Sa Vie, Gabrielle Bell
This story serves as the epilogue to The Voyeurs collection, published in 2012 by Uncivilized Books. Like all of Bell’s best work, it focuses on friendship and connection and the relationship between fiction and non-fiction. In just 21 panels she invokes Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie and Bertolt Brecht’s approach to art-making before launching into a devastating self-critique, where she is described as a ghost, a rollercoaster on the precipice, a snake, a cloud, a drug dealer, a transitional space. That this ‘not a criticism’/’just a criticism’ is delivered by her friend Tony makes it all the more powerful. One can have these feelings about oneself, and even believe it, but it’s another thing altogether to hear it from a close friend. Bell had for years featured a character in her comics called ‘Tom’, who I was certain was a pure fictionalization, a foil for the ‘Gabrielle Bell’ character. Her announcement a couple of years ago that ‘Tom’ is an actual person, ‘Tony’, gave me cause to go back and look at her work again in that light. It hasn’t changed how I feel about her comics, except that Tony is real, and so is Bell, and maybe he said these things to her and maybe he didn’t. But in any case, I think it’s her most sanctified work.