This week, Keb takes an honest look at Jim Mahfood's autobiographical webcomic Los Angeles Ink Stains.
Okay, I’m a big Jim Mahfood fan and I buy everything he puts out because I think he deserves to eat. His most recent release from Image comics is Los Angeles Ink Stains, an autobiographical comic that collects the free strip he produces for his blog. I was fairly excited for some new Mahfood material since it’s been a while.
What I expected was something hyper-cool along the lines of Kick Drum Comix and I was fairly disappointed when I didn’t get that. The Ink Stains strips are not crafted with the precision of his poster art or comics and they actually lack the signature flare of Mahfood’s work. That disappointed me.
I was further disappointed with the content. After reading the first few strips, I was actually annoyed. They seemed to be about Jim’s day, what drugs he did and what parties he went to. I was not looking forward to reading the rest of the book.
However, as the book carried on it became more interesting. A strip that Jim writes about a friend who passed away made me to want to read more. I began to notice how honest the strip became as it went on. Jim doesn’t just talk about what parties he’s hitting up and who he’s hitting them with. He also talks about his problems with life and what he’s been up to. He keeps people in the loop as to what he’s doing and how he’s feeling.
It was this honesty that I found really striking about the LA Ink Stains strips. Jim gets personal (so personal that I feel like we’re on a first-name basis now), and it’s refreshing to see that in comics. Instead of glorifying his celebrity status and bitching about trivial things, Jim uses the strip to talk about the important things in his life. There is a strip where Jim talks about how frustrated he became with comics after an unsuccessful 2009 and how a change of direction in his career has helped him grow as an artist.
There are two strips that absolutely floored me. In the introduction, Herbert Russell talks about two events that affected Jim personally and how Ink Stains became a therapeutic for him after those two events. There are strips in the bonus section of Ink Stains about these two events.
The first is about Jim’s DUI arrest in 2006 in San Diego and what happened that night. Jim is so brutally honest that your heart sinks with every panel. As he describes the events of his night in the drunk tank, your heart really goes out to him because you can tell he’s pouring his heart out onto the page. It’s a beautiful moment in comics that we rarely see even in autobiographical comics nowadays. It’s as emotionally charged as any scene in Blankets, but Jim tells the story so that it feels like it’s not just him writing a story as art, but more like a friend confessing the darkest moment of his life to you in a private conversation.
The second instance is about Jim’s friend DJ Dusk. I was only slightly familiar with DJ Dusk from my Root Down Soundclash DVD. Jim tells the story of how he met Dusk and how they became friends. Again, it’s one of those honest, personal moments that really strike you as you begin to get a glimpse at the relationships people forge over music and art. When Jim writes about how he felt when Dusk was tragically killed, it really hits you where it counts.
These moments are beautiful and they symbolize a lot of the reasons why I love the graphic storytelling medium. Los Angeles Ink Stains isn’t about telling stories for entertainment purposes because it’s on a different level. Mahfood doesn’t throw in the flash and while we get the celebrity vibe, he’s not using it to bank the quality of his content. It’s all about Jim is reaching out to his audience and trying to connect with them. I admire that and it’s given me a new respect for Jim as artist.
You can read Los Angeles Ink Stains online for free @ Jim’s Blog