Comic books and philosophy don't usually mix, but during her "drawn out" college career, wannabe philosopher Kristen Baumgardner Caven often used cartooning to medicate "the pain in her brain." In her new collection of full-page works, she has danced around the edge of the autobiographical comic genre, and may have just opened up new territories in sequential art.
Seven short graphic stories exploring themes like the scientific process, eastern/western world views, humanism, existential crises, lit-crit, post-modernism, dualism, feminism, alcoholism, pop culture, dreams, and cosmic consciousness unfold in a journey of discovery around the centerpiece, a 30-page graphic novel called The Reason She Left
. This quirky but powerful narrative of ideas follows a college student on a quest to find her own beliefs and identity as a woman with a brain and a heart that desperately want to unite.
Each graphic story is introduced by a short personal essays in which the author shares her adventures with the craft, her life, and building a personal philosophy by understanding the ideas of others. The Reason She Left and Other Stories
is the follow-up to Caven's memoir, Perfectly Revolting: My Glamorous Cartooning Career.
Summary of The Reason She Left:
Nettie Olsen feels like a stranger in the Citadel of Reason, a place where logic rules over impulse, light over darkness, and all positive dualities dominate the negatives. Which would be all right except Nettie's upbringing has led her tobelieve that being born female means being born on the wrong side of the equation...and there's therefore something wrong with her.
She leaves home and school in confusion, and is lost until she meets a new friend. Bear gives hera make-over on the outside (with a haircut) and the inside, by helping her think through her discouraging ideas by untangling the language of perception.
When Nettie's brother Ricky arrives to visit on his way to join the Army, Nettie and her friends bring him into their intellectual world and challenge his beliefs about patriotism and war. Reid, a kung fu scholar and excellent cook, helps both siblings balance their attitudes, and helps Nettie both feel her own importance and open up to the possibility of equality-based love.
Nettie's story symbolizes and illuminates the journey of thought taken by feminism and creation spirituality, reclaiming the human spirit from damaging burden of dualism. Conversation dominates the plot-line, with humorous art and writing illustrating this crash course in culture, pop-culture and post-modernism.
The stories that surround The Reason She Left—The Atomic Comic, KiDo Comix, Lit-Crit Love in Po-Mo Times, My Life as a Cat, Not Another Fairy Tale, and Ego-Sum — plus the essays that provide the eye a break between them — build a foundation for the larger opus, and give insight into the life of the mind from which they all came.