Tuesday, December 10, 2019

31 Days Of CCS #10: Emma Hunsinger, Kazimir Lee

Kazimir Lee's soft, chunky, and warm cartooning style is perfect for emotionally intimate comics. As such, this made him a perfect illustrator for Blue Deliquanti's story SCFSX!, a porn novella featuring Miles and his trans partner Honesty. Lee's work is in what I call the Sorese School (after Jeremy Sorese), along with Kevin Czap, Sophia Foster-Dimino and a few others. It emphasizes warmth and fluidity in its figures, which makes it perfect for depicting trans people in particular. This is a funny story about a couple who go to a sex party with a science-fiction theme. Deliquanti truly nails the fundamental nerdiness of much of the swinging/poly community, and Lee grounds it while managing that thin line between campy costumes and geeky behavior and full-out eroticism.

The story follows Miles being shy but game in trying to fulfill Honesty's needs and being surprisingly receptive to the scene. Meanwhile, Honesty panics a bit when she realizes that the public nature of the scene, while a turn-on, triggered some latent anxiety and pre-programmed self-loathing. This was managed in a sensitive yet super-hot scene in a public park that expertly addressed all of the emotional issues in a heartening way. This is a comic where people are heard and seen in the ways they want and deserve, and the communication needed for sex that's both physically and emotionally fulfilling is a crucial part of the narrative. It also is not only explicitly about queer perspectives with regard to sex, it also centers the experience on trans characters in a way that feels completely organic.

Second year student Emma Hunsinger made a splash in the New Yorker with "How To Draw A Horse," a marvelously deadpan and personal bit of storytelling. It's a story about longing and hiding that longing as one tries to gain the attention of someone else. For the narrator, it was trying to get the attention of another girl in class through these horse drawings, which are enormously difficult to do. Hunsinger's scribbly scrawl of a line is fantastically expressive and immediate, reminding me a little of Saul Steinberg.

Her book Chunk delves into a group of students in a sculpture class at art school. Plenty of people have done art school comics, but Hunsinger's is not only one of the best I've ever read with regard to the subject, it's one of the best comics of 2019. It's done in the style of a personal journal or diary of a bushy-haired student named Charlotte. Her narrative appears on the page with ruled lines underneath to give it a quick visual signifier that it is a journal. The book, in many respects, recapitulates the themes of her short story and replays it in several different ways. The theme of the book is Charlotte's quest to understand what makes a person special, because if she became special, she would have the courage to talk to her T.A. in her sculpture class, Crystal. Crystal was cool, went to Yale, and had great hair...which put her out of Charlotte's league in her own view.

That one connective thread leads to her roommate Tanya's eventual romance with another student, Li, whom Tanya dubbed as special. When asked about it, Li notes that she's not special, but that this guy named Darren is. So they track him down, and he is indeed the kind of magical presence who just exudes a sort of manic awesomeness. When Charlotte realizes that his specialness is innate, she just gives up...and gets a big surprise. Hunsinger's pacing, use of negative space, and almost painful verisimilitude with regard to dialogue make each page a special pleasure to read.

Her skill with regard to depicting emotion and exaggeration of movement is particularly noteworthy. There's a sequence where Charlotte sees Tanya working manically on some drawings, surprising her (lots of popped-out eyes here), and seeing that she drew seven pages of having sex with Wonder Woman. It is both hilarious and raw, as so much of this comic is, with regard to people trying to figure themselves out. It's thematically complex, with each character given a unique interior life. It's visually sophisticated, with the composition of each page deceptively simple yet all part of the book's gestalt. Hunsinger's comic is a mixture of restraint and excess as a storyteller, and her ability to dole them out when appropriate is her greatest gift as a storyteller.

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