Gutter Space #11: Imagination as a Coping Mechanism in Comics Essays

Gutter Space #11 by Leslie Salas

Imagination as a Coping Mechanism in Comics Essays

Perhaps many of you have heard of an Internet entity known as The Oatmeal, a man (Matthew Inman) who writes funny webcomics, draws posters everyone wants on their cubicle walls, and even fundraised enough money to save Nikola Tesla’s lab and turn it into a museum. The Oatmeal’s most recent endeavor has been to rename the holiday that occurred on Monday to something a bit more appropriate, but that’s not what I’d like to focus on for this week’s edition of Gutter Space. Instead, I’d like to talk about one of his older essays, which happens to be my favorite, entitled:


 The title itself is intriguing, but when paired with the first three panels, you realize that The Oatmeal intends to take you on a ride.


The Oatmeal braids this story of this broken cat (and fifteen other cats) with the chilling tale of how he was woken up early one morning to discover that his house was on fire.


The Oatmeal compares horrible events with ideas from his imagination that take the edge off reality and to cope with extenuating circumstances. He uses a powerful refrain throughout his essay: “This is not the truth, but it’s how I like to remember them,” to ground us as readers into the playful and humorous imagination of the speaker, and the knowledge that the speaker recognizes the truth but willfully chooses to assign his feelings to an alternate reality.

When Your House is Burning Down, You Should Brush Your Teeth” is a touching essay that bridges the thin, narrow line between fiction and nonfiction in order to tell a compelling and heartfelt story of humor, danger, and love. The quality of the storytelling is literary, and showcases the power that a talented sequential artist can yield.

If you’d like more from The Oatmeal, take a look at his books.


Leslie Salas (Photo by Ashley Inguanta)

Leslie Salas writes fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and comics. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and attended the University of Denver Publishing Institute. In addition to being an Associate Course Director at Full Sail University, Leslie also serves as an assistant editor for The Florida Review, a graphic nonfiction editorial assistant for Sweet: A Literary Confection, and a regular contributing artist for SmokeLong Quarterly.

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