When Lynda Barry teaches people to write and draw — in her “Writing the Unthinkable” workshops and in her books “What It Is” and “Picture This” — she tells them to think back to their earliest sense-memories. The best of her own comics about childhood center on the terror of being helpless in the world and trying to make sense of it.
“The Freddie Stories” is a collection of early-’90s sequences from Barry’s “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” involving Freddie Mullen, a weird, sensitive fourth-grader. Freddie’s life is one catastrophe after another, and he acts out in ways that just make things worse for him. He’s accused of a fatal act of arson, he’s tormented by the teacher’s pet of his classroom, and eventually his mother stops talking to him. At one point, Freddie becomes so obsessed with portents of death that he’s convinced that he’s died: “And in the hospital the doctors brought a person back alive who was not me. And they called him by my name and he answered them. And I watched. And he did not know I existed.”