Thursday Comics Hangover: The personal touch

Now that Facebook is burning down, maybe it's time to learn how to interact with other people again. Maybe you should try to figure out how to write letters. Maybe you've fallen so into the habit of bragging on social media that you don't remember how to tell people honestly about how your day was, or what you think or feel about things. Maybe we all need to learn how to communicate again.

This week, I've been reading Small Careful Fires, a collection of non-fiction comics by Seattle cartoonist Katie Wheeler. They've helped me feel more human in a week when the news is making me feel like nothing more than a predictable set of consumer choices on some website somewhere.

Fires is a collection of strips that read like diary entries. They're little moments, captured and curated with care: Wheeler cooks lunch, she goes to yoga, she and her husband consider adoption. Wheeler's art is intimate and warm. On every page, she letters with a blend of print and cursive that delivers a handwritten vibe.

Some of Wheeler's panels are descriptive, showing the plants in her apartment in close detail. Other panels are more abstract, depicting her anxieties as an ominous doorway to "a room of worries in [her] mind." A few panels are crammed full of words, like when someone tries to tell you a story they're so excited to share that they start talking really quickly.

Wheeler uses color to great effect in Small Careful Fires. Each anecdote is told in shades of a single color. The strip about anxiety is laid out in shades of blue, the strip about tending plants is green. The color creates an atmosphere for each story, giving each turn of the page some added excitement.

Reading Small Careful Fires in this exact moment was important for me: it reminded me that there's more to communication than what we can cram into Facebook's text boxes. Wheeler's autobiographical strips are so open and funny and inspirational and inviting that they'll make you want to share something of yourself, too — something real. Something human.