The Var Side | Varyer
An illustration of a large bird walking over a town.

The Var Side

A yearlong illustration project that explores the unique feeling of each month.

There's nothing quite like the deep nostalgia of reading the Sunday comics as a child. Something about the predictable cadence of time passing—and, of course, the delight in art and illustration—made for a unique kind of pleasure.

We're chasing that youthful high with a yearlong comics project with some of our favorite illustrators. Each month, a new artist will share their interpretation of that month's distinct feeling. Like the turning of a calendar, each comic will be sent out in V—Mail, our email newsletter, and posted to this page. We hope you'll join us on the visual journey through 2023.

December Meal Plan

"When I think about December, I think about celebrations. The nights are darker, the lights are brighter, and the food, albeit smaller in size, is bigger in personality. There are three categories of December food: the homemade ones, the perfectly petite bites catered at a function, and the takeout food you order late at night when you realize you didn’t eat enough food at said catered function. So, at some point or another, many of us will find our fridge packed with random assortment of foods that December brings. Suddenly, every meal is pigs-in-a-blanket with a side of sugar cookies and crusted-over hummus. The girl dinner of our dreams."

Tarn Susumpow (@tarninabarn) is a Brooklyn-based artist with roots in Bangkok. Her main medium is digital drawing. Her favorite subject to draw is food, especially ones that make her feel nostalgic about family, friends, and community. Tarn’s work has been featured on It’s Nice That, Food and Wine, SLOP Magazine. She’s created work for brands including Meta, Adobe, Apple, and Frieze.

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Easier Said Than Done

① Redecorate! You’re going to be spending a lot of time indoors… ② Scented candle: The smell of pine and cinnamon is healing. ③ Therapy! We’ve all got issues. ④ Travel: Give yourself something to look forward to and GTFO of town, if you can. ⑤ Sun Lamp: The lighting is hideous and abrasive but these actually work. ⑥ Get outside! Build a snowman! Go for a walk! The frigid air can shock the sad out of you. ⑦ Sunlight: Sit close to a window at all times to maximize exposure. ⑧ Workout! Easier said than done. ⑨ Vitamin D: I'm almost certain this works... ①⓪ Hot Toddies: Warm, soothing… healing! ①① Socialize! This is the most important tip. It might be the last thing you want to do, but I encourage you to force yourself out of bed at 6pm when it’s pitch black out and go see friends, it will be worth it. ①② Hobbies! What did you dream of doing as a kid? Do it now! ①③ Shopping: A cute new coat just might just give you a new will to live. ①④ Cook: Make yourself a nice meal! Throw a dinner party! Food always cheers me up.

Jessica Viscius is a Chicago-based artist. She is a freelance art-director and designer for brands like Nike, REI Co-op and Vice. She also fronts the band Bnny.

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Mind the Fallen Leaves

“This time of year, I embrace the seasonal themes. I attend my local Apple Day in the village, I enjoy Halloween, and I love the landscape’s gradient from green to orange. However, the significant but lesser discussed truth about this season is laying right there under the leaves: dog shit. It’s usually easy to spot and therefore avoid, but now it’s wearing camouflage.

When I was young I would hide my shoes when I stepped in dog crap, too embarrassed to tell my mum. But one autumn I stepped in so much crap that I ran out of shoes all together. I don’t want this to happen to you, so take it easy out there. It's a minefield.”

Kyle Platts is an illustrator and comic artist working from his home in the Peak District of the United Kingdom. He’s been drawing for many years in a style characterized by bold colors and humorous characters. His first comic “Megaskull” was published by Nobrow in 2012, while his most recent “We’re All Going to Die Anyway” was published by Jumbo Press in 2023. Comics have always been at the heart of the work, but his commercial illustration and animation clients include Ikea, Google, The BBC, The New York Times and Apple.

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Don’t Mind Me

Edie Fake is an artist, and he currently lives and works in Twentynine Palms, California.

