If you were a fan of the Scott Pilgrim books, you know the experience of deflation that occurs when you've finished reading Volume 6: There will be no new Scott Pilgrim books to read
ever again. You can't just jump from those books to, say, Sandman
—though the number of highly readable comics has increased a great deal in the last fifteen years or so, you still can't find many other books out there with the humor and subject matter you'll find in Scott Pilgrim. Right?
Well, not exactly: A few months ago, Top Shelf Productions published The 120 Days of Simon, a comic memoir by Swedish rapper Simon Gärdenfors, and you should give it a try if you're going through Pilgrim withdrawal. The book is based on a gimmicky premise—Gärdenfors was about to go on a four-month long tour, and so he decided to make it interesting by asking his fans to put him up in their houses while he was on tour. The rules were that he couldn't stay in any place for more than two nights in a row, and he couldn't go home for the entire four months.
Gärdenfors's art is blocky and iconic—his scruffy, round-headed self-portrait, with a shave and some grooming, could be pulled from a box of sugary cereal. That polished gleam of advertising definitely makes some of the emotional stakes in the book seem lower, even as Gärdenfors sleeps with and abandons fans
and gets in trouble with their parents. He doesn't try to make himself seem like a good guy (and he doesn't seem to be making himself seem any worse than he really is, either), but the clever iconography makes him trustworthy to the reader. Some of the themes you find in Scott Pilgrim—about continuing to act like a child even as you get further and further away from your childhood—are addressed here, and though Gärdenfors doesn't provide any easy answers, the book feels like a journey. It works.
Simon is one in a series of Top Shelf's mini-"Swedish invasion" of books by autobiographical cartoonists. If you enjoy it, you might want to give Mats Jonsson's Hey Princess a try. Johnsson fucks his way around a twentysomething circle of friends in contemporary Sweden, going to parties and rock shows and barely concealing his misanthropy and libido all the while. His work feels more cynical and dark than Gärdenfors's, but if you enjoy autobiographical comics, it's some solid, well-crafted stuff.