because there’s nothing wrong. Except my entire personality. Do you ever get that thing of looking in the mirror and saying “starting now things will be different.” You make the promises: I will do better on all things. I will be more interesting. I will stop letting Doug make out with me whenever he wants. Starting now. Starting right now. Dear God change everything. Here is my permission slip.
Lynda Barry is like that great aunt who, instead of aging into a judgmental lump of cynicism who can’t seem to connect with teens these days, only grew more tender and understanding. In her creative writing and drawing how-to guide What it Is, she explains how the ordinary is key to her creativity:
“What is it? The ordinary is EXTRAORDINARY. The ordinary is extraordinary. The ordinary is the thing we want back when someone we love dies. When someone dies or leaves or falls out of love with us. We call it "little things". We say, ‘it's the little things I miss most.’ The ordinary things. It's the little thing that brings them back to us unexpectedly. We say "reminds us" but it is more than reminding-it's a conflagration-it's an inundation-Both fire and flood is memory. It's spark and breach so ordinary we do not question it. The atom split. The little thing.”
Barry’s honesty, simplicity, and appreciation for others lend you a hand and build a refuge from the often overwhelming burdens of everyday life. As she proclaims in What it Is, “We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.”
Who is Lynda Barry? She’s a goddamn hero.
Here work is available from Drawn & Quarterly