At first glance, it seems crazy — why would any critic, in good conscience, recommend that you spend five bucks on a mini-comic that’s primarily taken up by a story concerning the cartoonist who drew it just walking around his neighborhood? “Join me as I take an aimless stroll” is an old autobio trope, to be sure, but by and large these types of exercises about — uhhhmmm — getting a little exercise are relegated to “backup feature” status, as well they probably ought to be. If you’re gonna make this type of yarn the backbone of your book, shit — it just stands to reason that you must not have too many actual ideas, right?
Conventional wisdom, however, quite often lives up to only the first part of its name, and this is another of those occasions, because August Lipp’s Lotta Lipp Comics #1 is probably the most fascinating walk to ever make the — errrmmm — leap from mind to pen to paper. It doesn’t take up the entirety of the book’s 40 pages — there is some important preamble, in fact, relating a story about Lipp’s 2017 move to Philadelphia (yes, some people actually move to Philadelphia) that sets the stage for the long, leisurely stroll that follows in that it establishes our cartoonist/protagonist’s status as a newcomer to the so-called “City Of Brotherly Love,” and that Johnny-Come-Lately viewpoint that he brings to his environs? That, right there, makes all the difference.
Oh, sure, Lipp plays it cool and casual, but he definitely brings an outsider’s perspective to these loosely-drawn, expressive pages that communicates, with seldom a word spoken, all the awkwardness, trepidation, and adaptive struggles of the outsider, the interloper, the uninvited guest who came to visit — and decided to stay.
But that’s only half the story — as anybody who’s ever moved to a new city, state, country, or any combination thereof can tell you, there’s a fair amount of starry-eyed optimism that comes part and parcel with a change in scenery, as well. Stuff that everyone’s seen a thousand times or more is brand new to the recently-arrived. The everyday is exotic. The tried-and-true is immediate, visceral, captivating. The ordinary is anything but. And while a person with this (god I hate this term, but) POV may not make for the best real-life tour guide to accompany someone who’s only in town for a night our two, as the “eyes and ears” of a media audience they absolutely can’t be beat.
The amount of time I’ve spent in Philly is (fortunately, by my reckoning) minimal, but from what I have seen, Lipp more or less nails it in this comic — the row houses, the couples milling about, the bored kids aimlessly roaming, the even more bored adults standing (or, in some cases, sleeping) on their front stoops; these are all straight-up staples of life in America’s fourth-largest (I think?) city. This is as real as real gets, as observed — and subsequently communicated — by the most valuable sort of documentarian there is : somebody who hasn’t seen it all before. It’ll all be mundane as a Denny’s breakfast special for Lipp in no time, of course — hell, it may even be by now — but when he drew this? It was all fresh and new, and he was still navigating his way through unfamiliar streets, social mores, and even attitudes. And while trudging home may never make for anyone’s definition of exciting reading, in this case it’s most definitely intriguing.
Sure, this may seem like pretty staid stuff for the guy who less than a year ago gave us the fiercely idiosyncratic imaginings of Roopert, but the same keen intelligence, inherent wit, and commitment to honestly in craft (as well as ruled notebook lines) are all present and accounted for here, so please — whatever you do — avoid the assumption that this is necessarily “August Lipp Lite.” In point of fact, Lotta Lipp Comics #1 is as inquisitive, as resonant, as smart as funnybooks get. Order your copy directly from the cartoonist at https://augustlipp.tictail.com/product/lotta-lipp-comics-1