Saturday, December 9, 2017

Thirty Days of CCS #9: Girl Talk & My Pace 2

My Pace Volume 2 is an anthology edited by Iona Fox and Anna McGlynn under their Rod & Cone aegis.

Girl Talk is a classic CCS anthology: hand-made and aggressively bold in terms of its theme and structure. This time around, an artist adapted part of another artist's diary, fictionalizing it to create a narrative. The hand-cut cover with various punched-out skeletons is beautiful and a nice touch. Anna McGlynn took an entry from Fox and turned it into a visceral slice-of-life story centered summer in the city. Our protagonist, Vivian, is sick of being in her cramped, hot apartment while getting calls from friends smoking weed and hooking up with random guys. McGlynn drew Vivian in such a way that she was irritated with anyone having a good time with a potential romantic partner, eventually drawing in x's for eyes. When a loser guy she has a crush on won't even hit on her because her breasts were "consumed with sadness", that's her breaking point, one that only snack cakes will alleviate. The rawness of McGlynn's storytelling is a nice fit for depicting the kind of daywhere people feel like they're melting.

Fox illustrating Cooper Whittlesey's psychedelic insights was a particular pleasure, as her quirky character design, decorative touch and oft-sketchy line were perfect for a comic about walking around and listening to music. Whittlesey and first-time cartoonist Alyse Burnside were inspired by McGlynn's diary, an office story about a young woman named Jane who is frequently sexually harassed and humiliated by her boss. It's revealed that she's the result of her father having sex with his mother, a fact she tries to work through with fantasy (both in real life and with porn). The battle between her trying to assert her worth as a human being that deserves love and the abuse she receives culminates in her taking a bus to the end of the line and meeting a naked woman next to a run-off pipe and perceiving her as someone connected to her. Nothing is explicitly revealed regarding this identity or even reality in this situation, and that ambiguity charges the strip even more. With 16 panels per page, Whittlesey & Burnside pummel the reader with tiny print, grotesque drawing and oblique angles, yet the horror and absurdity of it all is strangely hypnotic in its own way. Kaplan drew a convoluted account of a story from Fox, as it's about a day she was supposed to get a stitch out from someone who turned out to be an ex-girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend. There are amusing rabbit-hole details that emerge from the story, but this story was fairly lightweight compared to the others. That's not surprising since it's just four pages, as it served as a digestive more than as a crucial part of the anthology.

My Pace, an anthology about marching to one's own drummer, had a tight seven-person lineup. It's not as conceptually interesting as Girl Talk and is more uneven, as the editors went wide and took some risks with their contributors, not all of which paid off. Sam Szabo's silly ant piece feels like something out of a 1980s Steve Willis minicomic, but the way in which he sticks to the premise of the ant janitor and its mystic implications won me over by the end, although this slight story was way too long. Collage artist Sara Hebert contributed clip art with statements about her anger about not asking for anything regarding her needs when having sex. It's short, stark and bold, and quite a shift from the first story. Sean Knickerbocker's crisp line art was another nice change of pace, as he wrote a story about a guy going back to the desolate area in which he grew up. Knickerbocker takes a wrecking ball to ideas like nostalgia and closure, as coming back to his old house was walking through a minefield of triggers. The kicker is that the friend who came told him that this was, in fact what he wanted--to relive the trauma instead of learning how to move past it.

Iris Yan's anthropomorphic autobio is always dryly witty, and even this story about the death of her mother is no exception. When she gets a wreathe "from the team", she imagines her mother was on a secret soccer team. Having her librarian mother's ashes on a shelf so she could read whenever she wanted was a sweet touch. Mississippi's text lettering was distracting, especially for a comic that was so roughly drawn. There were points where this meditation on loneliness was rough in a way that was lovely and expressive, and other points where it let down the story's flow. The more abstract nature of Megan Snowe's comic made that text feel more suitable, since it was a comic about texting, the hand and arm broken down in such a way so as to render them into almost abstract shapes. Finally Summer Pierre's piece about how she came to comics is one I've read elsewhere, but it was a perfect choice for ending this particular volume. It's a sweet, funny story about Pierre meeting "comics' (an anthropomorphic character accounting for all of the art form), having flirtations with music, art and poetry, and then one night coming back to comics ("It's you! It's always been you!"). Her use of the grid highlights her whimsical self-caricature design by featuring it in every panel, almost invariably in a different pose and position each time. It's a subtle way of making the reader work a little in every panel and keep their eye fresh when they absorb new text.

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