Planet Karen #2

Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2007
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of Planet Karen #2 Creator(s): Karen Ellis
Publishers: Self Published
Price: UK 1.50.

In which we follow the events making up Karen’s life from of the 1st of April to the 30th of April, 2006, during which she has to deal with poverty, losing an umbrella, being ill, trying to give up smoking, and falling behind in her comics making schedule.

This book presents an ideal opportunity to re-examine the autobiographical comic format, as it self consciously declares its intent with that title. It is Karen drawing Karen, talking about Karen. Does the world need a comic about Karen? Perhaps not her specifically, but it certainly does need records of the lives people lead. We can’t experience everything the world has to offer ourselves, but by sharing in the lives of others through various media we can learn to appreciate other ways of living.

Autobiographical comics are not above criticism, because they still have to make use of all the rhetoric of the comics medium to get across their experiences. A flaw with many autobiographical, comics is that often the creator draws a head talking at us saying ''I did this, I felt like this, then this happened'' Karen is guilty of this in part, but she manages to also do a good job of illustrating the events as they unfold, showing instead of telling. As most of the strips here are four panels on a page each there is not much visual complexity to the stories as they function more like daily strip cartoons with herself as a more energetic Garfield, but every so often she presents us with something more eventful.

Karen’s illustrations are very effectively executed – there is just enough detail to get the events across, and she is very competent with presenting herself and other characters in the three dimensions so that the bodies have mass. She draws herself as a sexy young thing, with a vaguely manga/goth style which transforms into a full on manga style in one strip. The question is whether she is romanticising herself with this representation. We can never know unless we happen to bump into her at the 24 hour services she works at or at a comics’ convention. Would it be a valid criticism of her comic if she turned out not to be quite as cute in real life? Not really, because her comic stands apart as an narrative independently from the “real” Karen .

Warts and all autobiographical works are few and far between because telling your own story always casts you in the positive light of the reformed all knowing narrator: ''I behaved badly, but can realise this now looking back'', and Planet Karen makes Karen out to be the hero of her own life.

It isn't a deep psychological study and neither are the events described particularly noteworthy, but I found this book to be a mildly interesting diversion enliven by attractive artwork.

In a Word: Personable .

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