Chanler Brown: One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry

For this paper, I read the graphic novel, One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry. Barry’s novel is similar to Kochalka’s series, American Elf since her life is the main plot and focus. Like the title, Barry divulges into instances from her life that could be considered a demon, or something negative. For example, the first demon she discussed was about her first love and how much he differed from one of her boyfriends. This was considered a demon to her because of how he treated her and how she felt better off without him. In a way, this novel is Barry’s method of expressing her negative moments and sharing them to the public. Not only does this graphic novel encourage others to speak about their demons, Barry is healing herself from her negative experiences while sharing them so others can relate to her story.

The front cover of One Hundred Demons reflects the art style and subject matter of the graphic novel. Designed in a scrapbook like fashion, Barry has an array of colors and medias that make up the front cover. A reader can see a collage of paintings, glitter, photographs, scraps of paper, lace, string and ink that give the cover a disorganized feel. Like the rest of the novel, the art functions as a collection of memories thrown together. The cover follows a color scheme that is used throughout the book as background colors and colors frequently used in the illustrations.

The inside of the book is similar to the cover with the expression of Barry’s imagination. In the first few pages, the collage-esque theme is continued with the use of mixed medias to design each page. The colors; orange, purple, green, and pink are used in these illustrations and for the background covers. On the borders of these pages are doodles of monsters and animals. This clash demonstrates Barry’s childhood innocence and the negative experiences she endured.

The structure of this graphic novel is fluid and diverse. The front cover, the title of each chapter, and a few pages in between, have the collage/scrapbook type style. The actual chapters and strips are more uniform and structured. Each page had 4 panels and each chapter was 12 pages long. Collaborating with the chapter title pages, the background of each chapter matched. For example, if the title chapter pages had a color scheme of green, then the actual chapter had green backgrounds to fill the space in between panels. This method makes each chapter, or situation, more isolated in comparison to the other chapters.

Plot wise, each chapter wasn’t in chronological order, but told by the instance. By isolating each story, it continues with the scrapbook theme and tone by explaining each situation in moments. Traditionally, when organizing a scrapbook or a memory book, one goes about this by picking out key memories or putting them in chronological order. Putting them in chronological order can be confusing when telling a story, fiction or non-fiction in the way Barry does, since too much information will be told without a real purpose. Barry’s structure organizes her life experiences in such a way that her readers will be able to understand her demons and how they affected her.


Chanler Brown: American Elf 2 by James Kochalka

For this paper, I read the graphic novel, American Elf 2, by James Kochalka. Unlike most graphic novels, Kochalka’s novel doesn’t follow a storyline per say. In this follow up to his previous novel, American Elf, this copy features daily diary entries from January 1st, 2004 to December 31st, 2005. American Elf 2 details the daily life of Kochhalka and his family. As a reader, Kochalka’s personal life is told in several mediums.

Kochalka’s art style is similar to the simpler side of American comics due to its zaniness. While it differs from the iconic superhero comics from Marvel and DC comics when it comes to the use of detail, its zaniness speaks of Kochalka’s personality and/or artist style; simple, concise, and goofy. His own character has a likeness similar to an elf while the rest of his family is less exaggerated caricatures of themselves. This further brings out his personality which prevalent in American cartoons.

There are other characters who are not human. His close friend is shown as a dog, his intern (to my interpretation) is a monster and other background characters are drawn as fish and birds. The inclusion of different species to represent different characters is also prevalent in American cartoons such as; Regular Show and The Amazing World of Gumball. This maintains the imaginative factor thus boasting the illusionary feel that graphic novels have.

During several strips, Kochalka demonstrates his artistic ability by breaking out of the over simplified drawings used predominantly in his diary comics. This leads one to believe he’s adapting a humbler art style intentionally. By keeping his art and story line simple, it continues to speak to Kochalka as a person. Even the cover sustains the simplistic quality in his comics. The construction of Kochalka’s comics continues with the fundamentalist theme with his craftsmanship. The lines separating the panels are inconsistent and disorderly.

The storyline featured in this graphic novel reflects the art style. For the most part, each strip is unfocused and describes a specific moment during the day without significance. There is some continuity when it comes to Kochalka’s son, his friend, his band and other important life changing accounts, but they are few examples compared to the random jokes thrown for each day. This format replicates the diary feel. Traditionally, daily diary entries will be random in nature, ranging in construction from day to day. More so, the random use of titles for each strip is associated to the spontaneity of a daily diary.

Despite the simplistic feel, Kochalka employs a color scheme for each strip; in addition to, keeping his strips three to four panels for the most part. This somewhat strict format feeds into the spontaneity of his strips because there isn’t a set pattern for each color scheme or panel format. The recurring schemes I’ve observed are primarily: complementary, split complementary, and triads. This is related to the zany feel due to the use of bright colors and strong hues represents each scene unrealistically.

Overall, American Elf 2 by James Kochalka employs the strong use of theme to propel his story. Telling his life in small snippets in a diary format presented in a series of comic strips reflects the zany nature to American cartoons. While this stylistic choice is common in the west, Kochalka personalizes each strip creating something unique and dynamic in the world of graphic novels.