Thursday, December 1, 2022

31 Days Of CCS, #1: Annabel Driussi

Annabel Driussi's Sensitive Man, to use a technical term, is absolutely bonkers. This is ultimately a story about longing and restitution, but it's so bizarre and hilariously over-the-top that this only scratches the surface. What makes it work, ultimately, is Driussi's absolute commitment to her cute aesthetic. The first strip is a statement of purpose: the titular character drawing, with all due grave attention, a smiley face. He smiles at his work.

The next segment, "The Ice Cream Paradox" details Sensitive Man taking a walk with a young child (daughter? sister? who knows?), and she is profoundly saddened when a passing car honks its horn, causing her to lose her ice cream cone. Sensitive Man then goes to college, invents a new branch of physics, crafts, a time machine, and uses it to go back in time to stop the driver from honking his horn. Thus, sadness is averted. There's a Rube Goldberg-esque quality to the extreme silliness and complicated nature of these proceedings, but Driussi's character design and extensive use of spot blacks and negative space to emphasize the cuteness of her characters never wavers. 

After establishing a visual storytelling rhythm, Driussi goes totally off the rails in "Man Of Your Dreams." The dimensions of this comic are important; it's a full 8.5 x 11 inches, and this allows Driussi to stretch out and emphasize that negative space in the first half of the comic. In this story, Sensitive Man has a dream about a mysterious lover, and is so shaken by the experience that he breaks up with his boyfriend. Wiping his tears in a broken heart word balloon, he sees that it's full of color. He stretches it open, steps through, and walks into another dimension. Visually, the story goes from the line art seen throughout the comic to a fumetto with the characters now depicted entirely in clay. It's a wonderfully bonkers move that retains all of the qualities of Driussi's drawing while adding this fantastical element of Sensitive Man literally taking a stroll on the artist's desk, until he finds an unfinished clay version of his dream man. He gives him eyes and a mouth, bringing him to life, and they have a moment of pure joy together until Sensitive Man realizes how much he misses. In some absolutely ingenious panels, they build a portal together, as Driussi mixes line and clay, until the dream man realizes he can't travel through it and pushes Sensitive Man back. 

It's a genuinely moving story on top of the berserk levels of craft and problem-solving on each page. While Driussi tweaks Sensitive Man and his big feelings, there's a high level of sincerity at work here as well. There's a new wave of cute comics like this that also serve to explore complicated emotions that reminds me of the "cute-brut" movement of 20 years ago in comics, but it's far more expansive and diverse. Driussi truly strikes gold with her efforts here. 

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