Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Minis: L.Weinstein, G.Galligan, S. Mannheim

Perfect Maine Vacation and Normel Person, by Lauren R. Weinstein. These are minicomics collections from strips Weinstein had online at Mutha Magazine and in print in the Village Voice. There's always been a humorous, unapologetic bluntness to Weinstein's work that gives it a raw power, matched by her line that ranges between exquisitely naturalistic and cartoonishly ratty and grotesque. Weinstein takes her trenchant sense of humor and turns it on herself as she struggles to cope with the onslaught of emotions she feels after giving birth, especially with regard to her status as an artist. It includes self-recriminations as her teenage self vowed never to become a mother since it would interfere with her desire to be an artist. Weinstein even teases herself at the end by admitting that she hoped doing this strip would give her an epiphany between motherhood and her art, between being present and drifting into fantasy. Each page is framed by a large upper panel, but the rest of the page is a six-panel grid without panel borders. That pull between tight and loose is not only a theme, it's also the very structure of the comic itself.

"Perfect Maine Vacation" picks up a few years later, as her is growing older and Weinstein realizes that so many memories she holds dear with regard to her daughter are things her daughter is about to forget. It's a remarkable story (Ignatz-nominated) that plays on memory itself and why the fragments we retain from childhood stay with us and why other memories don't. It's a much more straightforward story done in a 2 x 3 grid with a blue wash that gives the sense of memories fading away. Once again, her style is blunt, self-deprecating and unashamed to share very personal details. Also once again, Weinstein struggles with being present and starts to acknowledge that these moments are slipping away, and it hurts. "Flower Voyeur" is a great example of her watercolor skill as she recounts recovering from fusion neck surgery, laying around her garden. Speaking of the pollination, she says, "All around me is sex. Which I miss, not being in my 20's in Brooklyn anymore." It's a perfect example of her almost blase' frankness; she's writing it because it's an amusing truth, not to get a rise out of the reader.

Normel Person is a single-page strip that reminds me a lot of her old alt-weekly strip from The Stranger, Inside Vineyland. It's a similar format, only this time around Weinstein is stressing about Donald Trump and sharing stories of getting pregnant again (by accident) at 41. It's a full-color strip, which gives many of the strips a particularly visceral and unpleasant quality. For example, in her strip "Extreme Comfort Food", the creamed cat casserole wouldn't have been quite right without the nauseating yellow-orange she chose for it. There's one strip where she's crying because her uncle was going on a bigoted rant with regard to Trump winning and she's off buying cranberry sauce for the family Thanksgiving dinner. The can of sauce urges her to run away with it, and as the sun sets in this happy ending, Lauren asks, "What do we do now?" The next strip is an absurd diagram of her parents' fridge. It's an easy juxtaposition regarding the kinds of things she tackles on a week-by-week basis, with strips like "Feel Good Lefty Valentines", "Time Loop" (about a relationship with an expiration date), "How To Think (First World Edition)", "Parent Zone!", and "Tainted Hoods, Blocked Blocks: The Streets I Avoid" giving you a taste of her bouncing between the political, the personal and the completely absurd. Sometimes she mixed all three in one strip. This is truly the best work of her career, and I get the sense that the deadline prevents her from getting too precious with regard to the art. Weinstein's skill makes even he scrawls and scribbles expressive and funny, and her willingness to be vulnerable and real only fuels her more pointed political and humorous asides.

Weeb 1 & 2, by Gale Galligan. Galligan is known now as the artist who took over the Baby Sitters Club series from Raina Telgemeier, but her autobio work is sharp and funny. It's got a heavy manga influence put through an American blender, with a look not unlike the sort of thing Bryan Lee O'Malley does. Galligan's strips are much different, however, and they use the exaggerated character of manga style to emphasize heightened emotions. There's a great strip where she gets her first boyfriend as a teen and her eyes turn huge and the facsimile of the One Ring he gave her to put around her neck glows. Galligan's stock-in-trade is exaggeration, like when her boyfriend mentions kissing, her face first shrinks up like a prune, then she fades into an endless field of flowers until the actual kiss, and....CLUNK. It's a great punchline, since when she "learned the power of storytelling", it came at the price of hissing "lies" to a wall of manga books she saw. The second issue is a series of one-page vignettes about gaming and Yu-Gi-Oh in particular. It's really about the kind of friendships that can develop with a shared interest. Galligan's work is never anything short of charming, mixing the bitter and the sweet in a way that makes her an obvious choice to take over Baby Sitters Club. It's a mix of funny drawings and sharp set-ups that never stray too far from reality.

"No Time For Coffee", by Stephanie Mannheim. This little mini highlights Mannheim's ability to draw herself looking unbelievably stressed out, mouth agog and eyes bulging, as she thinks she's late to class. Each page a single panel, Mannheim hilariously was so disoriented by being an hour early to her class that she thought she was dreaming, because she was encountering an entirely different teacher and set of students! It's a good story that doesn't outstay its welcome.

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