Saturday, August 15, 2009

Potential - Ariel Schrag

I recently picked up Ariel Schrag's Potential at borders in the remainders section. It was $2.99. I was browsing the aisle and it caught my eye as 'looking like comics' and indeed it was comics. I also picked up Best American Comics 2006 at the same time for the same price.

I am a sucker for comics autobiography. I have a very high tolerance for some things that seem to bother other people. I actually tend to appreciate the sort of 'here's what I did today, isn't it special?' sort of web comics that I have seen panned in books and articles about webcomics. That isn't to say that I don't like exceptionally good stuff (Fun Home, A Drifting Life, Persepolis, etc.), just to say that I am not a snob with this stuff.

Potential was written in the summer of 1997 after Ariel Schrag's Junior year of High School. It is part of a series of comics she drew each summer during HS that dealt with the prior school year. It is drawn in a pretty rough style that while occasionally difficult to distinguish characters by looks, is still really expressive. The style itself seems to reflect the situations it depicts, making it feel like you are reading the author's emotions at the same time you are following the story and the characters. The facial expressions as well are very good, and you can feel the character's ups as well as the too frequent downs.

The story is one of self-realization and experimentation and awkward High School social drama. It is also a look at what life can be like when everyone knows you are documenting everything. It is also about reconciling your sexuality with your preconceived ingrained notions of the way things need to be. In the book, Ariel is really only sexually attracted to girls, but considers herself a virgin until she has sex with a guy. I don't think there are any apologies in this, or attempts to make things like that look reasonable either. It is a good representation of the sort of chaos that can constantly bombard you in adolescence.

This comic has a lot of nudity in it. It also seems to have a requirement that the word 'dyke' be used twice in every line of dialog. I love lesbians, but am not a fan of the word dyke. I guess that is something I should get over, but it always sounds like an insult rather than a non-judgmental sort of label. There are a lot of words like this, and in general I'm not a fan.

I enjoyed this book. It made me really sad in places because I understand a number of things she was going through better than I would like to. Almost everything she goes through is at least an offshoot of a sort of universal theme, if not a universal theme itself. That's the great thing about autobiographies, as you read other people's stories you find that you are not really as unique or alone as you might think.

I will most likely get the rest of the books relating to her HS days at some point. It is doubtful that I will get as good of a deal on them.

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