Liz Baillie's comics are awesome! I met her, and started reading her work right when she debuted her tenth and final issue of My Brain Hurts. The story focuses on two middle schoolers growing up in New York City, and really gives a powerfully dramatic glimpse into an age just between childhood and adulthood. The thing My Brain Hurts does so well, is it transports you into the characters' world, and that is true on some degree with all of Liz's work.
I've also really been enjoying her 2009 Minicomic of the Month Club. Each month she's sent a comic out to subscribers, experimenting with different story telling techniques, and genres. It's been a fabulous companion to my other monthly subscription, Uncle Envelope. Tiny little paper surprises at the beginning of the month, usually a day apart from each other, almost as a cure or reward for the misery of mailing out the Rent and utility checks. I'm really happy I jumped on the MOTMC boat when I had the chance, because Liz is not planning on doing a 2010 subscription.
One of the prime examples of stepping into the Liz Baillie world is her super meta-comic Sing Along Forever, a comic love letter to her favorite band, the Bouncing Souls. The comic is of her and fellow comics artist, Robin Enrico, going to a summer-time outdoor punk music festival to meet the band. The comic's mission is to tell Liz's personal history with the band's music. The comic version of Liz's mission is for that day's events to be the narrative of the comic book, with her reminiscence of the Soul's impact on her life as flashbacks. Your reading a comic book of characters of comic book creators creating a comic book. What? Ugh, that came out far more complicated than it really is, and totally dragged me off course.
Ahem. I remember reading Sing Along Forever on the bus heading to work one day. We got to my stop, so I had to close the book, and get off the bus. As I pushed the doors open, it felt not as if I was stepping off the bus, but as if I was stepping out of Liz's world, and back into the streets of Chicago. Sing Along Forever is out-of-print, though I think the Bouncing Souls actually have a limited quantity available to sell. Do you see a foreboding pattern emerging here?
FREEWHEEL! Liz's follow up serial to My Brain Hurts. One part extension of Liz's oeuvre, both visually and thematically ("at risk" youth living without a support network, losing her only true friend, and the struggle to get him back) - one part complete departure! The protagonist, Jamie has bounced around abusive and neglectful foster homes, but has always had her older brother as an anchor of support. One day she finds her brother is gone, on his way to Ithaca (no wonder, it's GORGES! Am I right? Am I right? This bumper sticker knows what I'm talking about). She sets out on her own to find him. Jamie is younger than My Brain Hurts' main character, Kate, and her adventures are more light-hearted, less grounded in reality, as she becomes entwined with a secret village of forest-dwellers.
Visually, Liz is taking so many more risks with page layout, which adds to the whimsical nature of the story.
Issue three of the minicomic came out in September, each issue has been better than the last. Today I found out there wont be a fourth issue. See? Foreboding pattern solidified. When I read Liz was ceasing production of Freewheel minicomics, my little minicomic heart sank. Then I thought, "we should totally jack the prices up on Freewheel at work!"
I've failed to mention that Freewheel was originally a short-lived webcomic on Fall of Autumn's website. That got nixed, and restarted as a minicomic series, as My Brain Hurts was wrapping up. Now Liz is reverting BACK to webcomics for Freewheel's publication, and launching http://www.freewheelcomics.com. The comic will update every Tuesday and Thursday, and is starting with the first issue. So check it out! It's totally worth it. A great webcomic died to make way for a great minicomic, which in turn has died for a great webcomic.
It's the ciiiiircle of liiii-eeee-iiiiife!
Elton John, ladies and gentlemen.