At the very start of the year I wrote about my favourite webcomics of ‘08 on my old LiveJournal and to end it I’d like to tell you my Top 5 for 2009. I ended up writing quite a lot so I’m splitting it into five posts. I’ll post a comic a day counting down from 5. Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.
4. Inkdick by Pranas T. Naujokaitis
Inkdick is not some kind of cartoonist porn, but rather a simple daily journal comic that has slowly become one of my favourites.
Naujokaitis’ strip is pretty similar at first glance to many autobio strips out there. It’s black and white, concerns a young, geeky, American guy and his partner, in this case his girlfriend Amy. They don’t have a cat, surprisingly, but they do have a Hamster called Moxie.
The secret to Naujokaitis’ success isn’t that noticeable at first glance, so I’ll let you in on it: it’s his admirable persistence. He draws a comic everyday and like James Kochalka, who is no doubt an influence, his regularity forces him to draw upon ever smaller moments of his day to create his comic, to think of life a little differently and this creates something familiar and yet interesting for the reader. But while Kochalka is set in his world and family, Naujokaitis is affected by modern America much more and seeing things like Obama getting sworn in from his perspective is enlightening. It’s also strengthened his art pretty quickly, his cartooning is very good.
Through such regular comics we learn a lot more about Naujokaitis’ life, and his persistence is evident all over. In February, after struggling to find work, he started a job in a Peanut Shop (as a Brit I have no idea why such a thing would even exist), a job he quickly grew to hate. There’s plenty of comics about the soul destroying repetitiveness and grief of selling nuts to tourists. It’s clearly cathartic but it’s never just moaning, there’s either a glimmer of hope or he exaggerates it for comic effect. He finally found another job in a comic store this August. I was happy for him.
His year has been full of the many little ups and a few big downs that make up life. His Mother battled cancer, his Brother went to Iraq, his friend and comics tutor Sweetwater died and he paid to see Watchmen. But throughout it all he maintains a determination to work hard and pull through it. He tackles getting better at comics, personal frustrations and relationship hurdles and he clearly learns a little from each clash and remains to fight another day. His positivity is honest and day by day, strip by strip, he becomes an endearing character indeed. Amy is in a lot of the strips too but their relationship is not often the focus of them, instead their love for each other is implied over time in the small details and every now and again he’ll show you something genuinely touching.
Autobio comics strive or fail not by how exciting that cartoonist’s life is but by who they are as a person and what their point of view has to show us. For Naujokaitis, like Pekar before him, it’s that everyday struggles are often are our biggest challenges and our good days, our biggest successes.