I’d say self-deprecating autobiographical comics by smart, talented women is officially a genre, and a sub-genre of that is self-deprecating autobiographical comics by smart, talented women with a biting, candid, sometimes inappropriate sense of humor. In this sub-genre, the humor is derived from the cartoonist simultaneously hold out their self-assuredness as a vehicle for self-deprecation.
This is a good thing, since in the right hands, it mashes up ego and humility for good laughs, and makes the cartoonist actually more accessible in a weird way.
Beth Heinly helms the 3:00 Tumblr , which streams her short cartoons along with various photos and other Tumblry things, but So Far So Good is pure comics and, in it, Heinly proves herself to be a master of this sub-genre. That is, she’s really funny.
Heinly’s comics mostly consist of conversational encounters with friends, boyfriends, and others, where she puts them in their place through honesty, sometimes not even meaning to, thanks to a kind of innocent obliviousness these encounters can project. But it’s that honesty that turns it into a situation where you laugh and think that you wish you could say something like that, which turns her into a kind of cartoonist folk hero / force to be reckoned with, right?
I also really enjoyed Heinly’s standalone How To Get Banned From A Feminist Zine Fest, which is exactly what the title says it is. It’s a glorious train wreck, like an extended version of what she masters on one-page in So Far So Good.
Trilogy of Horror takes the idea of making comics about real life and uses it to go wild on tangents embracing blood and gore and horror movie cliches. Each story starts out with an ordinary conflict, like house cats start showing a violent side upon moving to a new place or a waitress’ constant bumbles cause complaints which creates a cycle that she can’t escape from or a day at the beach causes the mind to wander into daydream. Any of these can happen to anyone, but Heinly takes them to an over-the-top level of nightmarishness, which perhaps isn’t too far removed from the classic slasher movies anyhow — the victims in them are always doing something mundane. Heinly is just shifting the activity that leads to the bloodbath.
John Seven is a journalist and children’s book writer living in North Adams, Massachusetts. His books include ‘A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide To Anarchy,’ ‘Happy Punks 1-2-3,’ ‘Frankie Liked To Sing,’ and others. Find out about all his things at johnseven.me.