The Freddie Stories



The Freddie Stories traces a year in the life of Freddie, the youngest member of the dysfunctional Mullen family. These four-panel entries—each representing an episode in the life of Freddie—bring to life adolescence, pimples and all. No matter what happens, it all seems to go wrong for Freddie—he’s set up as an arsonist, mercilessly teased in school, and bossed around by classmates. With consummate...

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The Freddie Stories traces a year in the life of Freddie, the youngest member of the dysfunctional Mullen family. These four-panel entries—each representing an episode in the life of Freddie—bring to life adolescence, pimples and all. No matter what happens, it all seems to go wrong for Freddie—he’s set up as an arsonist, mercilessly teased in school, and bossed around by classmates. With consummate skill, Lynda Barry writes about the cruelty of children at this most vulnerable age when the friends they make and the paths they choose can forever change their lives. In The Freddie Stories every word of dialogue, every piece of narration, and every dark line evokes adolescent angst. These short, moving stories are collected from Barry’s beloved Ernie Pook’s Comeek, which was serialized across North America for two decades. Re-packaged here with a brand-new afterword from Lynda Barry, The Freddie Stories is an adult tale about just how hard it is to be a teenager, and it’s classic Barry work—poignant, insightful, and true.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Douglas Wolk
What keeps The Freddie Stories from being unbearably grim is Freddie's irrepressible voice, a cartwheeling, goofy burble that delights in its own verve even in his darkest moments. His narrative captions take up half or more of each panel. That doesn't leave much room for Barry's gawky, off-center characters and chicken-scratch flourishes, but she packs those tiny spaces with dense imagery…
From the Publisher
"Barry remains the comics' greatest genius at depicting childhood...Bullied at school and misunderstood or simply ignored by the kids' irascible, chain-smoking mother, Freddie nevertheless possesses an inner life of great beauty and terror, whose heights and depths Barry manages to encompass without ever abandoning the authentic voice of childhood. Much of what Freddie goes through is pretty rough, but as ever in Barry's work, the transcendent power of the imagination awaits." —'s Unforgettable Graphic Novels of 2013 
Library Journal
YA-Barry's comic strip has been running in hip weeklies for years. Marlys, her teenaged sister Maybonne, and their sappy little brother Freddie have also been featured in previous book-length tales that have a readership among both the strip readers and those who know Barry's work only in its longer form. Both groups will appreciate The Freddie Stories, featuring the eponymous weird little brother-who isn't really so much weird as he is the unfortunate low man on the totem pole at home, school, and in his neighborhood. In the cartoonist's customary style, the artwork is quivery and stuffed with detail, while the dialogue is hyperrealistic, replete with "ums" and name-calling. Freddie's teacher and mother both show their dislike of the poor underdog who finds himself needing to foil a peer's plan to burn down the neighborhood. Subplots about Marlys and Maybonne make this a true novel rather than a long short story. Freddie's life isn't any prettier than Barry's art, but both are substantial and compelling.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Syndicated in many alternative papers, Barry has collected nine volumes of her deliberately childlike comics and has also published a first novel, The Good Times Are Killing Me (not seen). Like the Simpsons' creator, Matt Groening, Barry supports her crude line drawings with her smart text, which is always hand-lettered above the picture, and often overwhelms her ugly-beautiful illustrations. Here, she gives voice to Freddie, the troubled brother of Marlys and Maybonne, who were the focus of previous volumes. Though the individual stories-each six or so frames, with one two-frame panel per page-begin innocently enough, Barry's poignant tales soon turn quite dark. Dismissed as "Freddie the Fag" by his older cousin Arnold, Freddie follows Arnold and his friend Jim-Jimmy-Jim in a demented plot with a violent end. Things turn even worse: Freddie hallucinates everyone as talking skulls, and his only friend at school first engages him in pubescent homosexuality, then dies from choking. Freddie retreats further into weirdness and is placed in special ed classes where his new friend, "Spaz-Eyes Gigi," also disappoints him. "El Fagtastico," as Freddie calls himself, grows stranger over time, and Barry narrates his sad history with visual sympathy and allows Freddie to speak for his own sorry self. A surprisingly moving, visually engaging collection. .
The Barnes & Noble Review

Blessed with legions of ardent fans, Lynda Barry is nonetheless critically underappreciated. Google her byline accompanied by the word "review," and you come up practically empty. Many people bump into her only in the context of her long friendship with Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. And yet for nearly thirty-five years she's been producing great, funny, unique comic strips — not graphic novels per se — many of them centered on a quirky adolescent girl named Marlys Mullen and her family.

