Fair Trade Comics: Liz Prince Will Swallow the Key to Your Heart

A comic review article by: David Fairbanks


Fair Trade Comics is an ongoing series where Comics Bulletin looks at creator-owned comics that you can read without guilt or moral compromise. 

Liz Prince produced a few minicomics before her debut book, Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed?, was published by Top Shelf in 2005, subsequently being translated into French and Spanish in the years before her webcomic was collected as Delayed Replays. Since then, Prince had made a living off of anthology work, commissions and more minicomics. Her latest work is the third installment of I Swallowed the Key to My Heart, an ongoing comic of autobiographical romance and heartbreak.

It would be pretty easy to dismiss I Swallowed the Key to My Heart before reading it, just from that last sentence; there are quite a few amateurs who think that all you need for a good comic are a broken heart and a pen. Prince, however, is a professional, often hailed as the female counterpart to Jeffrey Brown and for good reason. Prince brings a sincerity not unlike that found in Brown's autobiographical work and couples it with an artistic style accentuating smooth line work and beautifully expressive facial expression that has been honed to perfection over the last eight years.

Prince gives you the following disclaimer before jumping into her life:


This comic, while being autobiographical, falls into the trap of being told from one person's perspective, and therefore cannot be considered 100% fair or factual. Try to enjoy it despite this shortcoming.


It's pretty easy to slip into sugar-coating your own past, but in issue three, the disclaimer seems to be much more of a formality as Prince struggles with the temptation of leaving a stable relationship for a cute comic shop employee that keeps coming by her work. 

Once they stray away from perfect for even a fraction of a second, relationships need only a tiny nudge to become incredibly messy and/or painful things. It would be easy to simply tell one side of the story, but instead the pages alternate between the excitement of a new romance and the pain of hurting someone she still cares about.

And that's what sets Prince apart from the countless amateurs who, in a fit of heartbreak, scribble out their story in words and pictures. I feel like I overuse the word "sincerity" when discussing the comics I enjoy, maybe that's my weak point, but I really do believe that the honest portrayal of the autobiographical cartoonist, warts and all, delivers the stories that can change people's lives, even if it's just letting them know that they weren't the only one who had a cake covered with candied penises and vaginas made for their boyfriend, decorated it with an icing squid and then ended the relationship shortly after.

Okay, maybe it's not always that specific, but I think you get my point. Prince is a splendid cartoonist who seems to be doing everything right in the medium. I Swallowed the Key to My Heart is black-and-white and oversized (roughly golden age sized, 8.5x11"), which explains the only fault I've found with it: at $5, it's a bit pricey. Of course, you don't need to take any gambles to see if you like her work, as a great deal of it is online. So head on over to her site and if you like what you see, support an independent cartoonist through one of her many printed comics; they're all quite good.



For more Fair Trade Comics, check out our other features in this series:



David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.

Mostly self-indulgent ramblings can be found at @bairfanx and untilsomethingbreaks.blogspot.com.

Community Discussion