Wednesday, July 18, 2012
New Comics From Rob Kirby: Three #3 and Ginger
Rob Kirby really went all-out in producing the third issue of his queer anthology Three.While the past two issues contained three stories by three different artists, the format of this issue is a bit different. There are still three features but also a number of shorter pieces that manage to incorporate threes in some manner. For example, the opening page is a 3 x 3 grid, with each panel featuring art by a different cartoonist. Mari Naomi contribute an image of a woman in three successive moments in time, eating a piece of fruit. It's a beautiful, evocative drawing, as she is nude and being watched by a prone figure. Marian Runk did a one-page bird strip featuring three different backyard birds.About the only cartoonists who don't fall into this pattern are Matt Runkle and Janelle Hessig, in their delightful strip about making a pilgrimage to see Dolly Parton in concert and discuss why she's so inspiring.
Those features are nice little changes of pace for the feature stories, all of which are dramatically different from each other. "Oh No!", a jam "where something bad happens every three panels" is entirely self-explanatory and quite silly. Borrowed from what was going to be content from an upcoming volume of Jennifer Camper's anthology Juicy Mother, an all-star lineup of queer creators passes the narrative baton every three panels and cycles back through one more time to each artist. The story is nonsense, as a one-legged, one-eyed African-American lesbian is struck by a struck in the first strip by Ivan Velez Jr, and it gets crazier from there as exorcisms occur, we view donkey's getting blown in hell, Paris Hilton being born to the devil, dead characters rising up and killing their creators, a demented Peanuts pastiche, etc. Camper, Kirby, Ellen Forney, Diane DiMassa, Joan Hilty, and Howard Cruse all obviously have a fun time, and the strip looks great in color.
The real highlights of the issue are Carrie McNinch's "Fly Like An Eagle, her story of spending a year in a Christian middle-school; as well as Ed Luce's "Love Lust Lost". I count Luce's Wuvable Oaf as one of my comics blind spots (just haven't gotten around to picking it up yet) and I'm sure some of the nuances of this strip were lost on me, but there's no doubting the absolute command he has over a comics page. This ingeniously designed and paced story of three "bears" draws the reader in from the first image, even as the silent nature of Luce's imagery is quite bizarre at times. One man with red eyes and a fearsome beard plays endlessly with his tiny kitty-cats, a second does some kind of fetish cosplay/furry play with a group of men dressed as pigs, while a third man with a bunny-eared motorcycle helmet zips through traffic on a mountainside in order to deliver flowers at a spot where a former loved one died. This story is cute, touching and bizarre all at once as it plays upon the theme of "three" in a number of different ways. It's one of the best short stories I've read all year.
McNinch's story is in that same league. It's one of her longest stories, and one written in her voice as a teenager. It's an account of struggling to deal with life in a restrictive Christian school, the fellow burn-out girls that she befriends, and the creeping realization that she's gay. It's a story that goes from isolation to the understanding that she's not alone, that there's a community waiting out there for her to join. Seeing McNinch's simple line in color is lovely, as the color really adds a lot to the emotional content of the story as well as assisting in evoking the era (late 70s/early 80s). As always with McNinch's work, it's her strong attention to tiny details that makes this comic come alive, from the fashions and drugs of choice to the ways in which she is able to grasp and comprehend her own thoughts and emotions. It's certainly the strongest story I've read from this long-time comics and zine veteran.
I also wanted to highlight Ginger, a short collection of strips about Kirby's dog. She's a beautiful, affectionate chocolate lab, and it's Kirby's skill at drawing her that makes these stories so much fun. From the poem "Birch" (written by Karen Shepard) that is an image of Ginger asking "You gonna eat that?" to a story about a squirrel falling out of a tree and straight into the waiting dog's mouth, Kirby evokes the joys and occasional headaches of owning a strong-willed, energetic dog. I'd love to see an expanded version of this at some point.