Ah, Jane Mai, she who I am a little bit in love with. I think a lot of people were a little surprised by Mai’s first book release, Sunday In The Park With Boys, from Koyama Press late last year: finding the subject matter of mental quicksand, psychological cages and depression was largely at odds with the work she had produced til date. Yes, her comics can be cute and culturally referential, but that’s Mai’s forte: she can go from whimsy and rainbows to stuff that’s atmospheric and unsettling, often mixing the two for acerbic and biting commentary.

And she doesn’t do it through writing alone -compare the images above and below for example, and observe how the change in art style contributes to the feel and emotion of the narrative at hand. So yes, Mai is pretty damn talented, and while I’ll check out anything she makes, I particularly hope she produces more long form comics that continue to explore her interests and capabilities in as fruitful a manner as her current output.

Aside: I love how Mai draws on coloured backgrounds (the choice of colour usually reflects the tone of the piece)- I’m sure other artists do this too, but I associate it only with her and it’s very fitting somehow.

You can find Mai’s website here, and buy her work here.



  1. Jane Mai!!! I am also a little bit in love with her! I’d totally be down for a Jane Mai appreciation day! We could call it: Mai Appreciate of Jane.

    Anyway, lame jokes aside, to me, she feels like the only contemporary of Dash Shaw. Both seem to use the same bag of tricks – the colored paper; the deceptively “simple” art style; the turning conventions on their head to bring emotions out in new ways…but Hell if I can figure out what they’re actually doing. Both are kinda doing a new style of comics and…I suddenly feel bad. I’m not trying to see a woman’s work in context of a man’s, so excuse me if that’s how this reads. I just think both Mai and Shaw are in a class by themselves reinventing the way comics are read.

    Mai is much better at putting our lives in context with the extreme emotions around us. I think she’s alone there. Her jokes are funny because it’s easy to see ourselves in those same situations even if they get a bit crazy. Her somber stories hit hard because, once again, they’re so relatable. She has a rare gift for telling stories that can cover a great deal of emotion and still be relatable.

  2. You’re too kind, Zainab. You are by far my favorite writer on The Beat. You cover all the off the beaten path stuff I love so much and you have a way of extracting the cool essence and bringing it out.

    Plus, I’m pretty sure you’re the one who put me on to Jane Mai in the first place! You find the good stuff sooner than anyone!

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