Comics and Cures for 21st Century Panic
Aaaagh! Social media, climate change, politics, corona. In the 1990s we only had a morning newspaper and the news on tv in the evening. Even that sounds so much simpler, so much calmer, than today. It’s not just that the world is so difficult, it is that we have made the world so difficult as well. After reading this comic book, I’m more than ever convinced that we need to take a step back from our phones and remember how to live.
Tommy Siegel is a touring rock musician, and during the course of trying to promote his work on social media, two things happened. First, social media frustrated him so much that he grew a deeper interest in how media impacts our stressed-out lives and in line with that, our 21st century coping mechanisms. Secondly, he had a long-running hobby of doodling while touring, and became inspired to draw a cartoon every day for a year, turning into 500 cartoons in 500 days.
This book collects the best cartoons of those 500 days. The best little doodles about everything that stresses us out and ways in which we try to deal with our anxieties. Little did I expect that this book would annoy me more than it would make me laugh.
Siegel takes detours to other topics, like his experience of being in a rock band, and about his self-imposed challenge of drawing a cartoon every day. I suppose the focus on social media appeared over time and wasn’t his objective from the start. Now it is more like a loose thread running through the book. The focus on his own journey of learning how to draw was a bit superfluous for me (yeah yeah it’s hard trying to draw hands. You’re not the first person learning how to draw).
The promise of social media commentary drew me towards buying this, but at times it focused too much on the artist and not on the art. I wanted to hear about the themes and not so much about his drawing challenge. It’s too self-congratulatory. He milks his drawing challenge for some special-snowflake self-aggrandising narrative. He’s often bragging in footnotes how his cartoons went viral in his own fanbase, or praising his own favourite doodles. He keeps going back to this one picture of a naked man crawling out of a Pringles can and keeps calling it his masterpiece, but I still don’t get the fascination with it.
Ok, so you drew a chicken with a human butt, or a horse with a big butt and a droopy nose, what of it? Why are you insisting in footnotes that it is the funniest thing you ever drew? I might have drawn the same in high school. And then he explains in the book how a picture was retweeted a lot, in the same book that criticises social media. What’s the point? Ok, so you drew a snowman in your characteristic style and then brag in a footnote how people would make actual snowmen in your style. Congratulations. What am I supposed to get from that? I wasn’t laughing.
Ironically, this book came to be through social media. Siegel tells how his regular output of cartoons helped to keep his band in the spotlight on social media, and his fans gave feedback on the cartoons they liked the most. In a sense, this book was published for a pre-established fanbase, which is in itself not a bad thing, but it may explain why the author injects himself to a high degree into this book. It’s the telling of a social media process of how the book came to be, but what are you trying to say with this?
His drawing style is a bit simple, a bit similar to Extra Fabulous Comics or The Far Side, and developed while he practised. My overall impression is that of a starting cartoonist who made the first steps in settling on a theme and a style, and the online affirmation went to his head. There’s a lot of potential here and this is an OK start as a first publication, but please remove yourself from it. The author got on my nerves so much that I could hardly finish the book.
Oh wow, I’ll be avoiding this one! It’s ironic though that he writes about the bad influence of social media and then basically can’t exist away from them, going as far as basing his self-worth on the social media response… 🧐
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yeah, I am still not sure how self aware the author is about this. His argument goes like “social media is bad, except when you can build a fanbase to promote your work”. He selected his cartoons for this book based on how many people liked or shared them, but the pitfall is that those cartoons are often just dumb pictures like a chicken with a big butt, but those are not cartoons with interesting social commentary. It’s the kind of work that makes people giggle for 3 seconds online and then move on to the next thing. If you stumble upon such a picture in a book, it doesn’t have any impact.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Okay, so not much self-awareness, it seems to me 😉 media is bad but not when it works for me – wow.
LikeLiked by 1 person