Thursday, February 8, 2024

Caroline Cash's Peepee Poopoo Issue 80085

There's an extent to which this run of very funny and varied issues of the ridiculously titled Peepee Poopoo feels like a warm-up for Caroline Cash. Sure, she's self-consciously harkening back to the tradition of one-person anthologies like Eightball, but I think the better comparison is Michael DeForge's classic series Lose. She's getting her feet wet by allowing herself to go on flights of fancy, gags, diversions, pin-ups, and a letters page without having to worry about doing her big Graphic Novel. Frankly, I wish more young cartoonists still did this. It's nice to see a resurgence in this format, both in terms of minicomics but also cartoonists and publishers starting to return to the comic-book format. 

It also helps that Cash **is** actually ready to do something long-form if she's ready and feels like doing it. (Plenty of artists simply don't like the format.) Cash has a knack for turning the puerile into something deeply personal. The title of the comic is funny and ridiculous, and it stands for both a genuine affinity for these kinds of comics as well as a satire of some of underground comics' more puerile tendencies--especially from men. It's also a deeply regional comic--it's Chicago through and through, though a version of Chicago very specific to her experiences. Nights spent in dive bars, going to house parties in nearby flats, walking around town--it's a love letter to some times that are just recently past. 

It's also a highly matter-of-fact and amusing take on her life as a lesbian, past and present, in all of its frequently awkward glory. The very "number" of this issue, "80085" is a reference to those numbers resembling the word "boobs" on a calculator. It's juvenile, but Cash plays with this throughout, starting with noting that boobs are one of the simplest, best things about being a lesbian. This isn't exactly a revelation, but it's her cartooning, using an almost chibi style, that sells it. She then pivots to an autobiographical story about going to Victoria's Secret as a teenager in order to buy a bra, after years of being afraid she'd be outed as a pervert if she was caught staring at its window. There are interesting notes throughout the issue, as she mentions being obsessed with manga as a teen, and you can see more of a DeForge influence in a one-pager about a guy who only listens to his own band's cassettes, but Cash has also carved out her own style that I suspect will be highly influential.

In "Dudes Rock," for example, there's a sort of throwback feel in the title font, size, and presentation to the underground era, but the actual page composition and character design feel decidedly modern and unique to her. Cash leans somewhere between grotesque and cute on every page and with every figure, zooming out to make characters more cartooning and zooming in to provide more (and frequently gross) detail. It's also making fun of scenesters without making it painfully obvious since that's generally like shooting fish in a barrel. 

Another thing I like about Cash's work is the delicate balance she maintains between sincerity and smartassery. Her strips about her schedule and life as a freelancer are one part self-deprecating gags and one part genuine reflection. The same is true about her ode to a defunct bar called Danny's; the meandering strip is less a story than a series of anecdotes about the kind of feeling one develops for a place that's the backdrop for one's own personal evolution. Her continuing narrative, "Come Home To Me," is (like the Danny's story) another ode to Chicago, this time with a Liz Phair song as the background for a return to the city and memories of hazy nights spent with questionable company under questionable circumstances. 

Tack on a letters column, some stickers (!), and another full-page illustration done in yet another visual style, and the issue shows the breadth and depth of Cash's style and influences. Her comics are self-assured and funny, even as one gets the sense that she has a few more developmental leaps to make. 

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