Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Minis: Alli Katz

I met Alli Katz at CAKE 2023, and she was kind enough to give me a few of her minis. Two of them focused on pregnancy and the frequently dubious joys of early motherhood. Very Funny Jokes And Some Comics That Make You Think Vol 1, as one might expect, is a grab-bag of random comics. It's hit and miss, which is not unusual for this kind of mini, but some of the hits are solid. "Live Action Carebears" has a realistically-drawn, angry bear with a Carebear symbol on its chest, and simply the concept behind this made me laugh. The execution helps the gag land. There's a good newspaper typo/awkward headline gag that works because Katz just keeps pouring on the weirdness. There's a New Yorker-style gag with the punchline of someone asking "Can you explain it in Harry Potter metaphors?" that I found hilarious considering there's a large segment of the population that seemed unable to do otherwise for quite some time. Most of the actual cartooning isn't especially memorable here, but Katz's skill and timing as a humorist are sharp. 

9 Months But Actually 10 Months But Actually Forever is about Katz's whole pregnancy odyssey, from imagining a sperm giving an egg a pick-up line to the actual birth. This comic is clearly what's in her wheelhouse as a creator: memoir told in short bursts with gag punchlines that still hew closely to the more serious aspects of the experience. Katz's self-caricature (huge glasses that hide her eyes behind blank circles) is especially effective. The comic is closest in spirit to Meghan Turbitt's comics about birth, which makes sense since Turbitt is primarily a humorist. The strips about things she's worried about reflect the way that so many birthing books exist primarily to terrify expecting mothers. There are also a lot of great strips about the way she relates to her partner, especially one strip where they talk about how they think their jokes are "really landing with the doctor." Katz doesn't veer too far away from expressing her emotions in this story in service of a gag; indeed, she leans into them as much as possible, which makes totally sincere pages like having her daughter in her arms all the more effective. 

"Just Pretend Your Boob Is A Hoagie" is all about the highs and lows of breastfeeding. This was the most interesting of the three minis, in part because it's a subject that's not always discussed much, even in the increasing number of mom comics that have been published in the last decade. Katz talks about the struggles of breastfeeding, the difficulties of pumping, the judgmental lectures from lactation consultations, and the feeling of somehow failing your child if you don't breastfeed them. Katz manages to inject a lot of humor into the proceedings, but this is a more serious attempt at coming to terms with the possibility of giving her daughter formula and the shame that this concept invites. In the end, Katz manages to mostly figure it out, and the comic ends on a wistful note when the transition comes in weaning her child. The expressiveness of her figure drawing is especially sharp here. This is promising work from a young cartoonist.

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