"We're both loners
so we like each other."
This time last year, cartoonist Eleanor Davis took an ambitious bike trip eastward from Arizona and shared comics about it on Twitter as she went along. (I mentioned it in my newsletter here at the time.) She's just published a print version of the comic, entitled You & a Bike & a Road, with some additional pages, and it's a lovely read.
The art style is very loose — it's a sketchbook travelogue that appears to've all been done in pencil, much of it while on breaks from biking. I love how she's embraced the spontaneous nature of it — in the very first line of text on the very first page, there's a scratch-out and correction to fix which day of the week the trip started on. The style reflects the immediacy, the feeling that this is all happening "now". (When reading it serialized on Twitter, that was even more literally true..!)
I may be too much of a perfectionist to ever do a sketchbook type comic myself, but it reminds me a bit of the intimacy of Eddie Campbell's auto-biographical comic Graffiti Kitchen, which I understand he drew in ink without any pencil sketching or underdrawing first.
As someone who read the Twitter version of the comic, I could already recommended You & a Bike & a Road, but I want to take a moment to talk about the pages Eleanor has added since returning from her trip...
(Side note: I have a thing about not calling artists (and public figures of other sorts) by their first names if I don't actually know them — even my favorite artist, Bob Dylan, gets called "Dylan" by me, rather than "Bob" — but I've met Eleanor enough times now to be on a first name basis, so I've decided I'm calling her Eleanor here instead of pretending formality.)
There's an openness to these new pages that surpasses even the diary-like aspects of the original pages. There's a bit more care given to the drawing in some cases, but the looseness is still kept intact. There's an understated poetry that rewards contemplation and allows the book to breathe more. And Eleanor frequently writes the new pages in second person, adding to the immersive feel of the piece. As much as I enjoyed reading this comic as the first draft was made, the finished book is even better.
Throughout You & a Bike & a Road, Eleanor pulls out everyday details that make you feel like you're taking the trip with her, and she offers transcendent moments that you can apply your own meaning to... This, from Day 15, is one that resonates with me on a deep level:
"in the afternoon biking starts to feel inexplicably difficult
but when I look behind me I realize I'd been climbing a big mountain"
Eleanor Davis has a beautiful soul and an incredible talent, and both are on full display in You & a Bike & a Road. And I've already bought two additional copies to give to friends, so what does that tell you?
Eleanor was one of the first people I showed my earliest pages of my comic Flesh Machine to, back at the Small Press Expo in September of 2015. I was touched by her encouragement and enthusiasm. I started posting weekly pages on my website that November, and I've just posted pages 189 and 190 today. I'm closing in on 200 pages... (of a projected 300!)
As always, you can read the whole comic for free at michaelavolio.com. New readers should start from the beginning.
And you can join the supporters of my comics work with a monthly pledge on Patreon!
Thanks for reading,