Spontaneity in human form. That’s how I’d describe Dami Lee, going by her new book Be Everything At Once: Tales of a Cartoonist Lady Person. She depicts herself in both comics and writing as an eccentric, impulsive, memey, smiley, anxious, awkward woman with the occasional quarter-life crisis- and she does so in a very genuine, exposed way.
I’m very skeptical of humorous life comics as a great deal of it will rely on self deprecation to be funny. Lee definitely doesn’t pull punches for herself, but it doesn’t feel like she’s beating herself to make you laugh. Rather, it seems she’s owning her ridiculousness and poor decisions, and on top of that, showing we can all afford to take ourselves a bit less seriously. We can all stand to take more risks and call out our own less-than-responsible decisions. “These are things l’ve learned from being good at some things to being unbelievably horrible at others. But how else would I have found out I’m okay at or what I should never, ever attempt to do again, unless I tried?” This is a very charming sentiment. I find comfort in that, personally, as someone who’s spent a good deal of her early 20s experiencing many many new and strange things. Heck, no wonder I relate, coming into the profession of publishing pop culture reviews and editorials on a real website being one of those things! (Yikes, let’s get a little less meta…)
Now while I happen to also be a cartoonist lady person as well, this book can and does relate to others outside the creative realm. Some artists get flack for churning out “#relatable content” to the point where artists like Shen Comix will parody it. I find it refreshing that Lee’s work doesn’t seem to come out of the need for a paycheck or cringing so hard you did a parody. The basis for genuine relatable content should be your honest thoughts and experiences. And for Lee, this has lead to not just her success, but a fulfilling sense of connection. To quote the book directly again, “One of the internet’s greatest strengths is how it can remind you that you’re never the only person to experience anything.” A large portion of Lee’s story is about feeling like you don’t belong, only to find you’re never truly alone.
Quite possibly, you might look at Dami Lee’s comics and go “big deal, a child could do that!” but take it from another artist, you’re wrong and that’s a mean thing to say. Go pet a dog. In all seriousness, when I see work like this, my concern is audiences who will criticize them for what appears to be simplistic art. While shows like Adventure Time and Gravity Falls have given the general mainstream pause before discounting a colorful, simplistic style, I find some of the masses really are tired of it- myself included at times! But Lee’s style is uniquely her own, soft, easily digestible, and concise.
Be Everything At Once is available now at local bookstores and online retailers.
Freelance cartoonist, illustrator, & writer
School of Visual Arts Alumna