photo & text by nacrowe
its always INTERESTING to investigate the CREATIVE PROCESS of ARTISTS, whether that be EXPLORATORY SKETCHES used by PAINTERS or NOTES and ROUGH DRAFTS of short stories by NOTEWORTHY AUTHORS. such is the case with cartoonist ADRIAN TOMINE's 32 STORIES: THE COMPLETE OPTIC NERVE MINI-COMICS (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 2002) which is a compilation of his entire early series of (mostly) NON-INTERRELATED and (mostly) SEMI-AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL vignettes concerning post-adolescent life in the 1990s.
originally SELF-PUBLISHED, these mini-comics were sold on consignment as TOMINE began his career as a CARTOONIST and there is a definite PALPABLE sense of EXPERIMENTATION going on with the presentation and execution of that INTRIGUING ALCHEMY that happens between TEXT and IMAGERY. over time the drawn lines in each panel become more CONFIDENT and STYLIZED while the DIALOGUE likewise showcases less EXPOSITION and become more EVOCATIVE and psychologically IMMERSIVE in nature. in essence you are becoming acquainted with an ARTIST learning their CRAFT in REAL-TIME, even including DUDS, HALF-MEASURES and outright FAILURES. some of these brief vignettes just end, which is FINE and VALID, but comes off less determined and artistic and more just the result of outright ABANDONEMENT.
in my opinion the most COMPELLING of these 32 stories include those that examine the DISCOMFORTING relationship between SOLITUDE and LONELINESS, where one can be in a relationship yet feel ABANDONED and ALONE with no sense of SECURITY or COMPANIONSHIP. likewise their is the PECULIAR vein of LONELINESS that come with feeling REJECTED or TIRED and FALLING OUT OF LOVE with a romantic interest. those COMPLICATED feelings that come with both being in and out of relationships are what make some of these short narratives really click, irrespective of the quality of the ART. and that is the other major point observed through reading this compilation, that the quality of the story trumps that of the ART. its what separates great ART from a more visually STUNNING but VACUOUS and PREDICTABLE PLOT presented that unveils little of SUBSTANCE and relies on spectacle, which is how i feel about SUPERHERO COMICS versus that of the more PERSONAL ALTERNATIVE COMICS movement.
i'd definitely recommend his later WORK over this OPTIC NERVE series, but that is kind of the point. this is in essence a primer to help contextualize his later PROJECTS and witness the EVOLUTION FIRSTHAND. an absolutely INTRIGUING and BRAVE PRODUCT to release to the world given TOMINE's embedded admission of FALLIBILITY. too bad other ARTISTS dont follow suit more often.