Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thirty Days of CCS #17: Rainer Kannenstine, Anna Sellheim

An upcoming grad (Class of 2018), Rainer Kannenstine’s work is sort of gleefully nihilistic. This Sucks is a story that demonstrates his pitch-black sense of humor, as an extremely hung over young woman is chosen by Death to work out an old philosophical problem with a creature who’s the representative of another world/universe. Our planet and their planet were on a collision course that would destroy both of them…but if one person chose to destroy the other planet, it would save their own. The alien talked about the over-the-top idyllic circumstances in its universe, and when asked about her universe, she could only muster “It kinda sucks.” Of course, one reason why it sucks is you just can’t trust people, which leads to the eventual, darkly hilarious outcome. To say that this is not a polished comic is an understatement. It’s a whole lot of expressive scribbling that works pretty well, though the many spelling errors were a distraction. Still, the so-over-it facial expressions of the protagonist and black void of death’s form brightened only by a permanent, cheesy grin helped give this comic a great deal of energy.

Lasers is a far stranger little comic with the following admonition: “Don’t go to the playground. The pelicans are made of lasers.” That statement is repeated, each word filling up part of a panel. The pelicans do indeed to strange things on the playground, and when repeated, we zero in on a molecular level so as to see just what’s going on in that bill of theirs. This is a sort of children’s nursery rhyme comic, only far more unsettling. Far more polished is He Comes To The Club At 6:00 AM, which shows us fragments of the handsomest bear to ever grace a dance club, and how if you’re lucky, you might go home with him. It’s image after image flashed at the reader, like they were fever dream memories from hours later. There’s a beautiful crispness in the use of grayscaling here, as Rainer is careful to let each image wash over the reader and also use great care and precision with the all-lower case lettering. 

Anna Sellheim submitted a couple of short stories for 30 Days of CCS this year, one of which appeared in Comics 4 Choice, the pro-choice comics anthology. That was "My Mother's Story", a comic in the form of an interview about her mother's experiences with not just abortion, but also childbirth. Sellheim here uses her more naturalistic line (as opposed to the slightly more abstract figurework she uses for much of her own autobio material) and plays it straight with a nine panel grid. The comic is text-heavy, yet Sellheim is able to apply a few visual flourishes here and there. The narrative is one of the best I've read with regard to abortions, because it demonstrates that the decision to have the procedure can vary with age, circumstances or any number of other choices. There were points where she was adamant about having a baby the next time she got pregnant, and other circumstances where she was apart from her partner and knew it wasn't the right time to bring a child into the world. The point of the story is that in every instance, it was her choice, and the state had no business interfering with it. 

"Safe" is a story about a gay couple named Carl and Kamon, the latter of whom was from Thailand and had a history of abuse at the hands of his father. It’s a sweet story that gauges the concept of safety for a gay couple in the wake of Trump’s election. There’s a scene where Kamon gets a dirty look for speaking in Thai in public from a guy in a MAGA hat. The story is as much about negotiating the unwritten rules of relationships as it is coping with a frightening new reality, as Carl bristles somewhat at being told that he has a bad singing voice. Later, Kamon reveals that Carl may have a bad voice, but he loves to hear him singing, because it makes him feel safe to know that Carl is happy in that moment. There’s more of Sellheim’s slightly cartoony naturalism here, which is a nice match with the impressive verisimilitude she shows in the story’s dialogue and relationship dynamic.

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