Monday, November 21, 2011

Freddy Stories by Melissa Mendes

On a recent late night I saw a Melissa Mendes tweet that said “I remember those days.” She wasn’t talking about her new book of comics, Freddy Stories, but those four words are a good introduction to her work as any. Freddy Stories is a collection of quiet, subtly chronological moments in a girl’s life told with minimal dialogue that makes the reader slow down into kid-time for the duration of each story.

It is that sense of time in Freddy Stories that really sets it apart from other kid stories that I’ve read recently. Instead of nostalgic, they are without that boring, overwrought adult wistfulness; Freddy’s days are long and full of small things, anti-adventures really, that nevertheless feel like complete narratives. Most of the pages are six panels and Mendes stretches moments across them. In stories like “Mom” and “Frank,” both one-pagers, show panels that repeat with very little change, making the small changes count and giving us time with each character, Freddy and Frank respectively, and teaching us something about them. Both are wordless too, which highlights another of Mendes’ time-twisting tools. By being sparing with the dialogue, Mendes creates a sense for the reader of being inside Freddy’s head and experiencing things along with her, things like divorce, making potions and winning at pinball.

Freddy is really the cutest thing in a hoodie. Just look at that cover image! Even if your ovaries aren't bursting, Freddy is charming because even though she craves comfort and fun like the rest of us, she knows when yelling is the best policy. Peanuts fans will find a lot to love in Mendes’ characterization, as well a hint of Schulziness when the Freddy and her buddy Steven are funning around in profile. I really like it when we get to see her imagination run wild, like in the brother/werewolf page (left), just because it’s not only funny, but it shows one of the essential differences between adults and kids. We know werewolves don't come from eating a mud and dogshit potion, but what if it did? What if it did and your teenage brother ate it and got even hairier and angrier? WHAT IF IT WERE ALL YOUR FAULT????? (It will better in the morning.) See, I just sent you back in time. Neat, huh?

Being a kid is weird and serious business and Freddy Stories is both a great reminder of that and a call to pay attentions, play harder and yell when necessary.

As always, click to big up all the pics.

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