October 3, 2010

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Sketchbook Comix 1 and 2

Written by Anthony Woodward
Illustrated by Anthony Woodward
Self-Published

I don't remember exactly how I found out about Woodward's diary mini-comics, but since I am a fan of the format, whoever turned me on to them didn't exactly have a hard sell.

These two collections date back to 2008, when Woodward was looking to go to Canada, presumably for a fresh start. As things progress across the comics, however, not all goes as Woodward hopes. The country itself is pretty good to him and his family, as they go on trips into the countryside and enjoy the culture and medical wonders of Canada.

There's one big problem, however--Woodward can't get a job, and the stress of what will happen next as time goes on lurks under even the happy times that Woodward portrays in his panels.

In the end, a tough decision must be made, and Woodward does his best to show the pain inherent in the decision. Canada was nice, but as the second mini ends, it's time to go back to Australia. The experiment is over, at least for now.

In an introduction to the first collection, Woodward describes the genesis of these comics, initially as a way to pass the time and eventually as a creative output in its own right. He does a really nice job of avoiding the biggest mistake of diary comics--keeping things interesting.

While the struggles to put a new life together in Canada dominate, we also get strips about picking up new art supplies or indulging in Woodward's pet obsession, UFOs. Little details, such as complaining about the New York Times Crossword having too many American clues also pepper the pages. One of my favorites is when Woodward wishes he could draw during a concert but knows it's considered rude to do so. I feel exactly the same way, though in my case, it's writing.

Woodward's art style is pretty typical of the person making a diary comic. His characters are easily recognizable, and a lot of everyday objects dominate. He's on a level that's higher than Kochalka and Brown, but below the technical level of most Oni Press artists who work in similar personal-style comics.

Engaging, funny, and just a bit heart-breaking as things gets harder for Woodward and his family, these comics are a very good example of the autobiographical mini that uses diary strips to tell the story. I'd definitely recommend these comics to others, and since Woodward has an Etsy site, that's easy for me to do. Check a few out and see what you think.