Friday, April 18, 2014

Meghan Turbitt's Sick, Beautiful World

Meghan Turbitt is an artist specializing in the hilariously grotesque as she isn't afraid to get graphic, gross and intimate in satirizing celebrity culture, popular aesthetics and social media tropes. Her work reminds me a lot of Lauren Weinstein's early comics in the crude but powerful energy of her drawings, her willingness to get as gross as possible in service of a gag, and the anarchic sense that anything can happen in her stories. Not surprisingly, Weinstein was one of her teachers at the New School. In Lady Turbo and the Terrible Cox Sucker, Turbitt starts off with her comics namesake and Brent, a transgender geisha (don't ask) going to a club to drink and dance. It winds up with a priest kidnapping Brent for his own demented pleasures, the priest (Cardinal Cox) trying to become Pope (by means of a biggest dick contest, of course), and the musician Prince acting as Lady Turbo's fairy godfather. It's all totally ludicrous and wonderful, as Turbitt slips between very simple drawings and close-ups to emphasize lurid, silly and weird gags.

In the follow-up, Lady Turbo's The Biggest #Loser, Turbitt takes her character to Hollywood after Pope Brent refuses to take her calls. Turbitt utilizes more extreme close-ups and makes more of an attempt to use naturalistic drawings (or at least recognizable caricatures) in this comic, as the likes of Mel Gibson and OJ Simpson show up as key characters. Turbo dubs herself "the biggest loser" for not being able to talk to her friend, turns to twitter for advice (with the likes of @slutdummy and @69mycat sound off, along with an ad for "The Biggest Loser" TV show that Turbo thanks is a statement aimed at her. After she lands in Hollywood, her character meets Gibson ("Shalom!") and is drawn in ever-increasing states of mouth-agape shock, with each drawing getting more exaggerated and funnier. The issue ends with her meeting OJ Simpson, going off to a bar with him and kissing him. Turbitt's comics are loud--her lettering gets huge when someone is shouting something, which is often. Most every page has a weird revelation that involves eyes bugging out or hair standing up straight.

In her most recent comic #FoodPorn, Turbitt combines the obnoxious tendency of people to take photos of their food at trendy restaurants, a number of gross drawings, and the quite literal interpretation of the comic's title to relate a series of scenes wherein a gross person makes delicious food, causing her to be filled with desire so overwhelming that it causes her to do engage in a variety of sexual acts. A gross-looking pizza parlor chef suddenly transforms into a hunk in her eyes when he makes the pizza, cradling her as he feeds her a slice of pepperoni. This is where Turbitt's exaggerations take central stage, especially when drawing her tongue.It either rolls out of her mouth like a carpet or whips out of her mouth like a weed-whacker, scooping up toppings from a taco maker. Every chapter is presaged by realistic drawings of the food to be seen, giving the reader ample warning as to what might come next: sushi placed strategically on her body for the sushi chef, ranch dressing on her face from Buffalo wings, a rendezvous with a toilet seat thanks to a bartender (in a truly disgusting, hilarious scene) and the one scene that leads to true love--getting a decent cup of coffee. This is the comic with the most consistently interesting drawing from Turbitt, given that every one of the gags has to be sold by her ability to draw exaggerated, lurid figures and poses. Turbitt's voice is a welcome one, part of a new generation of cartoonists who aren't afraid to focus on humor and their own personal takes on it.

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