I’ve said it a million times before: I love autobio comics. It isn’t the voyeuristic nature of them – getting to peer in to the life of someone else. I have Found Magazine for that. Autobio comics are more along the lines of a documentary film (another thing of which I am quite fond). It is someone chronicling a particular period in time in a particular person’s life. We, the reader/viewer are along for the ride and get to see how someone else lives. It may be that the person lives a life completely different than mine. Or it may be that the person lives an eerily similar life, but with different reactions and results.
As strange as it sounds, I found myself connecting closely to Natalie Nourigat’s Between Gears. Why is it strange? Well, she is a young girl in her 20′s just starting out her life while I am a man in my late 30′s, well ensconced in my life. So why did I connect? In a word, her experiences paralleled mine. While it has been close to twenty years since I left college, I still remember my senior year well and all the troubles and uncertainty that it brought.
Between Gears is the comic diary of Natalie Nourigat’s senior year in college. It chronicles her triumphs and tribulations as she struggles to complete one phase of her life and fully transition to the next. Along the way she has to re-examine her goals, make some difficult decisions, and convince herself and her family that she will be successful.
While I may not have been as successful as Nourigat (who was already a working artist in her senior year) I recall those same feelings of uncertainty. Am I dong the right thing? Will this be ok? What will the future be? Nourigat reminded me of these feelings and brought them back viscerally.
Despite the plethora of autobio comics on the shelves, Nourigat’s tackles a time rarely explored by other creators (and definitely in real-time). Most creators start their comics some time after college when they are already beyond that point in their lives and are on their way to being working comic book creators. Between Gears moves us back in time a little more in to that uncertain time when we are leaving what is comfortable and familiar and are striking out on our own.
While it may be tempting to compare Between Gears to another recent autobio comic, Emi Town, I found Between Gears to be much more enjoyable and much easier to engage with. While Emitown seemed to be written in a form of dense code which needed a key to decipher in places, Between Gears brings in the reader from the first page and invites them to take the journey with her.
The art is engaging, and Nourigat flexes her creative muscles, varying her style and technique to match the mood of the moment. This lends a depth and complexity to the comic that pushes it above your typical autobio. By varying the style multiple times on a single page, Nourigat is able to convey a sense of time and emotional change throughout the day. The reader is elated, saddened, and often times exhausted right along with Nourigat after making it through a day/page.
Natalie Nourigat has a bright future in the world of comics. She makes regular reference topotential projects which should be coming to fruition in the near future. In addition, her self-published comic, Over the Surface is a real treat. There is also the hope I harbor that Nourigat continues to make Between Gears. I am curious to see how the transition from college to life went.
Pick up a copy of Between Gears today and take a trip back to the frantic days of transitioning between the gears of life.