While the crowds at Comic-Con this year will flock to see nerd demigods like legendary sci-fi fan Forrest J. Ackerman and writer and cult icon Ray Bradbury, or celebs like Samuel L. Jackson and the entire cast of the television hit Lost, lesser known gems like author/cartoonist Donna Barr will sit quietly at their booths, awaiting a little attention from those who can pull their heads out of their Darth Vader masks long enough to un-fog their fame-obsessed brains.
Barr, who will be at both the San Diego State University and the Prism Comics booths throughout the four days of Comic-Con, is a comic book author and cartoonist worth getting to know. She creates clever and wild worlds-sometimes filled with gay, war-weary Nazi officers or cantering centaurs-that often satirize our current, live-action political comic strip with its similar cast of monsters who are twice as frightening and half as intelligent as Barr's characters.
Similar to many comic-book superheroes, some of Barr's main characters are often not exactly human, but the difference lies in their fantastic and hilarious anti-superhero (read: human) suffering. For instance, readers of her multi-volumed small masterpiece, Stinz, watch the main character grow from a prepubescent centaur to a ripe ol' less-than-noble steed.
"It's no fun always drawing just the big brave strong hero," Barr said. "Sometimes it's fun seeing him deal with pimples, or bad knees, or looking like an idiot with his girlfriend."
There's something refreshing and commendable about not glossing over the reality of, say, aging, like many other well-known comics do. In fact, Barr's commitment to character seems more rooted in literature than the funny pages.
Barr has not always been an artist. For her first 18 months there is no record of her with pencil in hand. Though since then, drawing and storytelling have consumed her life almost entirely. At age 3 she created a beaver community mural on her bedroom ceiling and a few years later she, thankfully, "wasn't whipped for scrawling a dragon across a ceiling with candle smoke."
Accidentally or not, Barr's more mature works seem somehow informed by those early murals; the frames of much of her work are packed tight with both whimsical words and images. There is no rapid jumping from frame to frame in her comics; instead, each one asks to be digested slowly, almost like a Where's Waldo for adults.
Once the masses get wind of all this, they'll be hooked. CityBeat's convinced; at next year's Comic-Con, Barr will be one of the artists with a special, scheduled autographing session and a nice, big booth of her own.
Donna Barr gives a free lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, in room LA2203 at the SDSU's Love Library entitled, "Double Visions: Combining Art and Literature as a Single Voice." The lecture coincides with SDSU's exhibit Beyond Superheroes and Sidekicks: Alternative Comics from SDSU's Special Collections featuring Barr's Black Manuscripts, on view through Aug. 18. Call 619-594-4991 for more info.