Sunny Side Down
written by Lev Yilmaz
Sunny Side Down is a collection of the comic strip “Tales of Mere Existence,” and those two titles are a solid summary of what readers can expect picking up Lev Yilmaz’s collection.
If the stories, anecdotes, and reflections contained in Sunny Side Down are to be taken as fact, then Yilmaz is definitely not a jock. He wasn’t the popular guy in high school. He wasn’t completely at the nerd end of the spectrum, mind, but was generally an average Joe with an imaginative mind—the kind of kid who tended to over-think everything and found himself the subject of ridicule on occasion, or at least believed himself to be in a paranoid self-consciousness as he meandered aimlessly through his early years.
As such, his book is immediately relatable to pretty much everyone other than the clique of incredibly popular kids who likely grew up to be incredibly awesome businessmen, while the rest of us go on reading comics and wondering through life.
Yilmaz’s work doesn’t take on the playfully reminiscent tone one might expect. He isn’t always looking back in amusement on the “good ol’ days,” though he does provide plenty of funny scenarios. The humor is underplayed, with Yilmaz instead leaving it up to the reader to find the sunny side in the events. At points, the insecurity can become too much, making it awkward for the reader, but the style generally works.
Sunny Side Down succeeds primarily because of Yilmaz’s honesty when it comes to the strange thoughts he has had—from making funny shapes with shadows on the walls while relieving himself to the different walks he thought about having as a teen to superstitious beliefs—and his incredible attention to detail throughout the years.
The book is presented in chronological order, going all the way back to the birth of Yilmaz and leading up to present day, when he finds himself pretty much meandering around as he always has, having grown, but remaining much the same. The artwork is simplistic, and there is something about the empty stare of many characters that is rather troublesome, but it works well for how Yilmaz presents his work.
Every page is a new experience. Yilmaz uses everything from traditional strip format to long passages of text barely including images to lists. It all has the feel of something a creative child might doodle in his notebook while he’s tuning out the world around him, and the reader is lucky enough to have picked up that notebook years later to discover it is not unlike his own. Yilmaz provides a kindred spirit to the self-consciousness in everyone.