August 25, 2013

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SPX Spotlight 2013: Cara Bean

Welcome to another entry in the 2013 SPX Spotlight series!  For the next month, I'll be highlighting creators and publishers who will be at the best convention, the Small Press Expo.  You can check out all of my spotlights for SPX from both this year and prior years here.

James Kochalka was a huge influence on my taste (and still is) when it comes to independent comics. His heartfelt and brutally honest autobiographical comics captured my attention and led me to investigate those of others. While I read less of them now than I used to, I still really appreciate cartoonists who find new and varied ways to talk about their life, without aping the style of Kochalka.

That's a pun intended here, since Cara Bean's main mini-comic is called Gorilla Year. It's mixed between things that are real and things that aren't. which means that get a bit of a fictional vibe to the autobiographical narrative. She has two editions of the comic available as I write this.

My first experience with Bean's work was The Gremlins Movie Incident, a cute mini-comic revolving around a movie that absolutely terrified me as a child, Gremlins. (It is the movie, after all, that caused them to make a PG-13 level.) Bean's work on this one really hooked me on her as a creator, though for some reason, I don't think I ever reviewed it. I liked how Bean captured the feelings related to the movie quite well, which is essential to cartoonists of her genre.

Bean also appears in This Isn't Working, an anthology of stories about ex-boyfriends (review here), with a tightly-wound story using knitting as a focal device. Again, the storytelling is quite strong, making up for artwork that is a bit more primitive than some of her peers, especially in the same anthology.

Her newest work tells the story of being an art teacher. I don't have a copy yet, but it's on my list of things to look for at SPX. As a former teacher myself, I can't wait to see what her crisp eye for autobiography tells us about her own experiences.

Can't make SPX? Well, don't feed your mogwai after midnight next time. However, you can find Cara on the web here, which includes a link to her store.