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Beat the Heat

“I've lived in winterless places (Florida, California, Arizona) all my life, so I have no personal concept of ‘winter hibernation.’ But ‘summer hibernation’ is definitely a thing – laying low, zoning out in front of the fan, sucking on ice cubes, waiting around for a breeze. One time at the end of a boiling hot summer road trip I arrived at my friend's house and was served a big bowl of freezing cold gazpacho and it was like being rescued from hell by an angel. I spend a lot of time in the summer dreaming up meals that don't require turning on the stove. Isn't it unfair that you first need to boil noodles in order to make refreshing chilled mul naengmyeon? On a hot day I wish I could eat nothing but shaved ice.”

Sophia Foster-Dimino is a cartoonist and illustrator living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Best American Comics, and has been recognized with 4 Ignatz awards and an Eisner nomination. In her spare time, she enjoys bicycling.

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Not a Cloud in the Sky

“Heat drives people crazy, especially here in Ireland where temperatures rarely break the high teens (°C). When the sun comes out over here people take drastic measures to remain in its light for as long as possible; because you might not see it tomorrow, might not see it for a week. People ignore their chores, forget their duties, they quit their jobs. All the buildings are empty, every curb is covered in asses (we have no benches). Everyone is in a state of constant undress, some people, at the behest of baying mobs, strip completely then swing their thingys around like a helicopter before jumping in a filthy canal for 50p. It's a time for revelling, every day feels like the last day of a festival. The only thing that can ruin this is a little cloud. It makes people sad to have a cloud over them. We spend our summer days dodging clouds, reading the skies, triangulating coordinates, they're dangerous to be around; because this is still Ireland - and if you step into the shade, you could die.”

Ruan van Vliet is an Irish artist whose work is recognisable for its bright blobs of colour, smudgy, expressive lines and absurdist worldview. The Dublin-born illustrator works across print, commercial, editorial, publishing and self-initiated projects, including clothing, painting and animation. His first collection of comics "GAS Comics #1" was published by Jumbo Press in 2022.

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“‘Bus, club, another club, another club, plane, next place, no sleep…’ that’s how I feel every June, regardless of how many times I actually go clubbing. In Chicago, it can be cold from October until May, so June is sometimes the first warm month. After such long winters, I always wanna just go out and be outside, and usually end up riding the train home early in the morning.”

Caroline Cash is a cartoonist based in Chicago. Her comics have appeared in Vice, The Nib, Chicago Reader, Bubbles Fanzine, and The Comics Journal. Her graphic novel Girl in the World is out with Silver Sprocket. She is currently working on her Ignatz award–winning comic series, PeePeePooPoo.

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An Ode to Trashy Picknicks

“It’s busy, many things are happening all at once: work, projects, meeting people. We’ve spent the winter stewing over things and ideas. Springtime is a time to get adjusted and excited. May feels like arriving and getting things done: we’re finally in the middle of it all. The longing for real summer makes us make real summer. We can’t possibly wait for a vacation or a holiday, so let’s just meet for a picknick on concrete on our lunch break in between meetings. We’re already smelling summer: smog, trash, flowers, fresh fruit, and sweat. Everyone and everything is full of energy. Come and join our picknick!”

Aisha Franz is a comic book artist and illustrator based in Berlin. Her latest graphic novel Work-Life Balance (drawn & quarterly) won the Max and Moritz Prize for best German-language comic in 2022 and was nominated for the FIBD Angoulême award. Her previous book Shit Is Real was also nominated for the L.A. Times Book Award in 2019. Aside from creating illustrations and comics for newspapers and magazines, Aisha is also actively involved in running the residency project CLUBHOUSE alongside the Berlin-based riso print studio, Colorama.

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A funeral is held for a melted Frosty the Snowman.

“If Frosty the Snowman ‘came to life one day’ then, like all living things, so too must he one day perish. For many, April signifies the end of winter, a cause for celebration. How do we reconcile the joy we feel at welcoming spring’s awakening with the mourning of our winter pastimes and rituals?

