Artist/writer Sam Kieth and artist Josh Hagler have used independent comics' freedom to tell personal stories beyond the realm of the "graphic novel." Their current series from Oni Press, My Inner Bimbo, should be called "graphic essay" much in the way that Nicholson Baker or Milan Kundera's works are called "essay novels."
The premise of My Inner Bimbo is pretty high concept. Lo, a troubled sixty-year old in 2023, has a day job of reselling old public-access videos and films on a Internet console straight out of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. He's having troubles with his wife Betsy, whom he met when he was eighteen and she was in her thirties. Borrowing explicitly from the Celtic Selkie myth, a mysterious girl appears to Lo, with a strange singing skin that Lo locks away in a trunk.
Lo thinks this is "his inner bimbo", a manifestation of his feminine side. He gets into riproaring arguments with the girl as she matures before his eyes. This is where the "essay" comes in. The arguments allow for real scrutiny of Lo, standing in for any man who considers himself "sensitive". Can he call himself a feminist and still look at porn? Was it right to marry someone as old as his mother? What is his underlying fear of women, anyway? Feminist critics, literary figures, and events from Lo's own life are used equally to flesh out the arguments.
The style of art in My Inner Bimbo fluctuates as much as the form of the bimbo herself, ranging from abstracted cartoons to portraiture. If the text carries the ideas, the images carry the emotions. Sometimes it directly names the influences--Klimt, Egon Schiele, Manet. Most of the time the reader is left to make the connections.
My Inner Bimbo still has one more issue before completion. This reviewer hopes that it does not get overlooked in favor of the graphic novels with epic personal stories--Satrapi's Persepolis being a recent example. There should be room left for smaller, more inner-directed stories in reader's bags.
For more information about My Inner Bimbo, visit http://www.onipress.com/