Lynda Barry on Cartoons, High School, and Matt Groening

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Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 3 2011 1:17 PM

Lynda Barry on Cartoons, High School, and Matt Groening

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In Slate last week, Libby Copeland wrote about how the “ugly, eccentric, and misunderstood figures in [Lynda Barry’s] cartoons formed the backdrop to my adolescence; they made it okay to be all of the above.” Barry—whose cartoons were first published in a student newspaper at Evergreen State College by her friend Matt Groening—is best known for Ernie Pook’s Comeek, a beloved comic strip and for years a staple of alternative weeklies. In the 1980s, her cartoons were published in Esquire and she appeared several times on Late Night With David Letterman.

However, as Dan Kois reported in a profile of Barry in The New York Times Magazine, by 2008, “the consolidation of the alt-weekly world” had reduced Barry’s weekly income from Ernie Pook’s Comeek to $155. And so Barry has “reinvented herself as a creativity guru,” “publishing two boundary-blurring books on inspiration and teaching writing workshops for nonwriters.”

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And now Drawn & Quarterly is publishing all of her work in a 10-volume series. The first volume was just published, and it not only includes Barry’s earliest comics, but also a running autobiographical commentary on her artistic development—in cartoon form. Selections from that commentary are excerpted below. Enjoy. -- David Haglund

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