Tableaus of snowpeople in varying states of decay—deformed as they gradually melt, evaporate, and return to the sky from whence they came—are commonplace this time of year. Though we are justified in finding them humorous, the scenes might also be tinged with melancholy. These misshapen mounds of snow serve to remind us of the circular drift of the seasons and, ultimately, of the unstoppable progress of time.

Frosty was a good man, but he overstayed his welcome, and I’ll be glad not to see his smug face grinning at me for another year. When I was a child, snowfall was wonderous and breathtaking, but as an adult it’s mostly just inconvenient and uncomfortable. Good riddance!

Frosty the Snowman, you brought solace to many in a dark time, rest in peace dear friend. Galoshes to galoshes, slush to slush . . .”

Sami Alwani is a cartoonist and illustrator based in Toronto. His comics have appeared in Best American Comics, Vice, NOW Magazine, Carte Blache, Broken Pencil, and the Fantagraphics anthology Now. He has been nominated for an Ignatz Award and the Cartoonist’s Studio Prize. He received a Doug Wright Award in 2018 for his story The Dead Father and again in 2022 for his first book, The Pleasure of the Text, published May 2021 with Conundrum Press.

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A person sits in pink pajamas and slippers, looking out the window at a grey, muddy scene.

“Winters hit really hard for me, especially as I get older (and especially living in Canada), so when daylight savings arrives, and we start getting more light again, I feel a sense of renewal.

I always look forward to March because it brings a feeling of peace and stillness, in a way, and I wanted to illustrate that moment of peace and stillness. I was inspired by my moments of sitting at my desk, looking out the window during a sunny moment in the day, and feeling the sun on my face after a long dark winter—which I think many people can agree is a special kind of warmth. And although it’s still mostly gloomy and muddy all around, the air already has this change to it, and you see nature slowly blooming again.

It’s the knowing that spring is coming, always every year, something to look forward to each time. It’s having no fear about what’s coming next which is a feeling I wish I had more often. So, I try to not take the feelings of peace and optimism that comes with March for granted and try to carry out those feelings for things I often stress about.”

Nicole Zaridze is an illustrator and comics artist who lives and works in Toronto, Canada. She graduated from OCAD University with a Bachelor of Design. Nicole creates colorful, humorous, and sometimes emotional and vulnerable work about everyday life. She loves to create relatable characters who complain about things. Through her use of line, shape, and color, her work is a reminder of childhood nostalgia that is grounded with adult life. Her work can be seen as following the flows of streams of consciousness.

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Procrastination Phil

A groundhog writes an out of office email from bed.

“Does Punxsutawney Phil hope to see his shadow or not? I don’t think we know his side of the story. Does he have more work to do if spring comes early? Is he on some kind of groundhog grindset? Or would he rather sleep in? Statistically (if this word can even be used to describe a tradition so ridiculous) he's been five times more likely to see his shadow and return to hibernation for six more weeks. Does he enjoy working from home, or has it been a huge bother when a crowd of people shows up on his doorstep every February 2nd for the last 137 years? If you ask me, this whole thing coulda been an email.”

Alabaster Pizzo is a cartoonist, compulsive recycler, dance music enthusiast, cool furry, and amateur mason who lives in Los Angeles. She is originally from New York City.

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Little Big Plans

A person looks into a mirror covered entirely in sticky notes.

“I wanted to focus on the anticipation of having a better upcoming year. For some of us, it can be a mixed bag of feelings. We try to plan it out, creating a list of resolutions. These can range, but I think it's natural to have some idea going into January knowing how the rest of the year could look.”

Lenworth “Joonbug” McIntosh is a multidisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles, California. His Jamaican roots loom large throughout his work and find reflection across his creative wheelhouse, which includes illustration, design, painting, and analog photography. An avid collector of images, Lenworth considers the process of curation an integral exercise in his practice. Across mediums, his work is narrative-driven, seeking to capture some emotive moment in the long string of moments that make a life.

You can bring his work home and have some fun with his new puzzle 'Field Day' from Le Puzz.

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