Thursday, November 16, 2017

Catching Up With Liz Suburbia

Liz Suburbia's Cyanide Milkshake is perhaps my favorite one-person anthology minicomic of the past several years. Throwing in a serial, autobio stuff, jokes, and other assorted weirdness, she always stuffs each issue full of viscerally enjoyable entertainment. With the eighth issue, she has decided to close it down (as of late 2016) and move on. The issue explains some of those reasons, but let's look at a couple of other side-projects first.

Teen Dream Tragedy was a quickly scrawled out mini about the passion of Britney Spears, roughly speaking. On the back cover, Suburbia claims she drew this in 28 minutes and I can sort of believe that, given how she seems to be drawing from a few internet reference photos and takes it from there. Lots of text is crossed out in a move that looks deliberate, not a series of mistakes, as Suburbia is using sous rature as a method of exploring the transition between her traditional lyrical style and something far darker. The final revelation of a knife falling down from the heavens, its eventual (but unknown) use and its final disposal turns this into a story about striking out against the hierarchical forces arrayed against her own sense of agency.

What A Dog Wears is a perfect, goofy delight, demonstrating costume after increasingly absurd costume a individual can wear in order to help with "struggling w/articulating yr personal style". This mini is just a chance for Suburbia to joyfully goof off and draw fun and funny things for twenty or so pages. It starts to get really ridiculous with "SK8 Sandwich", which is two skateboards, one in front and one in back. "The Blood of Mine Enemies" (cheerfully subtitled "Goes with everything!") is a dense, disturbing image, matched only by "Apex Predator", which is a person with a shark out of water devouring most of their body. Funniest of all is the truly unnerving "A Mascot Suit Of Yourself", complete with two eye peering out behind the "mouth" of the mascot. Suburbia has formidable cartooning and drawing skills, but it was nice to see the illustration part of her drawing take center stage with these concepts.

Cyanide Milkshake #8 is an extremely revealing but also very silly comic, and that's a dynamic that sums up Suburbia nicely. She did a flip book in the bottom right hand corner of each page of Batman licking himself in a sensitive area like a cat. She talked about shoplifting groceries from a nearby market and laments how expensive the mustard she once stole was. There's just gag after gag on some pages, like the buttons on Jughead's hat (him fucking a burger, of course), wearing her partner's face at his funeral, a joking-not-joking bit about wanting to do watersports, etc. Then in "No Identity", she gets serious, revealing that pushing herself to finish her book Sacred Heart broke her, as her lack of self-care produced depression and severe anhedonia. It got to the point that the thought of making comics was upsetting to her, and she preferred to live life for a while pursuing the most basic, visceral experiences: eating, sleeping, exercising and having sex. The end of the story had no end, other than hesitant attempts to get back in the game (like this) that were still limited, as she chose to end the series with this issue. There's one last ode to her dogs and the wrap-up of her dimension-travelling zombie story that ends with a glorious deus ex machina. Suburbia really does give her reader a lot to chew on, especially in terms of comedy, and in her own way, Cyanide Milkshake was sort of her version of Love and Rockets. There's the angle of serialized stories, a mutual love of Archie comics, strange one-offs and a punk attitude, only Suburbia's comics are even more personal in some ways. To put a finer point on it, she allowed herself to do whatever she wanted--no rules, no restrictions--and she blossomed as a cartoonist with the freedom she gave herself to experiment. The series will be collected at some point soon, but I'm hoping she's able to return to the sequel to Sacred Heart in due time.

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