Thursday, October 11, 2018

Minis: K.Roberts, M.S. Harkness/Y.Kwon, G.Vasile

Once more into the minicomics breach...

We Watched Wrestling, by M.S. Harkness and Yewon Kwon. There is certainly an intersection between alt-comics and wrestling fandoms, and there has been for a long time. Jaime Hernandez is a great example of this, understanding the relationship between telenovelas and lucha libre in his Love & Rockets stories. One of the key characters in Reilly Hadden's Astral Birth Canal is a female wrestler. The titular character in Ed Luce's death metal romance Wuvable Oaf is a retired wrestler. For M.S. Harkness, best known for her autobio comic Tinderella, it's all about fandom. She & fellow fan Yewon Kwon decided to do a weekly diary of the WWE shows leading up to their big Summerslam event.

Harkness and Kwon both watch wrestling in part because of its sex appeal, and they both fully understand and embrace the total silliness of it. Harkness watched the RAW wrestling show, and it's in red ink because that's the trademark color of the brand. Her commentary was hilarious and often personal, like fantasizing about a wrestling faction consisting only of "brunette, bearded babes". Harkness' angular character design mixed with fluid page composition made for a consistently entertaining read, even if the reader didn't know what was happening. There's a measured balance her genuine interest and investment in what she's watching and her mockery of same; the former is what allows her to do the latter without seeing too snarky. Kwon's comics are a bit more naturalistic than Harkness' and use a thinner line weight. The commentary is also more spare and more serious, but it's a nice complement to what Harkness did. The centerfold is about a wrestling tournament in Japan by an artist named Chaack, which provides yet another color-coding for the comic and a more rapid-fire accounting of events. All told, this is probably best enjoyed by wrestling fans, but it certainly made me want to read weekly recaps of the matches by this duo.

Paintings, by Keiler Roberts. Roberts posted some of these on Facebook, and they are an interesting companion piece to her comics in part because they hearken back to an earlier creative outlet of hers in painting. Some of the paintings are direct recreations of panels that appeared in her comics, like the funny and heartbreaking image of Roberts laying down in the laundry, crying, as her husband encourages her to take a walk. The image here is a little more vague, and her muted color palette is interesting because it conjures up an image of suburban living. This is an ordinary person in a nice home who is clearly struggling. The image of her crying while lifting weights in the basement is telling in that regard, for example. At the same time, there are images of a woman trying to take joy in life and routine as well, as she plays with her dog and daughter. There are images of houseplants, the despair of a dirty stove, the solace of her dog as she's curled up on the couch. The cheerfulness of the colors often belies the sadness of the situation, and I think that's intentional. Mental illness can't be seen, and there's often no "reason" why someone should be depressed. At the same time, Roberts is also simply living her life as best she can.

It's interesting to look at these, both in and out of context with the rest of Roberts' work. They tell their own story, but it's a more simplified version of what Roberts writes about. What they tend to lack most out of context is Roberts' sense of humor and the immediacy of her drawing style. That said, the paintings are lively on their own thanks to their own lack of fussiness with regard to form combined with a great deal of thought regarding the choices of color. There's also the matter of still lives of domestic objects behind on the left-hand side of each double-page spread, and images of her and her family on the right. While meant to be looked at in a non-sequential manner, they nonetheless are part of a greater whole. This was an interesting experiment, and it would be fascinating to see Keiler use spot color in her books in the future, perhaps with the chapter-demarcating images she drew in her most recent book Chlorine Gardens.

I'm A Bad Person And So Are You & It Was Fun While It Lasted, by Geoff Vasile. I'm a long-time fan of Vasile's fiction, but his diary comics are just as good. He establishes very quickly that he's not here to talk about what he had for lunch, as he immediately addresses his frustration with his career, his depression, his stressful job in the service industry, his substance use (and abuse), and his frustration with dating. That said, Vasile has the instincts of a humorist, and these four-panel daily strips are continuously funny and have strong punchlines, even when he's writing about something that's fairly dark. There's one especially brutal strip where the woman he's dating casually is jealous over him paying attention to another friend at a bar and gets angry at him, and later wakes up apologetically wanting to have sex. The final thought balloon of his, "Sex is no longer worth the effort it takes to have." is both grim and exactly the sort of thing a middle-aged man might think in that situation.

At the same time, he depicts himself as immediately off-putting and cynical, telling a date that he cherished a memory of a one-night stand where neither person even pretended that they were going to contact them again. Vasile isn't afraid to show himself, warts and all, but not in a way that's begging for sympathy nor in a way that is self-aggrandizing. The second collection goes even deeper into bad dates (one woman tells him to come up with his third-favorite painting in a museum date), bar fights, oversharing of feelings, his own "scummy" behavior with women, quitting his horrible job, self-hatred of various kinds, misanthropy, suicidal ideations, his horrible relationship with his dead parents, going to therapy and getting medicated. All of this is executed in his crisp, clear line (with shades of Jaime Hernandez in his character design) and is far more entertaining than it sounds, because of his tremendous wit. Vasile simply knows how to tell a story, whether it's directly about him or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment