Lots of people make autobio comix, to the point that it’s an actual genre. Book publishing is littered with autobiographies, but you don’t see that many autobio movies, or TV shows, or video games. One obvious reason for that is the number of people it takes to produce those, making it nearly impossible to maintain the singular vision that makes for autobiography.
Comix straddles the gap between them, often being the work of individual cartoonists, but also collaborative works involving co-writers, pencilers, inkers, flatters, colorists, letterers, editors, and vice presidents of marketing and global branding. Autobio, however, tends to remain the province of singular auteurs.
But not mine.
Harvey Pekar is the cartoonist who showed me that it was possible to do autobio with collaborators. He didn’t draw, so he enlisted a whole range of artists to turn his stories into comix, including Robert Crumb, Frank Stack, Dean Haspiel, and I’m going to stop at the first three I thought of, to avoid trying to curate a representative list.
I do draw, of course, but as I explained last week, I can’t do this whole thing myself. I think Pekar’s work benefited from the great varying artists, and it certainly couldn’t hurt mine! The only question is how to maintain strict authorial control … and the answer is: don’t!
For example, even if you ignore the fact that Jason here is a dozen years younger than in “Cruising the Love Boat”, he doesn’t look the same. Which isn’t the point. One of the reasons Rick agreed to draw this story is because he thought it would be fun to draw Batman fucking Robin, and if that means drawing Jason more twink-y than I am in real life … cool! The essence is there. He’s got dark hair, a goatee, and a foreskin. He’s a horny perv. He’s saying my words. It’s all good.
Truth be told, I play with my appearance to fit my mood and the story too. I fictionalize people, I fudge the details of events, I hazily reconstruct things from memory, and I may even make shit up in the interest of a better story. Because it’s not a documentary, it’s telling tales. I’m not saying that all autobiographers do that … but don’t assume they don’t.
So Rick’s Jason looks a little different, and even his interpretation of the story is a little different from how it plays out in my memory. And that’s what’s great about collaborative comix.
NEXT: Jason’s training as Robin begins!