Snakepit 2009: By Ben Snakepit, 96 pgs. By Sean Stewart

We all get old; this is a fact of life that I am well aware of. And yet, I was still initially surprised to open this annual anthology and find Ben Snakepit showing signs of aging. I started reading Ben’s comic in its early days and was a steady consumer for a long time, although I hadn’t seen an issue in probably the last couple of years. That fact isn’t a reflection of my opinion of the comic (I’ve always liked it), but rather a not uncommon result of my own distracted nature when it comes to keeping up with things over time. So when I eagerly picked this up and started reading, I found myself wondering where was the Ben who goes to parties and shows every night? Why wasn’t he biking everywhere anymore? Is that really a minivan that he’s driving? I noticed a distinct reduction in the number of brodowns. Instead, Ben came home most every night to walk his dog and hang out with his girlfriend (the same one throughout the entire year, no less!). A few pages in, I admit to having become somewhat bored. But then gradually I settled into the new rhythm of Ben’s life and began to enjoy Snakepit on a different level than I had before. While I used to relish escaping into the absurdity of Ben’s hectic rollercoaster of a life, I now found myself commiserating with him as he grapples with the all too familiar drudgery of routine.

Most of us experience changes in our lifestyles over the years, be they subtle and gradual, or extreme and all at once. But most of us also entertain a pretty limited audience with these changes. Not so for Ben, though. I remember when he got called out for not realistically portraying his body size in the pages of Snakepit. He copped to it, though, and these days we see that Ben is a little bigger around the middle. I think Ben’s introduction to this anthology lays it all out on the line: “I’m older, fatter, lazier, and I give less of a shit about everything.” He talks about ending the comic sometime in the not too distant future, perhaps on its tenth anniversary. Maybe he’s ready to reclaim all of his life for himself, not just the more personal stuff he’s chosen not to include in the comic over the years. Whatever the reason, though, he’s trusting his instincts and no one can fault him for that. In the meantime, there is still good reading to be found in the pages of Snakepit; it continues to offer what an autobiographical comic should provide: an honest window into a person’s life. –Sean Stewart (Birdcage Bottom Books, birdcagebottombooks.com)