Luckily for her readers, Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly has committed to getting all of Barry's lamentably unavailable work back into print. The Freddie Stories, tales centered on Marlys's weird, geeky brother, arrives in a handsome new edition featuring thirty pages of material not previously seen.

Each strip in this volume comprises four panels, and, while independent, the installments often flow into one another to sustain longer narratives. Unlike the vast majority of her peers, Barry favors a text-heavy style, almost making her creations into illustrated fiction rather than comics. Each panel generally features half or three-quarters of its acreage filled with text in Barry's distinctive hand, with the illustration crammed in below. Ornamental details abound in each initial panel, thematically evocative of the presumed origin of these mini-narratives in an adolescent's doodled journal. But Barry's art does not suffer from the top-heavy text. Her thorny thicket of lines and ink, blots and scratches always registers cleanly and boldly, recalling the work of Mark Alan Stamaty and Ben Katchor.

Freddie and his family occupy a generically suburban milieu that emerges as a late-sixties landscape, consonant with Barry's own Boomer childhood. Many period references cleverly evoke the era without bludgeoning the reader's sensibilities. Freddie's consciousness is quintessentially pre-adult: aware, say, of "Fool on the Hill" issuing from the radio but certainly not of, oh, antiwar protests in Washington.

But the lives of Freddie and his siblings are hardly Beach Boys idyllic. (His sisters, Marlys and Maybonne, figure only intermittently, indicative of Freddie's isolation.) Neglected by a hard-drinking single mother, Freddie has to navigate through both the internecine world of his peers and the inexplicable ecosphere of adults, with no direction or advice. And given that Freddie resembles Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons in his addlepated naïveté and flights of hallucinatory daydreaming, his misfit life is bleak. Anyone who thinks Chris Ware's comics are a chronicle of hardship and misery should scope out Barry's work.

And yet the ultimate tenor of these strips is somehow upbeat and positive. Freddie is unjustly imprisoned briefly in juvie due to being on the periphery of an act of murderous arson. So he makes friends with his cellmate and has a new pen pal when he's released! He sees the flaming skull of the arson victim everywhere — until he has a dream of grace and unburdening. It's summertime, and the family's shabby house is full of flies — so Freddie makes one his pet. The boy's sheer indomitability, coupled with his imaginative powers (which, true, are sometimes a millstone), leave the reader hopeful that Freddie will grow up into wellness and happiness and accomplishment. He's the original poster boy for the "It gets better" meme.

Barry's drawings are messily splendid while also graphically precise, able to convey personality and setting and emotional complexities with economy and depth. But her text is the real knockout component in these stories. There is a lot of deadpan humor. Freddie's hung-over mom moans, "Three beers are my limit"; later that day, Freddie observes she's on her fifth. And while staying achingly true to Freddie's age and mentality, Barry nonetheless consistently achieves Faulknerian complexity and style:

2 + 2 + 2 + 2 onward to infinity. I have been getting sinister headaches and if you have ever heard a dog whistle it has a sound that is in my brains and wants to break my glasses. Marlys is now begging me. Stop, Freddie. No more math, Freddie, stop.
The Freddie Stories as a graphic novel version of The Sound and the Fury, Freddie a strip-mall hybrid of Benjy and Quentin Compson? That's not too far a stretch for Lynda Barry's talents at all!

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, andThe San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781770460904
  • Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
  • Publication date: 1/22/2013
  • Pages: 72
  • Sales rank: 778,317
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynda Barry was born in Wisconsin in 1956, and later studied at Evergreen State College. She has worked as a painter, cartoonist, writer, illustrator, playwright, editor, commentator, and teacher and found they are very much alike.

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