John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Hey, lady walking your chicken on a leash in Portland – somebody's looking for you.
The personal ads in Craigslist's Missed Connections are awkward, melancholy, hopeful, surreal or a brutal sandwich of all of those things – in other words, perfect fodder for a comics series.
Sorry, artists diving for pens: It's been done before, with this anthology and now James Stanton's depressing yet somehow hilarious project, "Missed Connections Comix." Stanton, a 28-year-old cartoonist in Seattle, sifts through Craigslist personals in several metro areas looking for catchy post titles. "A lot of them won't seem that interesting," he says, "and then I'll see one and it's like, Oh yeah, that's gonna be weird. There's just no way around it." In the bizarro universe of Missed Connections, "weird" is relative: Stanton has illustrated everything from a crust punk pining for her stinky-footed companion, a desperate soul clicking his inbox furiously for replies and a man hunting for the beautiful women he sheltered when they got attacked by bees.
The comic began as a way for Stanton to draw the personals of free spirits at Burning Man. He's since expanded it to the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, Portland, Eugene, Seattle and elsewhere. He completes about one a week for Uptown Almanac and hopes to publish them as a book, which careful readers will digest in small parts to avoid falling into a sinkhole of existential despair.
"The general theme is basically loneliness, which I think really speaks to the idea of the Internet as a thing that has made people more connected than ever before, but in a really lonely way," Stanton says. "If you imagine people not being able to talk to somebody that they feel a connection with, and then they go home and post something about it on the 'net – in that sense, [the ads] are all kind of sad."
In terms of what makes for a good comic, Stanton looks for funny, pithy posts that he can quote word for word. He won't illustrate the longer ones, which often are "sappy, feel-sorry-for-me posts." Whenever he feels completely devoid of inspiration, he knows one place that'll get his creative juices splurting: the Missed Connections of Portland. "There are just so many details there that work well for the format of a comic," he says, like a woman "strolling down Hawthorne with your chicken and my heart on a golden leash" and a facial-hair enthusiast looking into a bar who "wanted to treat you all like a sexy petting zoo of beards."
Comics used with permission of James Stanton