September 24, 2014

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How I Learned To Live Forever by Mike King


Written, drawn, and published by Mike King

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that comics can be more than just entertainment. They can be art, catharsis, an escape from reality, or whatever we need them to be. As you stray further and further away from mainstream comics, you get more and more books that are heartfelt, often somewhat autobiographical attempts at making sense of the world – books that are important to one’s mental well-being and general sanity. Mike King’s work is one of these. As you read, you can feel his need to create, the emotion with which he imbues every panel on every page. He recently collected a year’s worth of work, the first five issues of his zine Lion’s Teeth, as well as Teen Wizard and a few smaller creations, into one gigantic book titled How I Learned to Live Forever.

The work collected in How I Learned to Live Forever does not follow a particular story. There are recurring characters all living in what appears to be the same world together, but each single page story is more of a picture of their daily lives than actual plot. Also collected in the book are images of King’s tattoo and graffiti art, as well as some drawings he did just because he could. His style is composed of thick line art inspired by street and tattoo chic, and influenced by classic manga. This fairly simple art style thoroughly compliments his characters and storytelling, fitting each page perfectly and accentuating King’s originality.

This book is much more about personal growth than it is about character development or plot. As you read, you can feel how immensely King grew as a cartoonist and as a person in the relatively short period of time he has collected within the pages. Comics, to him, are a need, a compulsion, and you can feel that intense love for the medium in every drawing (even the ones he admits to being reluctant to include). The book is entertaining - enjoyable, funny, and thoughtful throughout, and feels almost validating. Seeing King’s passion for comics can make you think about how you feel about the medium, love and life, friendship and camaraderie, and about how great comics really are.

How I Learned to Live Forever is a book for people who love comics. Along with how heartwarming it is to see Mike King grow as a cartoonist and as a person between the cover, it is also incredibly inspiring to see how his need to make comics has made him prolific, and seems to have generally enhanced his quality of life.

If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Mike, he will insist that you don’t wait, that you make everything you want to make. His work gives you the feeling you can do just that, like you can create whatever you want, and that it is totally possible to achieve your goals and strive for more. Mike King is the kind of person you want to be reading when you start making comics, and this book is a perfect place to start.