There are a whole slew of blogs and webcomics hoping to find a way to get notice in the increasingly competitive and sometimes crowded digital marketplace. However, quite often, it’s that blog or webcomic that connects to a reader on a personal level that makes the most lasting impression and creates the greatest tether to the fans. In this week’s Flashback Friday, I’m throwing my gaze on an autobiographical book based on one such blog, Allie Brosh’s hilarious and deeply personal Hyperbole and a Half.
If you have never before visited Hyperbole and a Half, which Brosh updates intermittently, it’s—well, how do I explain it? It’s deeply personal. She mines her life’s history to entertain readers with stories of childhood, like the time she felt menacing and powerful dressed in a dinosaur costume as a kid at a Halloween party, so menacing and powerful that she stole sugar from the pantry and had a mini-stampede. The personal extends past the humorous, though. She uses a combination of seemingly-crudely drawn artwork that is her signature style to bring us through the sometimes-murky waters of her own struggles with depression.
But one thing is clear, Brosh is always able to mix the humorous with the dark, the high-minded with the profane. While she might mix giggles bombs with her story of depression, she’s often downright slapstick-funny as well, such as when she’s describing the distinct personalities of her neurotic dog and her not-so-bright puppy, and making readers all shake their heads in the shared experience when the canines “make food” and eat their own vomit.
I’ve mentioned her entries on depression, which she includes in the book, quite a few times already for a few reasons, one such reason being that those entries got a lot of traffic and sharing on the ‘net not too long ago. Her personal story with depression is one that has resonated with quite a few fans, myself included. More than just about any other depiction of the illness across all media, Brosh is able to capture the conflicting emotions and sometimes-irrational feelings that are associated with depression, emotions and feelings that many readers have experienced in their own struggles. Brosh shows a disease that isn’t just a case of feeling blue, but one that can bring with it manic behavior, hopelessness, and turmoil. However, using her wordsmithery (a new word, right there) and art, it never feels as though she’s removed from her story from a clinical standpoint. Readers nod their heads in agreement while reading because they’ve been where she was. And somehow, while she’s discussing depression, it never slows down the story or put a halt on the laughter at all. She manages to make us laugh when we could be crying.
And speaking of the art, a word: While Brosh’s drawings look simple on the surface, she has admitted on such media outlets as NPR that the process takes a long time, specifically in the color choice, word placement, and facial expressions that really sell what she’s trying to convey. However, the seeming simplicity of the art has another purpose besides bringing the funny and moving her stories along: they help make the audience relate to Brosh’s experiences, as they are situations many of us have encountered. The face on the page could be our own face, putting us into the story. Also: if you haven’t encountered the CLEAN ALL THE THINGS meme taken from her site, you might be living under a rock. Leave the rock. Rocks are dirty.
Be sure to check out this book, which pulls material from her blog and coupling it with brand new work. Thanks for joining us this week, kids! Tune in next week as I discuss a book that combines my love of pop culture and graphs, Tim Leong’s Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe.