Like many art students, Jennie Breeden went into art school hoping to make a career with her passion. However like many post graduate students, her life didn’t go as planned. Real life interfered, forcing her to take job after job in order to pay the bills. As a result, her passion had to take a back seat. That is until one day, when she realized she wasn’t stretching her drawing muscle. Being a fan of comic books, she vowed she would draw a comic strip every day, so she created The Devil’s Panties. She started posting comic strips since 2001 and continues to this day. Considering how long this comic strip has run for, this review will focus on Volume 1.
To begin with: No, this is not satanic porn.
This is how Breeden begins each conversation whenever it involves her comic strip. It has practically become her slogan. It actually is a semi-autobiographical tale of Jen, a twenty something art student with a passion for all things geekdom, especially comic books, chocolate and Invader Zim. At first sight, she stands below her friends due to her short stature. But what she lacks in size she makes up for with her giant personality. With no inch of subtly in her, Jen goes so big with her emotions she is practically her own force of nature. She is the type of person for whom “doing nothing” involves shaking her booty. But it’s best to keep clear if you don’t get clobbered by her moves. Though based on herself, Breeden admits she only wishes she were like Jen.
Jen has to be one of the most fun characters ever drawn on 4 panels. While most geeks are portrayed as meek and timid, it’s refreshing to find a geek who’s so full of life you’d love to join her for a night on the town. Plus, her over the top reactions are hilarious. She reacts to life with the mix of child and cartoon character. When face to face with comic artist Terry Moore, she bows down and declares herself unworthy ala Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. After accidently, inhaling too much paint fumes, the googly eyed Jen screams “BUNNIES!” with a wide grin. The funniest moment is when her boss brings in a touque resembling Gir from Invader Zim. Seeing that childlike glee as she runs off with the hat, stating with a Cheshire grin “Mine!” sums up everything I love about this comic strip.
Despite her over the top demeanor, Jen is a surprisingly relatable character. After graduation, Jen has to face the worst enemy of artists; the real world. Through Jen, Breeden offers a look at the struggles twenty somethings have to deal with after graduation from big things like buying a house and paying bills to small things like frozen chicken and sibling rivalry. The one aspect of post graduate life Breeden gets perfectly are the multiple jobs post graduates has to start out with to make a living. In the first volume, Jen worked job after job, including dishwasher, scout leader and a comic store clerk. At the same time, it also shows the joys that go with it. Moving in with your best friends. Working in places like comic stores. Vacations with families. And especially falling in love and moving in with your love. The way Breeden grounds the characters in reality brings a worthy comparison to Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch out For. Both artists capture the unique and relatable sides of their respective groups, bringing both humour and honesty in each strip.
A unique aspect Breeden brings to Jen is her own personal ups and downs of being an up and coming comic artist. There’s the brother wondering why he isn’t in more comics. Jen’s response “Do something funny.” There’s always that someone who has to ask. There’s the strenuous process of packing your merchandise for your booth at comic cons. Most of all, she portrays an artists sitting at their booths, waiting for someone, anyone to buy their books. Breeden has a lot of fun portraying Jen’s increase desperation, at one point pulling up her shirt and yelling “Hey look, Boobies!” At the same time, she also shows the rewarding moments, like seeing the variety of cosplays at cons, meeting their favourite artists and just plain hanging out with people who share your interests.
Looking back at comic strips, the strength of this medium seems to come from the characters. 4 panels don’t leave much room to tell a joke, let alone an in depth story. And many comic artists have to draw one strip a day, which can prove a challenge. So, comics tend to be character oriented. But when that one great character is born, the river of creative juices seems to flow. Plus, these characters seem to have a strong loyal fan base, even after the end of publishing. This is certainly true in the cases of Charlie Brown, Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. With her midriff t-shirt, stripped short and giant boots, Jen has proven herself to be worthy of these guys. She brings a unique perspective of female geeks that everyone can connect with. Despite being cartoonish, The Devil’s Panties captures the joys and passion unique to geeks better than other mediums do and Breeden makes it accessible to everyone.
 Except in one strip where she gets so desperate to sell her books she screams “Come on people, It’s Satanic Porn!” Of course, she realizes too late that there were children right next to her.
If you are interested, please check out the website: http://thedevilspanties.com/