Review of Me Likes You Very Much

I like Lauren Barnett’s Me Likes You Very Much, a collection of the artist’s daily webcomics spanning from 2008-2012, very much. I’ll openly admit I was initially wary of Barnett’s plethora of talking fruits and birds. The art is sketchy and goofy and the novel is a motley collection of seemingly unrelated strips depicting inanimate objects conversing with each other. But Me Likes You Very Much grows on you very quickly. It grows on you to the point where you’re suddenly laughing out loud and handing the book to your friends saying, “This is exactly how I feel about recycling. Exactly how I feel.”

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to realize that Me Likes You Very Much is a thoughtful commentary on friendship and relationships thinly veiled by sketchily drawn birds with potty mouths.

The birds speak what we as people—as friends and significant others—are actually thinking about one another. The characters speak candidly  (“I’m so sick of looking at your face every day” or “You are so boring. I am bored to death. Literally, I am probably minutes away from death because of you”) in a way we all sometimes wish we had the guts for. One of my favorite strips depicts a white bird commenting on a blue bird’s breakfast choice. “Bagels are really fattening,” he says, and the blue bird replies, “Well I thought you were a stupid asshole and I guess I was right.” Because we’ve probably all been in a situation like this and couldn’t react as honestly or as rudely as the blue bird (even though we wanted to), it’s nice to live vicariously through the comic strip. When you read Me Likes You Very Much, you can indulge in the rudeness and truth of the characters without actually messing up your own karma.

Scattered through the collection are full-page sketches of animals who speak in large bubble letters. These pages act as monologues, as the characters admit something brutally deep about themselves. I connected particularly with the image of a goldfish, frowning and thinking, “nobody loves me even though I’m effing gorgeous.” What may be so appealing about this sketch is the irony that a silly drawing of a blue goldfish could relate to a very real human concern: that we aren’t loved and that maybe we never will be even if we are the most gorgeous person in the world.

I’ve certainly seen prettier art, and I’ve certainly seen better technical use of sequential elements. But the art does what it needs to do. It complements the tone of the writing. While the art is no masterpiece, it’s greatest asset is that it doesn’t get in the way of the writing, something that happens far too often in comic books.

If Barnett can convince me in a matter of minutes that talking birds and veggies can reveal something about the human condition, there isn’t any doubt it my mind that $14 is a small price to pay for this graphic novel.

Comic Books 101—Part Four

Know Your Rights

Sure, writing is an art form, but (and thank goodness!) it does come along with some rights. As a writer, particularly as a comic book writer, you need to be aware of these rights.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property (IP) is the property that results from an original creative thought. IP includes patents, trademarks, and copyright material. That last one—copyright material—that’s what you as a writer care about. Everything you write is automatically copyrighted, although the U.S. government does give you the option to pay a fee.

Rights to Know—When Working with an Artist

If you need an artist but want to retain all rights to your story, find an artist who will “work for hire.” Work for hire means the artist does her work and you pay her immediately. She takes no rights to your story, so when (and I mean if) someone wants to buy the movie rights, you get all the cash (that is, of course, if you’re not working with a publisher). You can, however, give your artist the right to re-sell original copies of her work (this can really help an artist out!)

PRO: The writer doesn’t give up rights.

CON: Smaller publishers often prefer you submit your work as a creative team, not just as a writer. And teams are more fun, anyway!

If you don’t mind giving up some rights to the artist, you can find an artist who will be a member of your creative team. You and this artist will draft a contract whereby you decide on how rights are delineated.

PRO: Smaller publishers prefer you submit your work as a team. Finding an artist who is with you all the way through to publication means your writing and her art will grow to work better together. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.

CON: The writer gives up some rights to the artist.

Rights to Know—When Working with a Publisher

First Rights—The publisher has the right to be the first to publish your work. And that’s it. After a set period of time, all rights revert back to you the writer, and you’re free to do with your work as you see fit. More specific first rights include First English Rights, First North American Serial Rights, and First Electronic Rights. (Note, however, that many publishers don’t want to see previously published work, so be a bit wary here if you plan on re-publishing your work).

Nonexclusive Reprint Rights—This is a sweet deal for the writer. The publisher has the right to reprint your article even though it’s already been published. Since they bought the rights “nonexclusively,” another publisher can re-print your work.

All Rights—You sell all your rights. Yeah, all of them. That better be some helluva publisher!

Royalty—Okay, this isn’t a right, but it’s a good word to know. It’s your share (usually a percentage given to you after a number of books have sold) of the profits (net or not) of a book. You can also make royalties as a portion of the cover price.



Visit Ms.Comix next Wednesday for updates from Comic Book 101!