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.

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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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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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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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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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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