Meet The Many Jane Mais of Jane Mai’s ‘See You Next Tuesday’
One of the first pages of cartoonist Jane Mai's See You Next Tuesday is simply a large drawing of the girl on the cover winking, with the words "This is my diary, xoxo Jane Mai" next to it. That certainly seems to suggest that the many short comics, drawings and bursts of hand-written text should be read as autobiographical; as real or true. But that page is followed almost immediately by qualifiers.
The first is a hand-written page stating that "The following series of events is not presented chronologically and frankly time does not exist anyway. I'm not even sure I exist TBH." And that is followed by a two-page "people guide" introducing the dramatis personae that star in the book, and... four of the seven are different versions of Jane Mai.
That doesn't mean the book isn't autobiographical, of course, nor does it mean that the stories it contains aren't real or aren't true; it just means that Jane Mai can be different people at different times, depending on the context. Which, of course, makes Jane Mai all the more real, as her diary comics collected herein are open and honest with the fact that a creator using themselves as a character can take more licenses with themselves.
Mai's diary comics are a prism, fracturing and projecting myriad Jane Mais onto comics pages. All that we can tell about the real Jane Mai for sure, based on the resultant work, is that she's really funny, and able to alchemically take some pretty distressing or depressing topics and turn them into funny comics.
See You Next Tuesday is the apparent third part of Mai's "day" trilogy, following the much more serious and somber Sundays In The Park With Boys (also from publisher Koyama Press) and the mini-comic Sorry I Can't Come in on Monday I'm Really Really Sick. Its contents vary wildly in form, ranging from short, several-panel, newspaper-like comic strips to longer, multi-page stories, and from hand-written text to full-page drawings, with Mai's different materials showing in the way her lines change in thickness and quality from entry to entry.
The work always has a dashed-off look about it, however. Almost nothing inside the book looks as finished as the cover, featuring a Jane Mai and her beloved dog, Stinky. The panel borders are usually drawn sans straight edge, and the dialogue and narration are often written without punctuation, reading like hand-written tweets. Any mistakes or spelling errors are simply scratched out and ignored.
The content is similarly all over the place and un-fussed over; it's a collection of funny stories more than anything else. Mai records something funny she overheard two girls say in the bathroom in high school; she records conversations with her friend about what they would do if they had a penis for a day; she talks about her relationship with each of her parents; she describes her typical day. There are stories about Stinky, peeing and pooping; Chinese toilets; sex, being pretty; conversations with random passersby on the street; shopping for clothes; throwing up; out-spreading man-spreaders on the train; rice; being short; and childhood.
Jane Mai seems fearless in her subject matter, unwinding gags about the sexual and the scatalogical as well as her own emotional problems and depression. That it is almost always funny owes to Mai's own super-cute drawing style, which generally suggests thumbnail sketches for a humor manga in design, and her lo-fi rendering.
I say "seems" of course, because as Mai proves in her work, the ultimate author is all but unknowable, even --- or, perhaps, especially --- when she's telling you about herself. I just know that she makes funny comics, and made one of my favorite books of the year. And that she has more comics about poop in her latest major work than pretty much any other cartoonist I can think of.