Friday, March 6, 2009

Mini-Comic Review: Sun Dogs

Normally, I’m not a big fan of autobiographical comics. Whether it’s someone who does an eight-page mini-comic or Harvey Pekar, autobio comics aren’t really my thing. With that said, I have an utmost respect for Adam Pasion and his mini-comic Sun Dogs, a series of 6 comics chronicling Pasion’s life on a day-to-day basis, because when I first sat down with issue #1, I was hooked.

The format of Sun Dogs is three, three- or four-panel comic strips per page, with each comic showcasing a day of his life in 2008. Pasion, an expatriate living in Japan with his Japanese wife and their newborn son, should be lauded for accomplishing his goal of keeping a daily comic journal for all 366 days of the year (leap year!).

The biggest issue I have with autobiographical/diary comics is the detailing of the mundane. I don’t find it interesting that Harvey Pekar loves the smell of fresh bread (not to pick on Pekar or anything). That, of course, happens in Sun Dogs, where Pasion will write about fixing his bike, eating food or, worse yet, making this very comic. But that’s to be expected of a daily diary comic. After all, who has something interesting happen to them every day?

Luckily, the droll days of Pasion’s life during 2008 are not overwhelming, and there is plenty of captivating material. I think Pasion’s work takes off when it deals with his place in life as an American expat living in Japan and the challenges it brings, such as being kicked out of a bathhouse for having tattoos and having an inferiority complex when there’s a sumo wrestler on the train because he’s used to being the largest person on there. Pasion's artwork is clean, he has a knack for illustrating facial expressions and there are just enough details in each panel to give them context.

Another reason Sun Dogs is captivating is the emotion put forth by Pasion into the stories. He delves into the personal, from a rare fight with his wife and the ups and downs of parenting to a sad tale where he visited America for a wedding only to find out the next day that his grandfather died. The most touching strip of the whole series is the one dated October 16th, 2008, which reads: “I was a pallbearer, so as I sat in the funeral car with my cousins and brothers, I thought how strange a few days ago I was a groomsman in almost the same position. It broke my heart in a thousand pieces to see my grandpa’s twin brother say goodbye.”

I’m not sure whether Pasion plans to do another diary comic or not. But if he chose to do one, say, weekly, he could pick the choice events in his life to document, therefore leaving the run-of-the-mill occurrences on the cutting room floor and allowing his artistic and storytelling abilities to shine.

Each issue of Sun Dogs is $2 (plus shipping), or you can order all six for $10 (plus shipping) on Pasion’s Etsy page. He also takes trades, but asks you to inquire first by e-mailing him at

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