Thursday, December 22, 2022

31 Days Of CCS, #22: Andy Lindquist and Kit Anderson

Slipping, by Kit Anderson. Anderson has such a great knack for portraying loneliness, longing, alienation, and liminal places in a way that feels lived-in, gritty, and authentic. There's a question of the connection between reality and insanity and what exactly is real in her comics, a question that is rarely answered directly. Take Slipping, for example. This comic follows the monologue of a character (what seems like a trans man or non-binary person) as they explain the titular concept of "slipping." As relayed by their mother, it's a lack of awareness of one's surroundings that causes the Other Place to reach out and get us. Whether it's hell, oblivion, or something else is unimportant; what is clear is that it represents non-being at an ontological level. Anderson's scratchy line immerses the reader in every slow, painful moment, from stray body hair to pocked skin to slumped gestures. 

The monologue is aimed at a woman named Monday, who lived with the narrator until their neuroses (in the form of filling every empty second with sound) drove them away. Anderson imbues every quotidian moment in the comic (waking up, making breakfast, smoking a cigarette, taking a walk) with unspoken menace, as the reader is led to expect a "slip" for the narrator. When it comes, it hits especially hard because the narrator is making one, last desperate attempt to connect. The character's existential self-absorption inadvertently leads to their final, tragic fate, even as Monday is revealed to be worried about them. 

It's Going Fine and Who Lays The Layman? by Andy Lindquist. Lindquist's own takes on alienation are quite arresting. Lindquist zeroes in on character design, and it's got that slightly grotesque and distorted quality that Dash Shaw and Lillie Carre' both possess. In It's Going Fine, for example, the character of the mother is weathered and bespectacled, hiding years of pain behind those glasses. The story is about her daughter trying to talk to her in a very intentional way, trying to draw out her mother and engage with her as an equal instead of simply being ignored and lectured at. The daughter blows it by losing her tempo, leading her mother on an interesting segue: she tells her daughter about hearing about Sylvia Plath's death as a teenager. It was a shattering experience, so much so that she avoided the kitchen for weeks. It shaped her approach to fear: don't look. When her daughter asks if she's afraid of her, the other simply says that she loves her without answering the question. The horrifying last image is a visual representation of the mother's fear as she sees her daughter walk away. This is a sophisticated and devastating portrayal of generational trauma. 

Who Lays The Layman? is funny and sad, as it's about a superhero groupie who frequently uses a grindr-style app to hook up with a variety of metahumans. When they (a trans man) fall for a gritty superhero named the Sergeant, they feel the foolish, flushed feelings of connection that may not be real. When promises of meeting up again fade and a flirty text gathers dust, the groupie finds other company, and finds it lacking. One of the heroes, Glamorpuss, is hot and outgoing, but is not only lacking in bed, but is chatty in a way that the groupie doesn't connect with. Indeed, they are casually cruel to poor Glamorpuss, who wants to hang out and watch funny videos after sex, but the protagonist just wants to go home. 

There's a remarkable sequence where the protagonist compares being lonely at night and looking at dating apps like being high and watching fast food ads. Nothing seems better in that moment than getting that cheeseburger--and nothing makes you feel worse afterward. That materializes when they meet a hero named Funny the Strongman, who is not only weird about being queer, he also misgenders them (twice), and then claims that his condom broke. It all ends as horribly and awkwardly as one would think, with our hero swearing off apps for a bit, only to get a text from the Sergeant. Lindquist touching on the essential queerness of superheroes is an homage to Watchmen, of course, but by touching on trans issues and issues related to both BDSM and consent, they take it a step further. In both of their comics here, Lindquist demonstrates razor-sharp storytelling instincts with interesting swerves, bringing a touch of horror into a story about family trauma and bring grief and deep alienation into a story about sex and superheroes. 

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