I’ll admit it: Sorry Kid caught my eye because it was the first comic I’d seen on display with a trigger warning. “Contains themes of family loss” read the sticker on the display copy on artist Katrina Silander Clark’s table at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo a few weeks ago, if I’m remembering right. What grabbed me about this was the obvious empathy it entailed: Whatever Sorry Kid was about, it was raw enough that Clark didn’t want people vulnerable to that kind of pain exposed to it accidentally.
Sorry Kid folds out like a 22×17 broadsheet. When examined closely, it reveals itself to be two 11×17 pages, their surface murky with black xerox ink, joined together by sparkly rainbow-silver tape. This juxtaposition in its construction encapsulates the eight-page whole, which sees Clark alternate heartrending grappling with the overpowering grief of their father’s death (“their” is Clark’s preferred pronoun) and small welcome gestures in the direction of comfort.
All of the text is borrowed from apparently much-loved sources: Inside, writer Hélène Cixous’s novel on this theme; Ursula K. Le Guin’s fantasy classic The Farthest Shore; the Cocteau Twins song “Know Who You Are at Any Age”. It’s a tacit acknowledgement that recognition of your pain in painful work is often as comforting as can be. Then there are the incongruous flashes of cuteness in the art — a Peanuts-esque cartoon caricature of the author in punk regalia, hollering “GOOD GRIEF!” to the heavens; Death in a hoodie, sticking his tongue out irreverently; a fierce chihuahua slobbering over a bone; a flying saucer with two little antennae sticking out as it soars through the night sky. Like the artificial brightness of electric lights blowing moths’ brains and triggering their sex-smell receptors, sadness can overwhelm its allotted synapses in the brain and gush out as gallows humor, which these moments touchingly convey. The excerpts themselves are devastating: “Better to be a dog, or a lizard, than myself,” reads the opening spread. “Better to be dust, a dead cat, or a peach pit, than the daughter of a dead man.” The environments where Clark situates their scratchy self-portraiture are just as communicative: prone, face in their hand, beneath the animals they wishes they were; fuming and reading a book on an overturned cardboard box; wrapped in a quilt, first shivering in shallow water, then hunched over a phone composing text messages; sitting on church steps like a supplicating pilgrim, answering the questions of spiderwebs and sphinxes flanking the entrance. “Unclear,” Clark replies when asked what they’ve come to find. But Sorry Kid‘s quality is such that it breaks out of the for-us-by-us insularity of punk art zines with the power to communicate clearly to anyone similarly afflicted.