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The Comics Reporter has an interview with Lynda Barry up that is THE MUST READ of the week and maybe the month because this artist is a national treasure, and when you read things like this, it just amazes and saddens:

I was at a pretty low point because I was also getting kicked out of news papers left and right, I’ve gone from being in over 70 papers to being in 7 papers. I was scrambling to find a way to keep working. My solution was to start selling original art on eBay. I just said, ‘to hell with it!’ and opened a version of my own hotdog stand on eBay and started selling pictures and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made because I can still support myself, though it’s still a struggle.

The other way I was able to make some money was by teaching writing workshops, and it was teaching that really helped shape What It Is. It turns out I love to make pictures and I love to teach, so even if I couldn’t get published or keep my comic strip going in newspapers I found a way to keep going.

Of course there’s also happier stuff:

Comics are more like music to me than like plain old reading, and music changes the more you hear it because there are so many elements — from lyrics to melody to rhythm to duration in time. Comics have this same mix of elements and just as songs come back to me during my day, so comics came back. And when they did I noticed it and those were the ones I was more likely to wish to include. The thing I loved about this was I could never predict which ones would come back. There are still some comic panels that come back to me all the time. Kaz’s work in particular seems to come back like a song. Who knows why? His work really stays in my head and not just stays in my head but makes me happy when I remember it. How does that work? How can an image that just comes up in your mind make you feel happy? I don’t know! But I know that comics can do that. Don Martin from Mad Magazine did that for me a lot when I was a kid, and so did Big Daddy Roth’s Rat Finks. I just had them in my head like toys and they made me feel better. Dr. Seuss is in there, too. I think that guy is a cartoonist and I think I may have learned quite a bit from him.

One thing that’s touched on in the interview — and continues to be touched on — is whether Barry should have been included in the Masters of American Comics exhibit. At the recent Post-Bang symposium, this was brought up on the “What is Canon” panel, where Dan Nadel argued that Barry could have been in the show, while John Carlin, who organized it–well, he didn’t really defend his choices. He just said he had made choices, and that the arguments over the choices would be as valuable as the choices.

The context for this debate was Carly Berwick’s question “Why Have There Been No Great Women Comic-Book Artists?” and it’s interesting to ponder Carlin’s non-criteria. The decision to put Barry in the show — if she was ever even seriously considered — would have answered Berwick’s question once and for all. But why make history, really? Why rewrite the narrative and pioneer a new way of thinking? That would take true initiative. But not this time.

Maybe someday.

In the meantime, Lynda Barry is back and we must never let her go again.


  1. He just said he had made choices, and that the arguments over the choices would be as valuable as the choices.

    This is a pretty Zen way to look at something like this, and I can’t really disagree.

    That said, seeing Lynda Barry at the Free Library was one of the best things I’ve done in a long, long time. In terms of speaking events that have rocked my world, she stands alongside Governor Jerry Brown and Kurt Vonnegut and Ira Glass for most memorable public lectures. Definitely. And I go to a lot of these freaking things.

    She might very well have been the best I’ve ever seen.

    No, Vonnegut was the best, but she might be a tight second.

  2. This interview really is spectacular, and worth reading from start to finish. Barry’s work is something I’ve grown to really appreciate and enjoy, and this offers spectacular insight into her career and world-view, good stuff.

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