True Story, Swear to God


TSSTG is the autobiographical retelling of the creator’s relationship with his soul-mate, Lily. Tom was a designer working in California and Lily was a DJ working in Puerto Rico. They met by chance at Disney World and began their love affair, first as a long distance romance and then with Tom uprooting himself and moving to Puerto Rico.

These stories were originally published as online comic strips and mini-comics, then Beland self-published his work through Clibs Boy Comics and last year the acclaimed series moved to Image Comics.

One of the most difficult things in doing one of these autobiographical books is to make the stories appealing to people outside ones’ immediate family. What makes one person’s story more interesting than anyone else’s? Why should you care about what some cartoonist in California is doing with a woman from Puerto Rico? The easy answer is because Beland is doing this as good as anyone else in the field of comics.

He may be recalling his life-story, but he is a gifted storyteller nonetheless. How often have you been bored to tears while a buddy goes on and on about his or her relationship? Beland is able to keep you interested by being brutally honest about his life and that’s the secret to his success. He isn’t afraid to come off as stubborn, insecure or even selfish in his own book and the honesty resonates with the reader.

The art is done in an animated style and while there isn’t a great amount of detail in his backgrounds, the facial expressions of his characters are priceless, especially when it’s a focus on Beland himself when he’s deep in thought or in deep $!@#.

While Beland doesn’t shy away from occasionally portraying himself in a less than stellar light, his characterization of Lily comes across as a virtual love letter. As represented in the book, Lily is near perfect, and whether that is the case in “real life” doesn’t really matter because it works for the story. The reader wants their protagonist to be completely in love with his girl and throughout TSSTG, Tom and Lily’s devotion and love for each other shines through and rings true.

A recent issue featured Lily being presented with an award for her various charitable works. During the afternoon of the award presentation, Tom fell asleep on the beach…for several hours and was sun-burnt to a crisp. Next came a wonderfully illustrated scene which caused me to wince in empathetic pain for Tom’s long brutal walk back to the hotel. And what followed was a short scene which exemplifies what makes this book work so well. Tom has been relieved of his obligation to attend the awards ceremony by Lily. He’s in tremendous pain and can hardly move. Lily doesn’t try to guilt him into going. There is no manipulative relationship BS going on, but as Tom tries to get comfortable he realizes that he NEEDS to be there for Lily because she would be there for him. It’s something you do for the other person “because you love them.” It’s a poignant but simple scene and it’s absolutely beautiful.

If you’re a fan of people with superpowers wearing colorful costumes, this may not be a book for you, but if you’re searching for a book to give a woman in your life who doesn’t understand your comic book obsession, this is a perfect choice.

Marvel Comics

It’s also a great read for anyone who’s enjoyed similar “slice of life” stories like The Waiting Place or even Strangers in Paradise.

Beland also wrote a Valentine’s Day special issue of Spider-Man featuring that character’s relationship with Mary Jane, which was phenomenal. Hopefully, that and the continued success of TSSTG will enable Beland to reach a wider audience with his work. He certainly deserves it. But whether Beland becomes a mainstream success or not, TSSTG is required reading for any fan of romance stories and it’s a book worth seeking out even for those of you who normally wouldn’t read a comic like this.

If you can’t find this gem in your local comic shop, you can check out some of the strips for free and order direct from Beland at