If you haven’t heard the name Erika Moen before or read her work then you’re really missing out. Because she is a talent and a force to be reckoned within the comics world, at least as I see it. She’s been one of my favorite artists and writers since I discovered her strip Dar, which to my regret I only discovered close to the end of the strip. Regret only because I wish I had come across her vibrant personality and wit earlier. At this point I should probably give a word of warning, Dar probably isn’t safe for work….unless you work from home. And not because of explicit content, but because Dar is about Erika’s life and she discusses frankly and openly what goes on in her life. Fart jokes, sex, nudity, sexual orientation, Dar bares all…sometimes quite literally. But you shouldn’t let this scare you off, because Erika’s story is well worth sharing.
Dar chronicles Erika’s life from a college age 20 something year old in 2003 to a maturing artist in 2009 and they can be found in this two volume collection. Over the six year run of the comic we see Erika grow and mature, not only as a person, but as an artist and a writer as well. In the comic Erika shares her journey of discovery in life, from making it at a professional comics artists to her exploration of her sexual orientation from dyke to lesbian to queer–which is a theme many of the strips explore openly and honestly. In fact, this open exploration is what makes Dar one of my favorite strips. Erika shares how others viewed her, conversations that she had (and still has) over those that choose to make her personal life personal to them…which honestly makes me cringe in horror that people can be so callous and stupid. She recently created a comic that illustrates some of these experiences and she also recently gave an interview where she discusses this topic (and also shares some of her wit and wisdom). But more importantly to me, in this comic Erika shares herself. Those feelings that we all seem to get or thoughts that most of us think (although not everyone will admit it) but don’t want to say out loud. Erika gives a voice to that.
To me one of the best things about reading the strip from beginning to end is seeing how Erika’s art style grew and matured over the years. You can see that when she started off she had talent, but she was a young artist just starting to discover how various mediums worked and how to create compositions. And by the middle, I’m not really sure how to describe it, but it feels like we see Erika’s true style emerge, fluid and expressive. I love her depictions of herself and Matt, and how she draws sounds and things that other people have difficulty giving life too. In short, Erika’s style = awesomeness. Erika also recently finished a webcomic series with Jeff Parker called Bucko, where we get to see more of her fantastic skills, and that will be published by Dark Horse Comics this fall. And I hear that they maybe working on a second collection which would be fantastic.
One of the things that is a bit different about the print collections that I want to mention is that Dar volume one starts off with strips from mid 2006-2008 and then volume 2 covers the last year of the strip and loops back to cover the beginning of the strip. So…you kinda have to read out of order if you read the print collection. Or go and read it online and then have the print collections to pull back out from time to time.
I for one look forward to seeing more of what Erika produces and I’m glad that she shared her story with us in Dar. If you don’t like fart jokes, poop jokes, discussions on sexual orientation or sex….then don’t read Dar. If however, you have an open mind and enjoy learning about others then go and give this comic a read. You won’t regret it.