Wednesday, December 11, 2019

31 Days Of CCS #11: Sage Persing, Ben Merrylees, Issy Manley

Issy Manley's comics at first blush look like memoir and dream comics, but they actually hew closer to Applied Cartooning. They are both personal and political, especially with regard to graphic medicine and graphic advocacy. In Vestibule, Manley takes us on a horrifying journey regarding her gynecological health. She suffers from vestibulitis, a burning pain found in a particular part of the labia. However, because of the country's woeful and byzantine health insurance and health care situation combined with many doctors' utter indifference toward the health of people with vaginas, Manley found herself misdiagnosed, mistreated, and even put on anti-depressants that nearly wrecked her life. It wasn't until she had better insurance that she finally found a physical therapist who understood her problem and helped her. For many such people, their needs have long been ignored and outright disbelieved by the medical industry in a way that isn't true of any other field of medicine. It is astounding, and Manley's righteous fury comes in loud and clear here.

In Product Of The Times, Manley expresses frustration regarding global warming. The frustration is not just aimed at the US government for obfuscating and ignoring the clear evidence over thirty years ago, it's also aimed at her own generation for not opposing it in a more active way. This is all made personal in her spending time in Louisiana when there was a good chance that a hurricane might hit, with all of the aspects of global warming looming around her. Finally, America's Soggy Pancake is a full-color dream comic where the symbology is about anxiety regarding the upcoming US election and a sense of being sold a false bill of goods. Manley's storytelling is clear and functional, although her figure work is a bit stiff at times--especially with regard to the way bodies interact in space. That stiffness interferes a bit with the more personal aspects of the stories she's trying to tell, giving them a sense of distance that I don't think is intentional.

Sage Persing's comics are enigmatic and often poetic. Simon's Bike is a story that follows a kid named Lars who takes the bike and t-shirt from an older kid named Simon as the latter is swimming. The comic is from the point of view of everyone Lars encounters, from anger, to mockery, to puzzlement, to outright homophobia. The theft was a violation, to be sure, but it was also clearly the first time Lars had experienced any agency of self, especially with regard to someone he clearly had feelings for. The multiple viewpoints and intersections with the lives of others point to how one's own narrative can often just be a blip in the life of someone else's. Everyone Is Sorry is a brutal mini wherein any number of individuals and institutions purport to be sorry. The repetition of the phrase and the lack of context renders it meaningless, in much the same way "thoughts and prayers" are meaningless. The naturalism of Persing's line contributes to the weight of its impact.

Ben Merrylees is a first-year student, and the comics here show an interest in the intersection between fantasy interests and the real-world reasons why fantasy is an appealing genre to work in. The Old Man And Death is the traditional Aesop's Fable assignment about a man lamenting his burden, crying out for death, and singing a different tune when Death actually appears. Merrylees goes deep with his use of blacks, as Death appears mostly as a vaguely humanoid void. The pages in general have a gritty, inky quality to them that's very much in the Steve Bissette tradition, but Merrylees has a funny authorial voice. Death looks horrifying, but he's actually friendly and winds up being helpful. That light irreverence is really played up in his adaptation of Hamlet, drawn in the simple Ed Emberley geometric figure style. Without sacrificing any of the actual plot details, Merrylees' interpretation of the story actually highlights how ludicrous and convoluted the story truly is. He also takes the simple method all the way, as it looks he raced to make this comid as quickly as possible. It's rough and raw, but gets the job done. Finally, Fim is a conversation between Merrylees and his childhood creation, a dinosaur warrior named Fim. There are plenty of wisecracks from the warrior, but it's also a gentle exploration of never quite being able to go back to that mental space occupied as a child. There's an unexpected poignancy here, even as Merrylees keeps it light.

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