Those who still think young women's diaries are full of blushing and crushes will be shocked by Erika Moen's online journal. DAR! A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary (found at www.darcomic.com) is a webcomic that can be raw, ribald, and revelatory. The strips are always insightful and funny, although firmly adult. Moen isn't afraid to cover sexuality, bodily functions, and all the complications of gender relations, often in hilarious ways. The nudity is unusual in that it's not prurient but realistic and unashamed. In the introduction to her recent book collection, she sums up her recent history as a lesbian who fell in love with a guy, but she prefers to self-identify as "queer" or, more amusingly, "an immature pervert."
Moen is comfortable talking about sex, nudity, and the body because she finds them "pretty harmless and fully entertaining," but there is material she does shy away from. Private topics include fighting with friends, being super depressed, or anything that will portray her loved ones in a way that will embarrass them. Moen says, "People always ask if my husband knows of, or how he feels about, the stuff I write and it's like 'Bitch, please! That comic where he ate his own sperm? The one where I'm cooing because his cock'n'balls had gotten super tiny? Those were his suggestions! I'm really, really lucky to have a spouse who shares my sensibilities. Or lack of them." Although she acknowledges, "My sense of humor and worldview are certainly not for everyone," her openness has brought her close friends, and she first met her husband because he was a fan of the comics.
The book collection came about through peer pressure after she was laid off from an animation studio job. "I took on some freelance gigs until I could find another Real Job. After about six months of supporting myself on my own resources, it slowly dawned on me that I didn't need to work a 9-5. Pooping out DAR! over the years had left me with an enormous amount of content that I could actually turn into a potential source of revenue in the form of a book, which could also act as a calling card/portfolio to attract new clients or publishers. In addition, my friends had been urging me to compile DAR! into a book for years but it just never really felt like it was worth it. Who'd actually spend money to read about my life? But my friends were super supportive/insistent and the timing was right so... voila!"
Unfortunately, her material caused some problems with her printer. The company she chose, which she prefers not to name, is widely used by comic companies and has printed adult content previously. After her upfront payment, the US location where the book was to be printed declined the project due to its "risque" content only two weeks before her order was due back to her. After additional delay, a Canadian branch of the company agreed to print it, but only if she paid extra, effectively holding her work hostage for more money and preventing her from selling it at already scheduled events and appearances.
Moen is justifiably still angry over the holdups. "Never mind that they'd had all my files and had been having me do minor layout corrections on them for weeks, or that nowhere on my contract had it said that they do not print adult material. There are naked bodies in my book and some absurd sexual contexts, but I certainly wouldn't consider my book to be sexy or pornographic. Thankfully, in Canada, they don't give a fuck about a tit here or there. But it cost me many hundreds and hundreds of dollars more to have them print it and then ship it across country borders. In the end, I did get the books and they are beautiful. But I'll be damned if I ever use that printing company again."
Release snags aside, she's already planning a follow-up collection. Volume 2, ready in 2010, will collect this year's strips. She's self-distributing, figuring out the process as she goes along, selling the books at conventions and readings, and from her website (www.darcomic.com).