Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt
by Joe Matt
Drawn & Quarterly
BW, 100 pgs
$14.95 US / Higher in Canada
Read Joe Matt. It’s that simple. Marvel at a man who is willing to work out his problems in full public view. We should be thankful that he has chosen to do so.
To fully enjoy the work of Joe Matt, you need to embrace the voyeur inside yourself. There is no doubt we all like to watch. If the success of reality TV is any indication, the faceless masses like to watch real people in real situations, even if that reality is filtered through the lens of a camera.
There is no filtration system to save you from the truth of Joe Matt. He reveals his life to the reader and it’s not a pretty thing. In fact, it’s an ugly thing; a pockmarked, stringy-haired reality with big calf-muscles. Joe Matt eats his own scabs. He urinates in the sink. He watches a great deal of pornography. He discloses all his secrets, leaving nothing unsaid.
A depiction of Joe’s lesser qualities would quickly become a tiresome read of excess if not for Joe Matt’s exploration into his own darker sides and neurosis. He delves into his family past, his Catholic upbringing and even his failed relationships in order to shed light on his personality and behaviours. He never attempts to apologize for or to justify his actions. That would be an insult to the reader. What we see in Peepshow is Joe Matt on a journey of self-exploration. Peepshow is a diary after all, a means for private record and self-communication. Joe Matt has simply given us the key.
Back in 1988, Joe Matt started putting together a series of one-page autobiographical strips, which were initially published in numerous anthologies and magazines. These strips were eventually bound together in a single, over-sized collection called Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt. Each page is a self-contained strip that captures a certain train of thought or moment in Joe’s life. He holds nothing back and you have to respect him for that even if you can’t stomach the read.
Despite his various personal flaws, Joe Matt does indeed possess an enormous amount of talent. His cartooning is fantastic, a comedic joy to the eyes. Even the bleakest of tales is laced with visual comedy. He wastes no space, jamming the pages with fine detail and slight flourishes. His black and white lines possess a great amount of life, alternating between gag panels and narrative explorations. His cartoons are poignant, often hilarious, sometimes depressing, but always a treat to examine long after you’ve finished reading the text. (Chad Boudreau)