FML by Natasha Natarajan
Published by Good Comics
It is not often that when reading a comic that one has a moment of recognition. But when the author of FML, Natasha Natarajan gives us her origin story (so to speak) I had just such a moment. She talks about creating her first comic, a cathartic description of some of those embarrassing moments that we recall with a cringe. She goes to a zine fair in Edinburgh run by a zine library which seemed to be based out of a bar. I remember seeing ads for that fair and considering going. But I decided it would be full of cool young art students who would stare at me in horror as I walked in the door, like one of those old westerns where the piano player in the saloon suddenly stops playing. So I didn’t go.
I got over myself and did attend some of these types of events later, and of course nobody gave a shit about my presence. And whilst there were a few ice-cool hipsters, their dungarees elegantly stained with oil paints, there were also some good comics. The event in question gave Natasha a fresh impetus that many comic con exhibitors may recognise. “I sat behind a small round table amongst maybe 10 others one Saturday with my comics fanned out in front of me. And I awkwardly watched while strangers sporadically scoffed at my embarrassing moments right in front of me. I loved it.”
Confessional tales are not new to comics. The autobiographical scene that exploded in the 90’s with the likes of Joe Matt, John Porcellino and many others shaped a genre that had a big impact on comics. But it is the likes of Alison Bechdel and especially Julie Doucet that I was reminded of when reading FML.
Natasha Natarajan has created a book that tells the story of five years of her life…the title FML (fuck my life) implies a tough time. I have to say that the tales of travel, creativity and sex didn’t seem like such a hard life to me, but I’m old, cynical and have been in lockdown for a year. And I also know that it doesn’t work that way. Our twenties are a time of freedom and experimentation but they are also filled with angst and a fair amount of poverty.
The art style of FML is simple, with a ‘back of the school jotter’ style. But it develops and improves as the book goes on. The later scenes in London are much more accomplished than the earlier strips, with a thoughtful use of colour.
There are also some inventive panels. The depiction of the view from a Hebridean kitchen window at different times of the day was striking, with time and landscape captured in three panels which are at once identical and completely different.
FML is a bold and honest comic, but it also has a lot of charm and is very readable. Check it out for your fix of autobiographical comics 2021 style.
FML is published by Good Comics and you can get your copy from their website.