More Minis from Lauren Barnett and Dina Kelberman

Posted by on March 24th, 2010 at 8:29 AM

Rob reviews recent minis from Lauren Barnett and Dina Kelberman.

As readers of my blog know, Dina Kelberman has become a favorite of mine over the past year or so. Her delightfully warped 4-page zine series, THE REGULAR MAN, is part conceptual art-as-packaging and part highly-abstracted autobio comic. Issue #6 features the usual set of tricks from Kelberman: varied and weird panel design; lettering that has both narrative and decorative qualities; a non-intuitive use of color; a geometric and highly-simplified character design; and slightly over-the-top character interaction. #6 featured the presumed author talk about “giving up”, only to be chastised by a friend about defining what those terms even mean.

Issue #7 is even more conceptual; when we open up the comic, it’s a photo of someone reading the comic in a sketchbook, with a hand placed over some of the content. The issue itself details the author’s own antisocial tendencies, being chastised for always being “inside or on the internet”. Of course, the punchline of this strip is that it’s being read inside by an unknown person. Every issue of this odd little series is a tiny gem, giving the reader a taste of Kelberman’s worldview in fragmented form. Kelberman’s devotion to production values for such a small zine is in itself an oddity, and yet another factor that makes me look forward to each issue.

It’s clear that Lauren Barnett is furiously devoted to developing as an artist. Her latest minicomic, WAS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY?, manages to combine her pleasant meandering through her own thoughts with a surprisingly coherent through-line. In this issue, Barnett drew from her childhood diaries and turned excerpts from them into comics. Those self-deprecating looks at her past contrasted nicely with her present-day ramblings about finding apartments, the ups and downs of living in Brooklyn, milk duds and the adventures of her cat.

What emerges from this comic is a continuity of self that’s remained largely unchanged as Barnett has gotten older. It’s not Barnett who’s changed, it’s the world. She still has the urge to stomp into her room and slam the door the way she did when she was 15, but understands all too well that this is no longer an option. She wishes that being in an office as an adult was as exciting as it was when she played at office when she was 9 years and pretending to be President Niki Taylor. There’s an ever-present lightness to Barnett’s comics that shows through in her crude figurework. Through her diligence in continuing to draw, a sense of style has started to emerge in her art as she has started to become more comfortable with her line. Barnett still has a ways to go to truly work out her voice as a creator, but one can see how she’s progressing as a humorist and memoirist.

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