The process of creating an autobiographical comic brought to light many of the challenges of the meeting of real, lived experience and image, text and narrative. As Yaël Schlick points out in “What is an Experience?” it is impossible to completely construct the self textually, leading to the unavoidable fictionalizing of experience in autobiography. As I wrote my autobiographical comic, I found that I ultimately told my story in a way that fell into the conventions of appealing storytelling: a narrative arc, a summary of only the interesting parts of the experience, a satisfactory conclusion. This is of course not a reflection of my lived experience, however, the autobiographic comic nonetheless conveyed a feeling that I was seeking to get across to my reader. Yaël rightfully ponders this tension of lived experience versus text and the role that intertextuality plays in constructing personal narrative.
In the case of my autobiographic comic, it was evident that intertextuality—whether directly referenced or not—always plays a role in the way that a text or comic is created. For example, despite that neither my demon or Lynda Barry’s One! Hundred! Demons!are directly referenced, they both entirely formed the style and topic of my comic.
One of the ways in which Barry directly impacted the construction of my text is the idea of bringing the present self into the text. Yaël argues that this layering of temporalities demonstrates the “palpable presence of the past in the present and the narrative struggle to render it so” (38). The structure of my autobiographical comic begins in the present day, which brought me back to a past memory in which I felt the power of my painted “demon.” My demon is a visual representation of the fear of judgment from others. The reader of my comic is brought back to a time in my life when I felt this “demon” strongly. Then, the reader is brought back to the present, demonstrating how the power of my “demon” has lessened over time. Ultimately, the panel ends on a reflection of both stories by myself, the narrator.
While this process seems truthful to me, the events are not as cut-and-dry as I presented them in the comic. Similarly, Yaël argues that Bechdel problematizes the distinction between life and art by saying her parents are most real to her in fictional terms (42). Similarly, in Barry’s text she tries to find “tangible objects for intangible or indigestible events for feelings” (36). The process of translating life experience into art is not a science. My own process of creating an autobiographic comic clued me into Bechdel and Barry’s insistence on the necessity to include—unintentionally and intentionally—fiction in their autobiographies. For me, conveying a feeling or life lesson was not possible to present without elements of fiction or dramatization. This is because it is perhaps my internal reality that I am attempting to portray more than that of a play-by-play of events. My fictionalization of the storyline gives my life experience more meaning than perhaps it would have otherwise—much like Bechdel and Barry’s goals in infusing intertextuality into their autobiographies.