Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Dori Stories by Dori Seda and others
I went in search of Dori’s work about one second after seeing this picture on Mary Fleener’s convention blog. When I saw her gap-toothed smile and wild eyes, I just had to know more. From the gushing remembrances of her by friends and colleagues that fill this book, I gather that she tended to have that effect on people.
This is more than a collection of Seda’s comics, it is a memorial to the woman she was and a patch for the giant hole she left in her friends’ lives when she died. The essays, personal photos and memorial comics dedicated to her, bring so much background and depth to Seda’s story that when you finally get to her comics there is a weight and sadness that she never intended.
Like her much more famous male antecedents in the alternative comics world, Seda’s comics are sex n drugs-filled, a bit cartoony and portray a world long-gone where making comics could actually allow a hedonist to scrape by. Her art is lush, heavy on the blacks and quite detailed. Her auto bio comics are filled with filthy living, sloppy sex and being poor. Persona and personality are almost inextricable here, but in her stories about her dog Tona, Seda’s capacity for love and affection (mentioned in some of her friends’ writing about her) shines through all the fishnets and leather. Her fictional work is sex-filled as well, with a bit of horror thrown in. Also included are a few picture stories from Weirdo magazine where Dori plays vixen with other cartoon greats in “Foto Funnies” stories such as “Slaves of the Comic Book Factory” and “Girls Turned Into Vibrator Zombies”; everyone really looks like they are having fun, especially Dori, despite all we learn about Seda’s health problems and wild self-disregard. Was her look being exploited? Yes. Did she seem to care? Not really.
The final comic in the book is by Leslie Sternbergh and chronicles a meeting with Seda’s willfully hindering mother to sort out Dori’s legacy. Sternbergh’s detailed drawing blurs a bit gray in this sad and frustrating story. The haze is appropriate—the only things that become clear in this comic is how Seda got her famous smile and where she picked up smoking. Sigh, parents. “Dori was ours,” said Olga. “Dori was Dori’s,” said Leslie (and the reader). Dori’s perspective on her family’s attitude towards her life, told with a light, tongue-in-cheek touch, can be found in the story “How My Family Encouraged me to Become an Artist.” You get the feeling that her mother’s refusal to allow her work to be printed after her death would almost have been enough to force Seda to burst from the grave and freak everybody out all over again.
Dori’s work simply left me wanting more. I wonder what her place would have been in the comics-drenched world of today. That’s the thing about early death; it robs the world of a proper ending. This book is “the Complete Dori Seda,” and it's just not enough.