Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dork: Circling The Drain - Evan Dorkin

Dork: Circling the Drain (Volume 2)
By Evan Dorkin
SLG 2003

Evan Dorkin has always been worth reading, mostly for his quite brilliant, vicious, homicidal Dairy Products Gone Bad: Milk & Cheese. But he’s done a lot of other things as well. I still remember his old Pirate Corp$ comics fondly with their mix of Ska, Sci-Fi and silliness. (They’re available now as Hectic Planet Volumes 1 & 2).

But he’s never really made a big impact in the comics world, which is a real shame, because things like Milk & Cheese and Dork are excellent and funny comics. Well, they were.
(dairy products gone bad, borrowed from Evan’s official site)
Until this volume.
Suddenly we get to see a completely new side to the funny, cynical, biting wit that is Evan Dorkin. He’s always made a point of lampooning himself quite mercilessly in his comics. He’ll write about his lack of success, his insecurities as both writer and artist, his perfectionism and his continual belief that what he does just isn’t all that good. But it’s always been as an aside, something in addition to the brilliantly funny strips he puts before us.

And for the first half of Circling the Drain, it seems its business as usual. Lots of funny stuff going on in here, all served up with Dorkin’s usual cynical style and cluttered artwork. He puts an awful lot of stuff into every page, but that’s just part of his scattershot style and works.
But about halfway through something darker takes hold. Dorkin breaks into the strip, nothing unusual, it’s a device he’s always used, except this time all is obviously not well with the artist:

“Now, where was I? You’ll have to forgive me. I kind of don’t have anything planned out here. Sorry……Things have been pretty hectic lately……. Anyway…um….shit. Give me a few seconds and I’ll come up with something”

And then we’re back to normal gags. Except it happens again next page and again, and again. Until it’s suddenly a comic not by Evan Dorkin but plainly about Evan Dorkin. And Evan Dorkin is obviously not very well. Everything that had been talked about by him before; the insecurities, the inadequacy, the stress, everything is suddenly much, much worse.

“I can’t work. When I can work, I can’t get anything done. I have plenty of ideas … I just can’t write or draw them.”
“I’ve never been happy with my work …. When my work began to receive some attention I took this as a two edged sword, as things got better for me, they got worse”
“I began to feel pressured, I began to second guess everything I did … Every drawing … Every idea… and every line of dialogue”

And it only gets worse from there. And it’s all chillingly unfolding on the comic page in front of you. Whether it’s a breakdown or not quite that bad doesn’t really matter, what is patently obvious is how much pain Dorkin’s in while writing and drawing this.
And it makes absolutely enthralling reading. I hesitate to call it entertaining, because of the subject matter, but it’s certainly fascinating to observe.

But very few of you will be aware of how good a book Dork is, whether you want the first volume for gag heavy material from a genuinely funny and talented man or want to delve into something much deeper and darker in volume 2 you should be reading Dork.
(And because I know you wish him well, because he’s a nice bloke and draws great things, the good news is that he’s a little more back on track. There’s a lovely moment at the end of Dork when Sarah Dyer (Dorkin’s wife and talented creator in her own right) breaks into the strip and saves the day. The good news is that he and Sarah had a lovely little girl and all seems a lot better now. Hopefully this means that we’ll be seeing something new in print from Dorkin sometime soon. Surely it’s time for another Milk & Cheese # 1? Evan has a blog here and also shares The House of Fun with Sarah Dyer.

(Originally posted on PROPAGANDA @ FPI blog here)

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