DAR! A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary chronicles the life of artist Erika Moen starting from 2003 when she was still a student at Pitzer College and follows her anecdotes from then until 2010. It starts out as the musings of a young lesbian woman swirled up in plenty of emotional and relationship drama and then transitions into more and more humorous material after Moen graduates, finds her partner/future husband and becomes a full-time artist. On top of the introspective and the funny, Erika also includes quite a lot about her sex life, making DAR! very personal and even more hilarious, but definitely not for the prudish or anyone who likes to waste time reading webcomics at work as this webcomic more than earns at NSFW rating.
Volume one of DAR! starts in 2006 because Moen feels this is the best starting off point as this is where started “sucking less.” Luckily, a three year recap is provided to give brand new readers some background on Moen. I think this wasn’t a bad move on her part, since the charm of DAR is in more of her later work than her early, not always very funny, existential comics. In addition to what you can see on the web, Moen includes fun extras such as how to draw in her style (tip: Include a strap-on), how she draws her backgrounds, many of the Portland sites mentioned in the comic and a fun guide to everyone on her cover. Volume two consists of the remainder of the strip (Moen ended it in 2010), some original material and then jumps back to 2003 to include the entire comic in print format. There are more pages in volume 2, but there is less bonus material at the end. (If you count the original material, however, it does add up.) Moen remains funny right down to the last page where she proclaims “Plagiarists have small penises (even the women.)” in her copyright text. For $15 each, they’re more than the price of a normal volume of manga, but with the added benefit of knowing you’re directly supporting the artist and a good chunk of print-only extras.
Erika’s art is curvy and very fluid, something she attributes to her love of natural lines and tentacles in volume 2. It is also very simple, with lots of emphasis placed on the eyes and the mouths of her characters. Luckily this means her expressions are pretty spot-on. It doesn’t surprise me that Moen likes to keep it simple with her art (she also attests to liking to keep it simple with her haircut and fashion sense), but it is clear that her style is also well-practiced and pretty solid. It’s very fun and easy to read.
I believe that if there is one webcomic I am certain I will still love in ten years, it’s DAR! Nothing else I have read online has left me feeling more happy, inspired and open-minded after reading. Through DAR! Moen is honest about everything, from fart jokes, brain tumors to sexual identity, making even what should be a squirm-inducing TMI strip into something “aw”dorable or funny. I think it’s that frankness that makes me love this webcomic so much, I feel like I know Moen even though I only met her very briefly at Comic-Con when I bought these books from her. It makes me happy to see her come to terms with the fact that while she loves girls, her partner Matt is the person she wants to be with forever and that it makes her able to overcome the naysayers. I feel truly informed by her silly mini-lectures on vibrators and why breasts are more attractive in the summer. DAR! is like Erika’s love-letter to her goofy, sexually-confident self and I love every second of it.
I wish I could continue on with my own little love letter to DAR!, but I feel like it would be redundant to explain in excruciating detail how it makes me laugh and feel more confident as a woman after reading. Instead, you should read DAR! for yourself (although if you read the online version, you’ll have to wade through her early comics a bit) and laugh at her everyday antics.
You can buy the print volumes of DAR! A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary here alongside her fantastic original art collages, original strips and prints.