Wednesday, December 22, 2021

31 Days Of CCS, #22: Annabel Driussi

Annabel Driussi's comics delve into some serious topics surrounding love, intimacy, and vulnerability. However, there is an upbeat quality to almost all of her work that shines through, even in the most difficult of reads. Driussi has a background in neuroscience and has done a lot of science illustration work, but her personal comics here are frequently funny, sexy, dark, probing, and horny. While she has a particular aesthetic that carries over to all of her projects, she's also capable of truly varied work, especially in terms of tone. 

Fig Leaf was her first minicomic, and it showed in terms of layouts, lettering and sequencing. However, Driussi's style was quickly in place and the black/white flip in terms of negative space was highly effective in this harrowing conversation between father and daughter about sexual preference and their own fraught relationship. Sure On This Shining Night is an assured howl of anger, depicting (presumably) the artist riding a bike at night, being sexually harassed and then followed by a man in a car, and her frustration and anger once she was safe. The fact that she even had to ponder being safe when she was just trying to get from point a to point b was the reason for this explosion. The use of color is meant to add a sense of visual dissonance to the proceedings, doubling as a way of expressing the emotional narrative of the story. 

Deeper! is sort of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea meets H.P. Lovecraft, only as lesbian erotica. It takes itself exactly as seriously as you would expect, to its great benefit. There's not any actual sex or nudity depicted, but the salaciousness is amusing, as is the genius virgin-related gag the defeats the deranged villain. Driussi was forced to work a little small, as she crammed a lot of panels onto each page. That sometimes hurt her character renderings, as she couldn't quite decide at times when to drop out detail and when to do a more detailed rendering, and the results were mixed. 

The Bull & The Gnat was the Aesop's Fable assignment, but it was completed with her left (non-dominant) hand because of an injury to the other hand. It looks like it was done with colored pencils, and it speaks to the idea of cartooning and illustrating being two related, but different skills. The rendering was actually quite good, even if the lettering was rough, but the whole story is really about the gnat's actions being irrelevant to the bull, so the gnat may as well do what it wants. Rice Krispies is the Ed Emberley assignment, and Driussi made this a sort of stoner break-up story, where the main character is hung up on his ex, regrets his actions, and later learns he was totally forgotten. The animal heads of every character turn out to be a result of his being high. Driussi really nails the setting and these particular character types, and their style was well-suited to work in the stripped-down Emberley style. 

Finally, Touch Your Self! was Driussi's most interesting comic. Not because of the obviously salacious subject matter regarding masturbation, but because of her incredible vulnerability and the critical faculties she brings to bear on the idea of not only catering to male fantasies by her very existence, but that masturbation for her was always performative and never only for her. She then turns the tables and asks the reader to think about masturbation and what it means to them. In so doing, she is both engaging the reader in an intimate connection and also putting the reader in that same performative space that she finds it hard to get out of. The visuals are frank and stark, tinged with the slightest touch of humor but mostly played completely straight. 

Driussi is a thinker as a cartoonist. It's interesting take her work in a vastly different direction from her applied comics work with regard to science, yet still use that sense of composition in some of her work. It's also fun to see her loosen up while zeroing in on these issues related to intimacy and vulnerability. I'm curious to see what her thesis will look like and what she pursues in the future.

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