Here’s our first installment of Helen America‘s diary comic The Secret Life of Helen America.
Her previous work, including “Day of the Dead,” was so grotesque and dark that I was surprised to see a complete aesthetic turnaround in Helen’s current work. The style change has a lot to do with the format of the project: It’s composed of pages of her diary that Helen decided to make public (the project began in 2012 but the earliest pages after the introduction were drawn in 2008). The early pages are often lettered in a hasty script that reflects the fact that Helen only decided to make this a public project after the diary was started. This is the type of writing that happens when you’re doing something just for yourself, the illegible immediacy of notetaking and remembering being favored over sleekly inked words. The difference between The Secret Life of Helen America and other diary comics written after the events (rather, longer than a few hours after) is that, even when Helen catches up to herself and begins to post pages made after she decided to put the diary online, there’s rarely a feeling of construction. Sure, the lettering gets neater, but there are still scratched out words in the middle of paragraphs. The self-awareness seems to have only made Helen more comfortable making these comics, revealing more of her inner thoughts and philosophical decision-making. It’s as honest a diary as I’ve ever written, and that’s more than I can say for most comics in the genre.
See Helen’s introduction to the comic on and a few of the previous pages up over here (I urge you to read the full thing, which is up on her website [link above] and look forward to new pages every Wednesday!