Watching Days Become Years #4 (Sparkplug Comic Books)

watching-header.jpgJeff LeVine’s autobiographical journal-comic is melancholic, but if you can get into a sometimes-dark meditation on the meaning of it all, this Bud’s for you.



36 pgs. B&W; $5

(W / A: Jeff LeVine)


When Jeff LeVine writes in his autobiographical journal-comic Watching Days Become Years, "I spent the day reading… Diderot," the reader knows all he needs to know. There are precious few human beings who will—by choice—spend the day reading the work of dead French philosophers.

LeVine is an autodidact, plowing through Diderot, Dickens, and a respectable menu of DVDs and CDs as well, on a quest for meaning. WDBY is an expressionistic ordering of the results. Panels depict city scenes, his living room, the office where he works, denuded winter trees, and so on. They are accompanied by captions that aren’t intended to literally match the drawings, but to muse.

For instance, LeVine writes "Sometimes I feel like I learned everything important or worthwhile that I know in my dreams," and the accompanying panel is a drawing of a dark room with an open door leading to another room. His response, "So why must I wake up?" is accompanied by a drawing of a showerhead, symbolic of the morning wake-up ritual.

Sound melancholic? Fatalistic, even? Yeah, if you can get into a sometimes-dark meditation on the meaning of it all, this Bud’s for you. If not, that’s understandable. Socrates famously said "the unexamined life is not worth living." LeVine, with his voracious reading, and by the drawings in evidence here, is examining. He’s just not quite sure what it’s all worth.

The cover to Watching Days Become Years. Click for a larger image.When he writes "I hope it’s still possible to avoid the completely obvious solution," you feel afraid for him; it would seem he’s dealing with the classic philosopher’s dilemma, "to be or not to be." Thankfully, he answers himself in a later panel with "But I’m not going anywhere" and the reader of this visual diary feels a bit cheered. To be informed that a particularly sensitive creator of comics who’s let a world of readers into his mind has chosen to shut down that mind would just be too horrific. And if this is a cry for help, Mr. LeVine, I’m hearing it—I hope those close to you are, too.

The utilitarian black-and-white art appears to be done in pens and markers, and is noteworthy for its frequent absence of human subjects. The artist draws inspiration from empty public and private places, which isn’t surprising. There are a few narrative pieces, but this feels more like a sketchbook captioned with existential notes. Some drawings are merely adequate. Some are piquant with the feel of overlooked life captured with a marvelous eye for the mundane. In any case, they are elevated by LeVine’s interpretative captions.

Anyone who has ever wondered how the hell he is going to read the 32 jillion books he intends to before he croaks will appreciate one nine-panel sequence, illustrated with drawings of piles of books: "Endlessly shocking… how fast the seasons turn… the summer heat… another weekend… inside-out… all I ever hoped for… simply… more time… lots more time."

Some will find this nagging philosophizing to be morose. For others, including myself and perhaps comics creators like Nate "Please Release" Powell, this questing serves as a mirror for our own, and it has a way of making most other comics seem secondary by comparison. | Byron Kerman

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