When it comes to my personal knowledge of web comics, it’s limited to things like Cyanide and Happiness, Toothpaste for Dinner, and Married to the Sea. After concluding that attempting a substantive blog post around one of these comics was not what I wanted to do, I realized I needed to pick a direction. And as someone interested in gender studies, reading (so far) comics by men and predominantly about men (not you, Krazy Kat), I thought it might be interesting to explore female authors (artists? we need a hybrid term here) of comics and/or graphic novels. I ultimately came upon an article titled “Presenting 9 Women Who Write Webcomics That You Should Absolutely Be Reading” (http://www.xojane.com/entertainment/best-webcomics-for-women)
Within that list was Ramsey Beyer. I thought “hey, she has a cool name- I’ll check her out.” Actually, I looked at all the women on the list. But I found Beyer to be the most compelling. In exploring her website (www.everydaypants.com) I came across her graphic novel Year One. This piece is striking and innovative on a number of levels. For starters, Year One began as almost something like a diary. Beyer’s website indicates that when she first moved to Philadelphia, she challenged herself to create a page of comics a week. The comics documented the small details of Beyer’s life in a new city, from things like ripping up the carpet in a new apartment to checking out the streets on her bicycle. Beyer somehow managed to document her personal experiences of acquainting with a new city while also creating something palatable that an audience can enjoy. I haven’t yet read the entire piece (129 pages), but it seems that Beyer is able to use the common themes of everyday life (relationships, work, friends) to produce a compelling narrative. Beyer’s undertaking in Year One was bold but in my opinion a strong success.
While Beyer’s piece is interesting because it does new things with content and style, it’s also intriguing from a lens looking at form. Year One deviates from what could be considered the more-typical graphic memoir. Beyer’s piece reads somewhat like a micro-view of the graphic memoir by examining the day-to-day details that make up an experience. The written diary is an age-old convention, and rarely published for an outside audience, but Beyer manages to put an illustrative spin on that convention while also crafting something valuable. Beyer’s piece is like a graphic memoir except not quite- it details a finite space of time within her life and the audience can also read it with the awareness that it was created while those events were happening (instead of in retrospect). Beyer’s piece ultimately carves out a new graphic form in a way- the “graphic diary” perhaps?
Beyond Beyer’s breaking out of standard conventions of the graphic novel’s creation, she also extends that innovation to its publication. “Year One” is available on Beyer’s website for free (though the option to purchase it is there as well). While her more popular piece, “Little Fish,” is only available for purchase, the decision to leave “Year One” as a free piece strikes me as very savvy. Beyer gives her audience an opportunity to become familiar with the quality of her work before taking the larger leap of purchasing a text. Because some of her work is available for purchase, Beyer isn’t selling herself short as an artist, she’s saying “Hey, I know you don’t know me. Check out my work though, and you’ll see that I’m kicking ass.” Or at least that’s how I interpreted it.
Ultimately, this is the tale of how I stumbled across a strong, talented female comic artist doing new and intriguing things. I’ll attach the first page of Beyer’s Year One because- wow! Check out that work she’s doing with breaking down the panel and exhibiting movement- talk about a strong start. If Beyer isn’t already on the map, I’d say she’s on her way. Also I think this style might be an interesting one to draw from for the web comic assignment- I’d love to see someone’s life in Fredericksburg narrated through a weekly web comic.