Saturday, December 12, 2020

31 Days Of CCS, #12: Rebecca Schuchat

Rebecca Schuchat contributed two comics with different purposes. Shame is an adaptation of Numbers 12, highlighting her skill using tonal contrast. On virtually every page, Schuchat flips black and white in terms of which color dominates a panel, and the way she spots blacks and uses negative space so effectively gives the story a highly fluid and visually exciting charge. Combined with her use of spot reds to accent the page and highlight the narrative, and the result was a visual approach that set the stage for this story about shame, patriarchy, and femininity. It's the idea of shame as an externalized force set on women that they did not choose to take on; indeed, it's really the shame of men forced on them. The red accents of the bright scene, the apple that Eve ate of, and veins popping out of dry skin popped off the page, emphasizing suffering and the original object of shame and desire. This is a visually inventive comic that goes all-in on its dense line weights and stripped-down naturalism.

(Somehow) Only Five Months was a diary of the first five months of Schuchat's experience with the pandemic and quarantine that doubled as an Inktober project. The prompts were vague enough so as not to overwhelm her own narrative, but they did guide it in interesting ways. For example, a page with the prompt "floating" was used by Schuchat to talk about floating in a river, and how this also made her "feel a tranquility that I haven't felt in months--not tied down to reality or my own body..." What makes the page effective is the intense light/dark contrast between the white space of her body and the black ink of the surrounding water. Schuchat's hand-lettering is also an important part of the image. Schuchat also widely varies her page design, from a standard grid to splash pages to open-page layouts. The character design is not quite as stylistically precise as in Shame, but that's the nature of time-sensitive projects like Inktober. 

The fact that the comic is so visually cohesive is a tribute to how Schuchat approached the project. This is also a well-constructed comic in terms of the actual narrative, as Schuchat's focus on the instability of her life as she moved out of a shared house and back in with her parents contributed to her sense of abandoning and being abandoned by her friends. Finally leaving Oakland revealed just how beloved she was by her circle of friends. It's also a powerful account of lurching from pandemic ennui to engaged activism, when the protests in Oakland and other cities became a powerful, daily activity. I'm not quite sure what kind of cartoonist Schuchat is going to become, but she certainly has the skills to do memoir, comics journalism, and comics-as-poetry.

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