S.F. City Life Absurdities Lurk in Poorlier Drawn Lines

The Bay Area native behind popular webcomic Poorly Drawn Lines promises more absurd-yet-poignant humor in his latest book.

San Francisco’s rolling hills, Victorian homes, surrounding water, and fog are the stuff of inspiration for the Bay Area’s creatives. In the case of Poorlier Drawn Lines, the third book installment of the popular webcomic Poorly Drawn Lines, San Francisco’s grand influence comes from a tree in a planter — a desolate tree bemoaning the hard city life that brings cigarette stubs and life in concrete, but also nice restaurants.

Courtesy Penguin Random House

“That may have been directly inspired by a tree in front of my apartment in the Richmond District,” says Reza Farazmand, the artist behind Poorly Drawn Lines and a Marin County native who lived in San Francisco for a few years.

Memories of a raccoon watching him from above on his way home also lingered as he incorporated the devilishly cute critter into the comics. “You would have thought it was a stone gargoyle,” he says. 

In a bigger way, San Francisco helped inform poignant observations behind the humor that comes from being a young city-dweller with modern technology, paired with the 31-year-old’s absurdist streak. The series of largely standalone comics has been on the web, and increasingly Instagram, for more than 10 years and previously spawned two books: Poorly Drawn Lines: Good Ideas and Amazing Stories in 2015 and 2017’s Comics for a Strange World: A Book of Poorly Drawn Lines.

The aptly-titled sequel, out since Nov. 19, includes a fish with student debt, a mouse with offbeat displays of anxiety, a pigeon named Ryan Gosling who demands payment for his work, and a green bear from outer space named Ernesto with an unhealthy dependency on Instagram likes who throws his phone into the ocean.

“It adds a layer of absurdity when there’s an animal experiencing human emotions,” Farazmand tells SF Weekly. “Oftentimes the other character is just a sounding board for the other character’s thoughts and feelings.”

Fans of the series will recognize favorites Ernesto and Kevin, a bird who often tests being cool on Ernesto but immediately backtracks with niceties like a handmade sweater for his friend. To Farazmand, they represent quintessential roommates who are also good friends and he credits his own time living with best friends in San Francisco as comic inspiration.

They have their own adventures — Kevin launches a start-up from home but it just means buying expensive office supplies — but Ernesto gets the longest arc of the book, ditching his 20-something-in-the-city life to hack it in nature. He stumbles in with assumptions that bunnies churn their own butter but instead finds they’re in a bitter, violent war with wolves.

“At some point he got tired of the modern life,” Farazmand says. “He’s kind of naive to what nature actually is. He sort of stands in for people who lock themselves in cities for a long time and crave nature.” 

Farazmand lives in Los Angeles now, where he still gets bested by what he calls the Trinity of Distraction: boredom, snacks, and the internet. But he still manages to put out around three comics online a week, though several from the book are saved for the book edition — a superior bedtime alternative to scrolling on Instagram, anyways. 

Poorlier Drawn Lines$12, available at local bookstores. 

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