Review: Squid Row


So those of my readers who have tried dabbling in artistic ventures know that it can be a lot of hard work. Sure, some artwork looks effortless (and other works look like no effort was put into them, which is a bigger difference than you’d think), and sure, the average cartoonist will use no more muscles than absolutely necessary to get pencil to paper (or stylus to tablet), but the mental work that goes into crafting a storyline (or a punchline, for that matter) can be monumental. And anyone else who’s striven for verisimilitude knows the agony of sketching and resketching a picture, trying to figure out why that elbow doesn’t look quite right.* The difficulty that arises, though, is that for all that hard work, the pay rate isn’t all that good.

And few people know this as intimately as does Randie Springlemeyer, the main character of Squid Row, a slice-of-life comic by Bridgett Spicer. Hapless artist Randie lives and worries in a fictional variant of Monterey, California, where she works shifts at an art-supply store (an exquisite form of torture, when you think about it). The comic follows her exploits as she deals with rival artists, well-meaning relatives, library fines, and a very well-meaning best friend. Also the occasional disaster.

Yes, the slice of Randie’s life is a rather blue-colored cross-section, cataloguing all the frustrations she faces in work, art, and romantic matters. And perhaps because Randie has so many problems, it makes the little victories and kindnesses so much more enjoyable. (It also makes the moments of whimsy rather more fun, too.)

(I will pause here to note that Spicer has only recently set up the new site, so her archives are the devil to search through. I hope the links continue to work; it was a pain in the neck when, less than a week after the Sandra and Woo review came out, their site changed the archive system and all of the links had to be updated. But I digress.)

Squid Row‘s art style has changed quite a bit from its inception, using more varied linework, visual puns, and knock-off brands. And while the soulful eyes sometimes look a little strange on a twenty-something hipster or a sullen co-worker, it really brings out Randie’s willfully naive nature.

Which is sort of what the comic is all about, when you get down to it: a young woman trying to be a Pollyanna in spite of everything life throws at her. And the sheer fact that she hasn’t given up is enough reason to keep reading.

Comic Rating: Four cups of fancy, fancy coffee.

* Because it’s the left elbow, of course. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

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  1. #1 by crow on 16 November 2009 - 8:32 PM

    Monsieur Luprand – I quite agree. You’ve given a succinct account of Squid Row that captures its spirit well. I’ve only been a Squid Rownie for a short time but that’s been long enough to know it’s a keeper.
    Best,
    Crow

  2. #2 by Kona on 18 November 2009 - 8:47 AM

    Also a recent reader here, enjoying the wit and art, not so much the travails of Randie. Have enough of those in my own life, thanks. Wondering how much is autobiographical. A lot of SR rings true to life, including the drama. Not an artist myself, so it’s a good introduction to the mind and daily details of being an artist. Love SR best when Randie is following her passion and enjoying a day of capturing the essence of life on paper.

    • #3 by Luprand on 18 November 2009 - 10:29 AM

      The travails are sort of the tricky part with artists in general. Sometimes it really helps to know what was going on in an artist’s life when he or she did a particular work, as it gives insights as far as the creative process is concerned. Artists can’t help but put their own feelings and beliefs into their work, even if it’s only subliminally. So in some ways, I see the depiction of Randie’s woes as a sort of explanation for why she thinks and paints the way she does.

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