Although I missed out on most of the collective internet afterglow of CAB due to some horseshit where my hotel threw away about 90% of the comics I bought that weekend, I lucked out in preordering Simon Hanselmann’s Life Zone so that it arrived safe and sound to my home a few days ago. I got hooked on Hanselmann’s tumblr last year and have since been trying to scoop up anything of his I could find at cons like TCAF, CAKE, and SPX this year. Finally being able to purchase a whole book of his work was a highlight for a lot of us at CAB and it absolutely delivers on everything that I’d expect a larger collection of Hanselmann’s comics to be.
Earlier today I read Chris Mautner’s brief review of Life Zone and while positive, I felt it really missed the mark on why I think Hanselmann’s work is so great. Matuner said, “You have to be in a good head space in order to read these comics (or at least, not have your life in such disarray that the characters’ antics seem hauntingly familiar).” That seems a little condescending considering that Hanselmann has been pretty open about his personal life in interviews and on his blog so one can well assume that a lot of the problems his characters work through is at least somewhat autobiographical. Additionally, the “hauntingly familiar” feelings I get from reading Hanselmann’s comics are precisely why I (and I’d be willing to bet a ton of other readers) really gravitate towards his stuff. Having to deal with the consequences of trying to get your life together while still being tied in with your dirtbag friends? CHECK. Having to put on an entirely different persona to face some bullshit aspect of the world you feel obligated to but don’t really care about? CHECK. Finding your partner face down in the trash when all you need for them is to support you? CHECK. And through it all, you keep half-focused on the hope that maybe in “one more year” everything will all be sorted out somehow? If that’s not some real shit to you then goddam, what is?
Hanselmann’s comics remind us that through all these life disasters there is humor, and maybe more importantly, beauty. Rather than seeing the antics of Megg, Mogg and Owl as extreme caricatures of some drop out youths whose mistakes act as distractions from Hanselmann’s drawings, these comics remind me that we’re all fucking up and figuring it out together, and it’s fucking beautiful.