In reviewing the most recent issue of Maple Key Comics, a quarterly art journal featuring short comics, one of the standouts was artist Iris Yan, with her autobiographical sketches in “Hotline,” about her time working the phones at a crisis center. What makes “Hotline” unique is not only her portrayal of the people involved as cute-looking animals (she’s a pig) but how she finds the humor in what otherwise might be told as a depressing subject. Through her visual storytelling, she’s really giving a lesson on perspective, and our outlooks on life.
Iris Yan seems to have had an interesting life, born in Brazil to a Chinese family, and she’s lived all over the world, including the U.S, where she attended The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. She has other work available online, through a website called gumroad.com. On it, you can download her (and other artists’) work on a sort of pay-what-you-want basis. Each story, or series of sketches has a little price tag in the corner. Yan starts her prices at $0, so, with an email, you can download her stuff for free, which she says she doesn’t mine, though after reading her stuff, you might consider pitching a dollar or two.
Her art and storytelling style is deceptively minimalist. There are not a lot of fancy backgrounds or super-detailed clothing—a few stringy lines can be an old Chinese monk’s beard in one of her other stories I really like: I’m a fan of the Taoist philosopher Chuang-Tzu, and her “Two Monks,” is a mash-up of Chuang-Tzu and “The Tortoise and the Hare” fable. But the minimalism adds to the humor. It’s all about the comic timing, and just a small sentence or facial expression makes all the necessary difference.
The full Hotline series is also available at her gumroad.com page. And “Capulanas and Sweets” another autobiographical series of sketches about her time as a volunteer in Mozambique, with no animals-as-humans, though this piece seems to have been scanned in from a paper copy, or something, because the quality is a little jagged sometimes.
There’s also “000WL” (as in double ‘O’, an owl spy) and “Tarot Man,” with a penguin, and “Chinese Matchmaking,” with more cute autobiographical pigs and other animals, and much humor, which I like even more than “Hotline.” Lots of interesting things to read and check out here. I’m predicting that we will see more of Iris Yan in the future, in the form of either a more formal website, and/or a book. Publishers: check her out!
Iris Yan’s art available here.
My original review of the Maple Key Comics #2 in which Iris Yan’s work appeared is here.
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