It’s a punk rock life in this latest collection of Ben Snakepit’s daily diary strip.
288 pgs., B&W; $14.95
(W / A: Ben Snakepit)
Since 2001, Ben Snakepit has been chronicling his daily life in a series of three-panel comic strips. The comics from the years 2013 through 2015 are now available from Microcosm Publishing as a paperback collection, Manor Threat, the title referring to the town near Austin where Snakepit and his wife Karen move during the years covered by this collection.
The format of Manor Threat couldn’t be simpler. Snakepit draws one comic per day, directly in ink (i.e., no preliminary pencil work). Each is titled with the name of a song and the band who performed it, plus the date of creation. Almost every strip has three panels of the same size, and in this collection four strips appear on each page, in chronological order. That layout might sound like a recipe for monotony, but in fact the opposite is true. By keeping it simple and consistent, Snakepit increases the feeling of intimacy between himself and the reader, while avoiding anything that might seem like pretention, so that after you’ve read this collection you feel like you actually know the guy who created it, and you wouldn’t mind having a beer with him should the opportunity arise.
Snakepit has been doing daily comics for 15 years, and although he certainly did not invent the genre of autobiographical comics, (several different creators have been credited with drawing the first autobiographical comics), he may have been the first to produce a daily diary comic. It doesn’t really matter, because the question is not who was first to do something, but who is worth reading. And if you like the diary type of comic, then this collection is certainly worth your time.
Manor Threat finds Snakepit dealing with issues that will be familiar to many young adults as they find themselves reaching the age where it’s time to join conventional adult life. He’s been married one year, he and his wife are trying to conceive a child, and they are looking to buy their first home. He has a boring office job, but it pays the bills and allows him time to draw and play in a heavy metal band in the evening. He goes on a diet and exercise program and does lose weight, only to backslide and gain much of it back. It’s all narrated in the first person, and much of what is related in the strips is quite ordinary, because that’s what most of life is like. Here’s the narration of the events of 9-13-2013, for instance:
Panel 1: “Work got pretty busy. I will probably have to work this weekend.”
Panel 2: “I took Karen out to dinner.”
Panel 3: “Then we watched funny videos on YouTube.”
Most of the art is basically representational, with a few recurring metaphors. When Snakepit spends a lot of time playing video games, for instance, he depicts himself as a steaming pile of shit. When he feels fat or skips a workout, he draws himself as Jabba the Hut. The simplicity of the art, and Snakepit’s lack of concern with “good” draftsmanship (instance, his characters all have noodle arms, as if they had no bone structure), is endearing and consistent with the ordinariness of most of the events depicted. Interestingly, he shares this lack of interest in conventional art skills with many of the female pioneers of autobiographical comics, including Lynda Barry. When he does splash out a bit and do a day’s comic as a full page, or coordinate a design across multiple strips so they form an integrated whole, the effect is all the greater because of the departure from his usual rhythm of one three-panel strip per day.
Manor Threat is published by Microcosm Publishing, with a street date of August 9, 2016. You can see a preview on the publisher’s web site. | Sarah Boslaugh