True Story, Swear to God #12 is finally out, a year and a half after #11. Cartoonist Tom Beland fell down some stairs and has been recovering the use of his drawing hand.
It was particularly bad timing as Beland’s story was reaching somewhat of a climax before it disappeared. The comic is biographical, with the story’s backbone being his relationship with his girlfriend Lily. Issue 12 promised their wedding. Their wedding which took place at Disneyland.
I’ve been aware of Beland’s work for almost ten years, since he took part in Shiot Crock – the Amateur Press Anthology based at tcj.com (still going, the next one is being set up here, and is open to everyone). Tom has always had an extremely assured inking style. His brush work is very appealing. His strips in Shiot Crock were slice of life gags, with an extended story about a party of stoners being paranoid about a pizza delivery boy at their door. The emergence of his romantic style over these kind of stories seemed to come as a surprise to him. He was just carrying on depicting his own life, and began writing more and more about Lily.
Beland used to send out his comics free via e-mail to subscribers. I was on his list circa 2001, and as well as his cartoons he also wrote little diary style entries. I remember him getting married and sending out his photo from the Magic Kingdom.
Quite soon, he began self-publishing his own series under the company name, “Clib’s Boy Comics”, touchingly named after his Dad who himself nursed cartooning ambitions. I sent off for 7 issues of his original True Stories Swear to God mini, but was sent 2 #6s and no #5! The 17th issue of the Clib’s Boy series was the last, as Image took over publishing with a new #1.
His comic has serialised his initial meeting with Lily at Disneyland, his move to Puerto Rico to be with her, and has now caught up with the time I was receiving e-mails from him. But I remembered something else while reading this latest issue.
On the following page Beland writes on how he is physically shaken when he meets a woman wearing a burqa:
As you can see, the sequence is written to show you how he manages to get over his prejudice and admit his own shortcomings. But “Taliban uniforms” is a strikingly bad interpretation. Beland writes like this a lot, along the lines of “Here’s why I’m an asshole. But I’m trying my best / have learned better”. I often think of him as the opposite of Peep Show’s Joe Matt , who writes more along the lines of “Here’s why I’m an asshole. No, the biggest asshole ever.”
But what this reminded me of was a cartoon Beland sent out after the 9/11 attacks. It was a single panel with Uncle Sam’s hands opening up a can with “Whup-Ass” written on it . I remember this panel affected me a lot. It symbolised a feeling among the American public that I thought could easily be manipulated into committing terrible acts. It genuinely stopped me in my tracks and made me worry about the future.
It's now nine years later, and I can still enjoy Beland’s work. I do like the romantic storylines, and his work remains funny. He’s always willing to put his personal feelings out there, and it will be interesting to see where his storyline goes now that he’s portrayed the wedding.
And if anyone has a spare copy of True Stories Swear to God #5, let me know. I’ll pay!