I also made really good pasta.
Carta Monir's Passing
Carta Monir is a rockstar, at least in my head; but, I've been having a hard time figuring out exactly why I feel that way (other than her crazy-consistent streak of excellent selfies). The closest answer I could get when I stopped to think about it was, "well, every comic I've read from her is just... good." And not "just" in the sense of "only" but "just" in the sense of "I don't know what else to say other than I really enjoyed this." For comics that veer into autobio, I don't think anybody has a higher batting average for me than Monir.
It all clicked for me with her latest comic.
In the moment, tweeting about my favorite panel from the comic (the penultimate one, seen above), I said "just so poignant but with this clarity and joy that makes it buoyant."
"Poignant" might not even be fully accurate, because I'm not sure that her comics inspire sadness in particular, even when they are sad, if that makes sense. It's more like, they depict something sad but what they evince from me as a reader is simply empathy. I feel like I'm being brought to the well, so to speak. Monir's voice, both in her words and with her visuals, has this calming, bridging effect that connects me to what she's going through. And there's this very special combination of vulnerability and confidence that makes it all work that I still can't quite put my finger on.
The reason this feels significant to me is I know for a fact there are other trans voices in and adjacent-to the comics community that seem to imply either with their work or with their words that only vehicles like debasement and horror (or anything except autobio, really) are effective at communicating some of this stuff when compared to straight autobio comics (some go as far as to shit on autobio comics as a habit, and the ones that don't, I have feeling that they would, given the opportunity).
But I think Monir's comics are evidence that it's not the format of the story that's important: it's the voice and the work put into channeling that voice that takes readers where they need to go.
Blood Orange #2
Throwing it way the fuck back to Summer 2004 (the only comic I had read at that age was Telos and some old Star Trek books my dad had laying around) Blood Orange was an anthology of short indie comics that ran quarterly for what I think was just one year. I did not know it existed until I finished going through a box of zines-and-such that a friend mailed to me. Decidedly before my comic-reading time, it was sort of fascinating on the heels of just reading Now to see what Fanta's idea of an indie anthology looked like nearly a decade-and-a-half ago.
For what it's worth, I think the format of Blood Orange was perfect for the comics inside of it, and that some of the better comics in Now benefit from the larger format (although, that insufferable Van Sciver comic wouldn't have fit in Blood Orange, so that's cool). I don't know if I have a preference for how they're put together, other than the fact that Blood Orange #2 did this INFURIATING thing where they listed contributors in alphabetical order by last name on the back cover and then put the page numbers next to them without any fucking page numbers on the inside of the book. What am I supposed to do? Fucking COUNT?
Just about a decade ago, Rob McGonigal called Blood Orange "an anthology of creators on the edge of comic creation." Having no concept of what the scene was like back then, I can't help but wonder about how true this is. The comics within are obviously not cape joints, but they don't seem particularly far out. In fact, most of them seem like standard fare nowadays, the kind of thing you could easily find on Tumblr a few years ago or on Twitter now. It's hard for me to imagine that this kind of stuff didn't have a platform back then, let alone that it was particularly radical.
I think I've maybe heard three or four of the names within before reading it, so I didn't have any expectations. It was six bucks for this edition back then, which must have seemed steep? I don't even know. Now was ten bucks in 2017, so I'm actually super-curious about how the artists made out with their paychecks by comparison.
Above is Helge Reumann's contribution, a better, more compelling use of the 9-panel-grid than anybody getting overpaid at DC Comics right now seems capable of. For what is essentially a gag comic about death, there are actually a lot of panels between the handful of pages it gets, and the details are often rendered with more care than you realize until you read some of it a second time. There's this weirdly simultaneous sterility and silliness to how Reumann presents things and it really pays off for the comic as a whole.
My favorite contribution by far was Laura R. Weinstein's one-pager. I think this kind of strip can easily feel heavy-handed and/or corny but Weinstein produces something that, to my eyes, is subversive in a funny way. Embedded in the image is literally a scenario where a man is imagining kissing his dog, but the possibility is oddly optional and far removed from the initial view of the comic itself. The mere fact of certain things reading as narrative possibilities feels so fresh and interesting to me. The topic is both the "insert what you want" and then also that which you've deemed worthy of insertion as well as the absurdity of inserting certain options. It's so befitting of a one-page comic, especially in this format.