Wednesday, December 6, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #6: Go Press Girl!

Today's entry is the initial output of an exciting new publisher, Go Press Girl! Spearheaded by Violet Kitchen (editor) and Rachel Bivens (designer), they already have a lot of publishing experience in resurrecting The Ladybroad Ledger, the broadsheet anthology featuring women and non-binary folks from Vermont. Both of them lean toward poetic comics with strong emotional narratives, and their initial entries here are no exception. 

Ugly Bread is from Bivens and done on a Risograph. It's a beautiful comic about the creative process and te goals that matter most: how it connects to others. What's especially clever is the narrative style: it starts as a kind of narrative recipe before easing into more general commentary on baking as a highly personal craft. The emphasis is on the connections made: the smell of the bread, sharing it, nourishing yourself and others, and above all else--repeating it. It is the repetition that hones craft. It is the intent that creates meaning, even if it is not "perfect." The process is physical and deliberate, and the results of getting better in public as a baker are more important than what the bread looks like. It's a wonderful metaphor for cartooning or any kind of creative process, but Bivens' background as a baker is uniquely suited to executing it. There's a beautiful sequence where flour billowing up is represented by line erasure, an ingenious solution that shows how minimalism can be used so effectively in cartooning. Her cartooning throughout is nuanced and sensitive, with an emphasis on gesture and facial expressions. 

How To Fall In Love. is by Kitchen, and it sees her truly leveling up in terms of the dynamism of her line. Printed in landscape, Kitchen takes advantage of all that left-to-right space using second-person narration, even as she's writing about her own stand-in character. This is a story about how the desperate need to connect can lead to losing one's own self. Writing "you are a space to be occupied," there's a brilliant sequence where the figure turns herself into a welcome mat, desperately seeking the attention of the people who come into her space, even as their presence also revolts her. Later, there's another sequence about being touch-starved, and how they must resist the urge to fall in love with their hairdresser. That segues into another brilliant sequence of an intimate encounter where the stand-in is drawn in red and the other figure is in black, and she can't quite touch him or be touched. The ending is a howl, as the figure ignores the narrator in search of their own solutions, walking into a crimson sea of hands. Kitchen is so clever as a cartoonist, constantly finding new visual solutions to solving the emotional narrative of this story that deeply resonate with the reader. Kitchen's talent has been obvious for a long time, but she's upping her degree of difficulty in a way that doesn't feel ostentatious; instead, she's expanding her visual toolbox in exciting and innovative ways. 

Finally, fellow CCS grad Cathy Mayer's The Last Time I Saw Deborah is also emotionally complex and visually compelling, but she does it in the confines of a more conventional narrative. This one is a slow-burning mystery, and the fact that it's a mystery isn't even apparent until the end. It's about a camping trip to a lake undertaken by two women who are childhood friends. The nameless narrator is clearly worried about her longtime friend Deborah, whom she calls Dee. There are some lighthearted shenanigans surrounding a B&B, swimming, and camping, but there's a lurking darkness underneath. It starts when the narrator asks Dee about her old car, and it's revealed that Dee's malignant husband Ted wrecked it while drunk. Other questions about her life are deflected, even as Dee reflects back on "Bernadette," the playground boat they used to play on that offered infinite possibilities. For Dee, all of those possibilities were clearly whittled down. The central mystery of the story is one that Dee can't confess to her friend, but she finds a number of different ways to clue her in, the final one being giving her the keys to the car to look for something and the narrator opening up the trunk. Mayer's green wash and beautifully sketchy line are wonderfully expressive, and her character design was perfectly evocative of the narrator who was emotionally open and Dee, who was closed off. It's Mayer's use of restraint--the lines she doesn't draw, the character details she doesn't reveal--that make every emotional clue feel so much more potent. 

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