Marlys is eight years old. Pigtails and freckles. Loves animals and candy. Fights with her teenage sister, Maybonne. Is starting to get interested in boys. Still gets spanked by her mum when she does something naughty. She is a girl. She is the girl.
Marlys writes: “My sister, says, she will, kill, herself, when, the, last, leaf, falls, from the tree, outside, her, bedroom, window! So, I, glued, 79, of, the, leaves, on!”
The Greatest of Marlys gathers up a passel of Lynda Barry’s comic strips from the late 1980s on and in doing so reveals what a supple form the four-panel comic strip can be and how acute is Barry’s take on pre-adolescent life.
Marlys is quite simply one of the great comic book characters, a noisy, brash, sometimes badly treated child who never lets her natural optimism be crushed. Barry doesn’t indulge in nostalgia or sentiment here. These strips have the directness and power of lived experience. The images are busy and potent. The words veer between the demotic and the poetic. And the whole thing pulses with life. You will be richer for reading it.