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Herding Cats


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Herding Cats back

Sarah Andersen

Price: 
9.99

Page 45 Review by Stephen

"This is petty. I need to let it go.
"ANGER, I RELEASE YOU!"

Sarah dispatches her gnawing, pent-up, stress-inducing, self-destructive wrath into the distance with no uncertain force.

"I'M FREE!"

But this is the cleverness in her cartooning: only now do we discover that what she had thrown is in fact a whirling, twirling boomerang.

Three years later: BONK! "That bitch."

What's so desperately vital in any book of behavioural one-page comic strips is the crucial recognition factor: do you recognise your own ridiculous yet so often recurring frets and foibles in Sarah's self-deprecation? For me, they tick every recognition box and I laughed at myself, raucously, right up until the serious section with its warm heart of nurturing gold which we'll come to in a bit.

If, however, you want to stand out from the masses, you need ingenuity in your presentation, to see what is commonly observed from an unexpected angle. So it is that we come to workload and procrastination. The first is one of the greatest pressures in my life, the second is one of my greatest of very many flaws: putting off something which I know definitely needs doing, all in the vain hope that it doesn't. What a buffoon! However, we all know that sharing any workload helps enormously, so Andersen's split herself in two.

"Present me: "So much work..."
"Future me: "That's okay! If we divide the work equally, neither of us have to -"

In a blur of instantaneous action 'present' Andersen on the left SHOVES both enormous stacks of paper in their entirety at 'future' Andersen on the right who flails to the floor, buried under their weight. In the fifth and final panel irresponsible Andersen, still in a frenzied blur, scarpers off gleefully, stage-left, leaving future Andersen to " - suffer".

Like Andersen's ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH and BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP, the comedy is ever so contemporary, full of failure to care for oneself which ensuring one looks after others, anxieties, self-consciousness and self-doubt. It would serve anyone very well who's looking for more Allie Brosh (HYPERBOLE AND A HALF). Yes, as the purple fur-trimmed cover suggests, there are many, many preferential-treatment cat comics to coo over too, but this is the Age of the Internet and social media with all its abundant resources and so many of its flaming consequences.

"Today's question!" reads Sarah. "Will people on the Internet argue about anything?"
"YES!" bellows a furious crowd, startling Sarah to her left.
"NO!" screams an indignant, antagonised anger mob to her right.

As you can imagine, what follows is pitchforks at dawn, and they won't stop waving even after dusk.

Which is funny! But there's a darkness discerned too, which Andersen explores in the now traditional extended essay in the back. When Andersen was starting out the accessibility of the internet made it an invaluable vehicle and venue in which to post her comics, gain a following, and grow in craft, confidence and stature. But now nascent artists beginning to explore and hone their creative talents online can be subject to thoughtlessly (or even maliciously) harsh criticism and even outright bullying with seriously deleterious consequences to their self-confidence. Unlike a spider's this web wasn't designed as a trap but that, to those vulnerable, is what it can become.

"It turns out, when you give people endless access to a shroud of anonymity and a soapbox, the results might just be disastrous. Whereas users congregated in small pockets before, social media has enable the rise of mass movements that use trolling as a deflection tool for "doing the most damage I can do and then saying it was just a joke."

There are plenty of comics - all new, I think - to illustrate her arguments, but Sarah also offers encouraging ways in which to survive criticism which, when offered constructively, is an essential part of self-improvement. And it's difficult to take even when couched with kindness:

WHAT THEY SAID:
"Good thing, good thing, good thing....
"Bad thing. BUT! Good thing, good thing."
WHAT YOU HEARD
"...........................................................
"Bad thing! Only bad thing. YOU are a bad thing."

Sarah's suggestions are practical, understanding and supportive, eventually concluding with: do for goodness sake take breaks in the real world, but don't let the idiots win - keep creating!

What other topics has Andersen taken up this time? Childhood heroes, doomed to disappoint or disgust you. Self-destructive fandom in-fighting... Ah yes, resolutions: "I will set my alarm for 7:30. And I will wake up at 7:30! No snooze!" Then you sleep blissfully, optimistically in YOUR BED OF LIES.

Now picture this: you've just made the mistake in a shop of holding a folded shirt up against you to see if it will fit or perhaps you've tried it on... and then you have to fold it back up with store assistants watching and it's impossible, it won't match the others whatever you do!

"You ruined it." You begin sweating self-consciously, eyes darting about as all the other shirts start to unravel, turning into big, mushy, unhappy lumps. "You ruined everything." Now the entire department is on fire... "How?? How did you mess up this badly? "Oh God I'm sorry.""

Yup, that's me. Again, I cannot emphasise how much the lateral thinking - of the other shirts unfolding and the clothes store igniting - is vital in its hyperbole to the humour. Below, it's about the timing. One panel only devoted to merrily holding forth with friends in a pub...

"Contrary to popular belief, being introverted is not about your ability to socialise."

... a single panel leaving, contentedly...

"It's about what you do after."

Three whole panels curled up in a cocoon on your bed or sofa, mind-whirring, paralyzed.

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