If you think about it, video games are a lot like comic books because I like them.
Hey all. It’s time for my now-traditional “sorry it’s been a while” opening to this column. I have a good reason this time. Metroid Prime 2 is really good. I own a Gamecube. I’m beautiful. There are actual reasons, mind you, the serious adult life ones, but we like to have fun around here. This column is all about fun. It’s spring!
TCAF happened! I saw one of my editors in corporeal form! I encountered many other beautiful humans and many artists too! (please laugh) I spent a stressful amount of money and looked pretty. I was wearing an Arale hat and many strangers complimented me. There you go. That’s my con report. Apologies to all the buddies of Redditors I neglected to namedrop. Haha.
I am just a silly woman so I am not one to name a “book of the show,” but if I were to pick one (two) it might be Molly Colleen O’Connell’s new zines “Pebbles” and “The Shriekers.” I first encountered O’Connell’s work many years ago in her “Difficult Loves” zine, a formally inventive discursive comic-poem about vases, snakes, and a mall. O’Connell’s comics have this wonderful way of unspooling, shaggy dog tales told through splashy brushstrokes and airy calligraphy that seem to drift into being as you read. “Pebbles” and “The Shriekers” are closer to traditional funnybooks – “The Shriekers” follows a collective of spooky little odds and ends in surreal gag strips that in a better world would be printed in a newspaper, while “Pebbles” moves from moment to moment through very loosely connected parallel conversations, in and out of dreams and memories, that relate more (or less) to one another as the work progresses. It’s the good stuff. And she draws a great horse.
I completely missed another great book that debuted at TCAF (see? Not a con report), Enlightened Transsexual Comix, Sam Szabo’s debut collection from Silver Sprocket. Thankfully, I put off writing this column long enough to pick up a copy on store shelves, and I enjoyed it greatly! In Enlightened Transsexual Comix, Szabo gives us the stories of the Enlightened Transsexual, the endlessly ascended, discourse-resolving, three-titted, many-eyed, non-Euclidean turbo-gendered ideal token trans person. The Enlightened Transsexual has just about attained nirvana and has seemingly every pronoun, every genital, every beauty standard, and every concept at her disposal. She can transgress every norm. She can conform to every expectation. She’s cool, not like those other ones at all. And yet, E.T. remains tied down to our transient realm of neuroses, capital materiality, and talking to cishet people. She knows so many profound secrets, she is in tune with the flow of all consciousness but is only ever asked about whether she’s getting her cock chopped off or what. Szabo is a cartoonist with an acid wit, working through trans feminist anxieties through naïve compositions and loud color schemes that push her work beyond relatable into a revelation, her authorial voice slipping with incredible slyness between imagining infinite possibilities and bitching about mind-numbing constraints. This is Cathy for the girls who know what gock is. Really fantastic.
I’ve read a lot of new comics recently, great ones, but what about mind-numbingly weird old crusty comics. Well, friends, The Beguilling has a fifty-cent bin with infinite depths, and I have spent a lot of time in waiting rooms recently. I’ve poured over a fair bit of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, a couple of martial arts comics from the glut ComicsOne published once upon a time (The Storm Riders by Wing Shing Ma? Pretty fucking great!), Image Comics, Valiant Comics, Ms. Tree, goddamn it, Ms. Tree! Buuut since I seem to have ended up writing a column with some kind of a feminist theme I will talk about a feminist comic that blessed its way into my stack, Naughty Bits issue 16 by Roberta Gregory. Naughty Bits is one of those 90s Fantagraphics comics I always see and take some interest in, but until recently I had never actually read. Honestly? It’s amazing comics. Issue 16 continues an apparently ongoing story about Midge, an uptight college student in the 70s curious about the sexual revolution, more so the sex part than the revolution. Constantly pissed off about something, Midge falls in with a group of anti-war protesters, completely indifferent and ignorant about their politics but driven by her boy-crazy drive to start cutting classes and start working the coffee maker for this ragtag gang of acne-encrusted, hormonal deadhead commie dropouts. Everyone comes out looking terrible, of course, and no punches are pulled as we follow selfish Midge’s fall from grace. Gregory’s social satire is consistently spectacular, panels jam-packed with ticked-off faces and jittery over-caffeinated linework so deeply evocative of menstrual cramps and weed stench in a hot van, totally perfect cartooning. This is a series that deserves new readership and appreciation today, I for one ate it up.
That’s it for GRIDLOCK this month! Maybe next time I will take less than half a year to write another one of these. But hey, it’s okay. I know you love it. Happy international women’s day to all who celebrate it as I do, 365 days a year.