How are personal experiences depicted visually and narratively in Doucet's "My New York Diary," Tamaki's "Skim," and Seth's "It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken"?

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An example of visual storytelling in It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken corresponds to Seth’s furtive appearance. An example of visual storytelling in My New York Diary relates to the abject art students. An example of visual storytelling in Skim links to the crowded hallways of the all-girl Catholic school. In all three works, examples of textual storytelling arrive via the narrators and how what’s narrated often aligns with what’s shown.

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An example of visual storytelling in Seth’s graphic novel It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken relates to how Seth draws himself. Seth has a mysterious look. His glasses tend to hide his eyes and his hat conceals more of his face. Seth’s secretive look helps tell his story of isolation and alienation.

Similar to Seth, Skim, the eponymous protagonist of Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s graphic novel, is something of an outcast. An example of how Jillian, the illustrator, helps narrate Skim’s solitary story occurs at the beginning when Jillian draws Skim by herself under the tree. She is separate and distant. The tranquil image of Skim outside the school contrasts with the visuals inside the school. Here, Skim is crowded together with the other girls. She doesn’t seem as comfortable, which might be why Jillian draws Skim looking into her locker and not at the other girls.

An example of visual storytelling in Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary occurs in art class. One needn’t read the text to deduce that the people in Julie’s art school are forlorn. Their sooty faces and jagged lines demonstrate that these students aren’t too healthy or wholesome.

An example of textual storytelling in My New York Diary relates to how Doucet uses a narrator to explain what’s happening in the story. Accompanying the visual of the abject art students is a text box. In the text box, Julie declares that the art department is the home of the “hopeless,” the “reject,” and the “lost soul.” With this example, the text works with the visual to tell Julie's story.

In It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken and Skim, narrators are also present. As with My New York Diary, the narrator’s text often aligns with the visuals. For example, as Seth reveals his fondness for old comics, he’s shown reading comics from the past. In Skim, as the narrator discloses why Katie has broken black hearts on her hands, there’s an image of Katie and a glimpse of a broken black heart on her hand.

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A number of Canadian cartoonists (or graphic novelists) focus their work on portraying personal experiences. Using My New York Diary by Julie Doucet, Skim by Mariko Tamaki, and It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken by Seth, discuss how personal experiences are depicted both in visual terms and in narrative terms.

In visual terms, It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken and Skim seem to opt for a sober presentation of their characters’ experiences. Although the narratives of Tamaki and Seth aren't free from turmoil, their visuals aren’t explicitly anguished. The people in Skim are rendered in a classic black and white with an attention to detail. The formal visuals might connect to the academic setting of Mariko Tamaki's narrative. In Seth's graphic novel, the shadowy blues and pudgy people possibly reflect the nostalgia and melancholy that are present throughout his story.

In Julie Doucet's My New York Diary, the visuals are cluttered and rather grotesque. The characters have black smudges and exaggerated features that emphasize their distressing and frenetic plights. The messy visuals in Doucet’s graphic work contrast with the neat visuals in Skim and It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken.

In terms of narrative, the three works incorporate traditional storytelling elements. They feature multifaceted protagonists (Skim, Seth, Julie), specific settings (Catholic school, Ontario, New York), dialogue, action, and so on.

To advance the visceral, intimate qualities of their narratives, Doucet and Tamaki utilize diary entries. As a way to reinforce the personal stakes of their stories, Doucet and Seth make themselves the main characters. Seth further blurs the line between personal storytelling, fiction, and nonfiction by including other real-life people, like Chester Brown, and made-up characters such as Kalo.

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