Independent comics are perhaps some of the most experimental you can find. With no publisher or financial backer to worry about, particularly in the age of the internet, an artist/writer can explore any themes or settings they wish without fear of loosing the ability to publish. The internet lets these creators express their ideas to the world openly and freely. This can range from slice of life type works where people chronicle their everyday worlds, to strange sci-fi and fantasy that’s simply too weird for a mainstream publisher to get in the first place. This freedom opens creators up to go as weird and nonsensical as they wish, or even to explore the darkest realms of humanity.
Created by Jason Yungbluth in 1999, Clarissa centres around a young girl and her almost anachronistic 50’s family. A seemingly perfect family, complete with 2.5 kids, a doting mother and head of the household father. Problem is, this is all just a cover up. Clarissa, the youngest of them all, is frequently the victim of sexual assault and rape at the hands of her father. The rest of the family is shown in fear of the father, and keeping up, above all else, the image of the perfect family.
The stories are mostly told from Clarissa’s point of view as we see the lengths she goes to at such a young age to avoid her pain, or even to get other people to understand what is going on in her life. Including her nursery school teacher or some of the kids around her. The series has this dark humour vibe running through it. Almost like it’s trying to make you awkwardly laugh while horror unfolds before you.
An example of this is the story Stuffed Friend. A five-page short story written and drawn in 2001.
The story begins with the mother calling Clarissa over saying that she’s brought her a brand new stuffed bunny. The mother’s appearance right before this exchanged shows her clearly drinking while she wears a coat and hat reminiscent of that of Jackie Kennedy the day J.F.K. was shot. The mother tells Clarissa not to lose THIS one. Implying that Clarissa’s toys have a habit of disappearing. Clarissa goes to bed, dragging the bunny behind her. At night, the bunny comes to life, jumping all around the room, trying to get Clarissa to play with him. Clarissa is unfazed throughout the entire event. The door begins to open, and the bunny comments that it will play possum till the coast is clear. The shadow of her father envelops the room and it’s implied that several hours pass. The father leaves, and Clarissa is shown with her clothes open, her frown now slightly shaken, and her hair out of place. The bunny comes back to life and comments “Holy Shit! That’s… Uh… That’s a little bit more than I signed on for”. The bunny jumps off the bed and towards the window, saying sorry to the young girl before jumping out of the window. The final shot shows a pile of stuffed animals all laying on the ground outside.
This is not a one-off incident. This is routine in Clarissa’s life. A later comic Bath Time Fun! shows Clarissa’s painful and self-deprecating bath routine as she tells herself about how Daddy never keeps his promises to stop doing the yucky things he does. How she locks the door and doesn’t open it no matter how much money Daddy slips under the door.
The stories of Clarissa are fictional and short. But these stories can be all two true for many people around the world. Which Clarissa is written and drawn as somewhat of a dark comedy, it can indeed be a daily horror in reality.
The full selection of Clarissa comics, as well as Jason Yungbluth’s other work is available on his website here: http://www.whatisdeepfried.com/2000/12/31/clarissa/