Full disclosure: I personally know Brian Canini and am in fact in one of the daily strips, complete with Brian’s observation that I am balding. I have even done some work with Drunken Cat Comics. I wrote a one-shot, did a short-lived webseries, and did extensive production for a yet-to-be-released graphic novel. However, this comic covers the year after he and I moved into separate apartments and directions in life. This book represents a time when we were in somewhat close proximity but were drifting apart, and it represents aspects of Brian that I was not fully aware of until reading the book. Besides that, dude is a bit of an introvert, and even if I had shared a bigger portion of his life during this time, I would likely have been surprised by many of his daily observations.
Alright? Is that enough disclosure for you savages? Can we get on with our review or whatever you want to call this?
Brian Canini is driven by sheer force of will and single-minded devotion to his beloved storytelling in comic book form. Because of this, he has contributed a stack of work that any indie artist of the sequential art ilk should be proud of. Recently, he put together a kickstarter campaign, which acted as a way to preorder his newest work, ‘The Big Year.’ It’s a journal comic that covers the three major life events that define adulthood for many: getting married, buying a home, having a child. I used this opportunity to acquire everything in the Drunken Cat bibliography, and I just started going through the library last night.
Yep, you heard me right. I started going through the library last night, and already this morning I had finished the 332 page ‘Fear of Flying.’ The truth is that as I lay my head down on my pillow (my balding head… thanks, Brian!), I decided to sit up a little and read a few pages of the book. The thing kept me up until 3 am, at which time I was inspired to write a new, reflective, and sad portion of my own upcoming novel, ‘Home Street.’ And then this morning, I was compelled to polish Brian’s masterpiece off.
Here’s the first thing you should know about ‘Fear of Flying’: It’s honest. It’s messy. It’s not meant to be perfect. It includes spelling and grammatical errors and crossed off words, and you have to be okay with that, because, despite his perfectionism, Brian had to be okay with it too. It’s relentless. It’s all-encompassing. It strips away pretense and lays its subject bare.
The thing about a lot of journal comics is that it is naturally self-deprecating and yet in keeping the writer or writer/artist as the protagonist, it can often fall victim to the rationalization of self-centered thinking. Certainly, Brian’s work is no different from – say, Harvey Pekar in that regard. However, while Pekar assumes that the world would cough up money for the honor of reading his stories, Brian is putting himself through the torture of doing a page a day that chronicles his dreams of working in the industry full-time while working on his many other books, working his demanding nine-to-five, dreaming of another life that seems just within reach, struggling with self-doubt and rage and mortality and inspiration and roadblocks and television addiction and a quest for peace, and exploring what seems like true love. He does it because he was inspired to do so. He does it without knowing if anyone will ever read it, because even though when he feels like he’s screaming into the void at times, ultimately the art is all that matters.
I started writing this because I simply wanted to tell my friend how much I enjoyed his book. How much it haunted me. How much it inspired me. And how much I am looking forward to reading everything else. But in the end, I decided that I should publish this here on my blog, so that ‘Fear of Flying’ might find some others to haunt and inspire.
But as Levar Burton used to say on ‘Reading Rainbow,’ you don’t have to take my word for it. I encourage all of you to head over to DrunkenCatComics.com and check it out for yourself.