Thursday, December 15, 2022

31 Days Of CCS, #15: Rebecca Schuchat and Juniper Kim

Four short comics by Rebecca Schuchat. These are all 4" x 4" minicomics, each of which is a combination of information and polemics. Prop 22 is a comic about a measure passed in California that essentially repudiated a law passed that forced businesses like Uber and Lyft to pay their employees overtime and give them insurance. Not only did the companies spend over $200 in favor of the measure, they forced their employees to carry bags that were in favor of it. Schuchat has a keen understanding of design. Each page almost always obeyed the 2:1 rule, wherein (other things being equal) each panel should contain no more than 1/3 text to 2/3 image. In places where this wasn't true, Schuchat cleverly cut the text in half so as to make the page more readable. 

In OK, Here Is What You Should Know About Bail, Schuchat works with writer Madi Ordway, and the result is a graphic design mess. There are walls of text on each page, the lettering is hard to follow, and the dark purple wash also makes this hard to read. It's important information regarding a corrupt system and the inequity surrounding bail, but it's hard to read. On the other hand, Schuchat's adaptation of the IWW labor song I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night uses stark imagery and a bold yellow wash to make the lyrics to this standard truly stand out. The Filibuster may be the best comic in the bunch. The red and blue zip-a-tone effects create a wavy pattern throughout the background of the comic, helping to mitigate the heap of text in the comic. It talks about the toxic history of this procedure in Congress, how it's being used to impede democracy now, and how it could be changed. It's strong political cartooning, although the thoroughness of Schuchat's research is such that she could easily write a book about virtually any subject and make it look interesting. 

Juniper Kim is one of the more intriguing recent CCS students. There is something powerfully raw, ugly, and blunt in the way she discusses trauma, identity, gender, and the mixed feelings surrounding desire. A Girl's Guide To Becoming Asian-American is a howl of anger done using collage. It's an emotional narrative that touches on the sheer pain of assimilation and touches on grief, desire, and images of whiteness while also discussing a debt to ancestors. 

Her Koreans Sing In English got nominated for an Ignatz Award, and for good reason. Using a stacked series of three horizontal panels, Kim weaves three related narratives in and out with each other. One is her own narrative, as she jumps back and forth in time and talks about various events that shaped her relationship to music, both as a player (classical violent) and listener. The middle tier narrative is about her father's time in the DMZ as part of his compulsory military service in South Korea. The bottom tier is about the history of South Korea itself. 

This is all done in watercolors that seep and blur into each other, just as each of the three narratives inevitably blur together. This comic, and much of Kim's work, is the ways in which the cultures and governments of Japan and the United States imposed themselves on Korea. It led to a Westernized Japan imposing similar cultural demands on Korea, like making people study and listen to Japanese military songs composed in a classical Western style. For her father, growing up in the 80s, Western pop music was sought after by young South Koreans as a symbol of Western freedom and economic power. The comic centers around a single event: her father patrolling the DMZ alone, with the South Korean side blasting in western rock and the North Korea side blasting in their own propaganda, and he's surrounded in this no-man's-land by flourishing flora and fauna that exists because people aren't there to endanger them. 

Kim incorporates a particular guitar instrumental he heard with the swirling, bruised colors of the sunset, collapsing her tiered panels into a single splash page. Kim's own recollections about her relationship with music, including the feeling that practicing violin was more important than her father playing his guitar, speaks to the kind of anger that pervades all of her work. There's also a tenderness toward her father and his experiences, and a sense of understanding of her parents' country and why its people do the things they do. That same feeling of feeling betwixt and between as an Asian-American and a country whose last 150 years are all about being colonized at every level (including culturally) and by every ideology are the backbone of this provocative, smart, beautiful, and sad comic.

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