REVIEWS

Sorry Kid

tumblr_n6bn71jXik1rfavsqo1_1280I’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.

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5 Responses to Sorry Kid

  1. Robert S. says:

    Was the “trigger warning” on the cover meant to address a serious concern of the author, or was it done tongue-in-cheek?

  2. Mike Hunter says:

    I don’t think the message in the cover is necessarily intended as one of those “trigger warnings.”

    There is a long history of messages that “You might find the ______ in here unpleasant,” that antedates modern “You will be instantly emotionally shattered and turn into a twitching mass of hysterics if you see/read this” “trigger warnings.”

    Why, I’ve a copy of the 1992 “Cosmic Retribution*,” the gorgeous collection of Joe Coleman’s paintings, which came with a “Warning! Contents May Offend” sticker. (Amused, I left it on.)

    And there are items such as the movie ratings system, or those warnings at the start of TV shows that mention nudity and violence are contained in the following program. PBS is particularly careful in this regard. After one genteel “Masterpiece Theater” offering, the Significant Other and I wondered, “Where was the nudity they warned about?” “Maybe they were referring to the statues,” theorized the S.O.

    Here’s a scary one: “Contains Adult Subject Matter.” Thus warned, skip “My Dinner with Andre,” and go watch a monster truck rally…

    * http://joecoleman.com/publications/cosmic-retribution

  3. Are you two seriously implying that the creator of this practically-impossible-to-buy handmade small-print-run minicomic included a trigger warning as a cynical appeal to the masses clamoring for dead dad comics?

  4. Mike Hunter says:

    ———————
    Julia Gfrörer says:

    Are you two seriously implying that the creator of this practically-impossible-to-buy handmade small-print-run minicomic included a trigger warning as a cynical appeal to the masses clamoring for dead dad comics?
    ———————–

    Ah, the classic “accuse somebody of making some outrageous/absurd statement which they in fact did not make, then attack them for making an outrageous/absurd statement” tactic!

    Robert S. wondered, “Was the ‘trigger warning’ on the cover meant to address a serious concern of the author, or was it done tongue-in-cheek?”

    And I said, “I don’t think the message in the cover is necessarily intended as one of those ‘trigger warnings.’ ”

    Nary a hint there that the book “included a trigger warning as a cynical appeal to the masses clamoring for dead dad comics.”

    Indeed, I was doubtful the warning was a trigger warning at all; simply one of those much older “There are things in here that may upset / be considered inappropriate” messages.

    Rather annoying that Katrina Silander Clark’s otherwise excellent and nuanced writeup of what comes across as a fine and powerful work mislabels that message; furthers the spread of that highly dubious concept.

    And, “trigger warnings” are routinely clearly labeled as such:

    ————————–
    In some publications a “trigger warning” may appear at the beginning of certain articles. These are to warn that the articles contain disturbing themes that may trigger traumatic memories for sufferers. An example of a trigger warning is: “TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.”
    ————————–
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trauma_trigger

  5. Neil Harris says:

    The labels you are describing were born of a moral concern and to abdicate the liability of the publisher, should an outrage of impropriety emerge. The specific warning in this instance is “contains themes of family loss,” which is clearly directed at any readers who may suffer from similar trauma, in the hopes that they may avoid reliving experiences that remain particularly harmful and difficult to manage. This falls completely in line with the definition of trigger warnings as they are commonly used today, and strikes me as a completely reasonable act of compassion on the part of the author. I don’t see the need to stigmatize such warnings as being “highly dubious” or made redundant because of parental advisories, which are much less specific and serve an entirely separate (eponymous) purpose.

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