Wednesday, November 08, 2006

BOOKS: Give Mama Some Sugar

Well, it looks like I just missed this eBay auction for a two-day writing workshop with my all-time favourite cartoonist/writer Lynda Barry. Goddamn.

I've had a girlcrush on Barry for years, which started with my love of her weekly
Ernie Pook's Comeek and then reached embarrassing proportions after reading her anthologies (my favourite being her odd, funny, heartbreaking collection The Freddie Stories). Oh, and then there was that time I read Barry's novel, Cruddy, and she ripped my heart out of my chest and held it, still desperately thudding, in front of my face so I could study it for a while. She was really nice about it, though.

I like comics. More specifically, I like girl comics. As in, comics created by women for other women. (This is why
Betty and Veronica comics don't count.) There aren't a lot of girl comics, or at least not too many that have crossed my narrow little path. Actually, the only other one I can think of that's earned my unswerving devotion has been Roberta Gregory's Bitchy Bitch series, which is sometimes almost too harsh for human consumption... possibly because it nails so many of life's small tragedies in such a dead-on, merciless way.

So, given the dearth of girl comics out there (and I hope you'll forgive my term if it doesn't site well with you), you can imagine how thrilled I was when Rebecca Kraatz's debut anthology,
House of Sugar, came my way.

House of Sugar
by Rebecca Kraatz (#38)
Reading this collection, I was reminded of Lynda Barry's comics, particularly books like
It's So Magic, which are told mostly from the perspective of Marlys's older, more romantic sister Maybonne. But I would never say that Kraatz's work is derivative, though she openly cites Barry's four-panel style as an influence.

Unlike Barry, with her small cast of amazingly realized characters, Kraatz writes and draws from what feels like a very real, first-person perspective. I found her comics charming, wistful, strange, melancholy, and possessing a humour that I would characterize as very Canadian.

Now, here's the thing about a certain brand of Canadian humour: It's subtle. So subtle you might not even know it's there if you didn't know how to spot it. You don't laugh out loud, and the teller doesn't smile. The joke goes mutually unacknowledged, but it's there. You find it in rural places, such as the prairie provinces or the east coast (both of which are places Kraatz has lived). Some might call it "dry," but to me dry implies a certain smug, self-congratulatory quality, which this type of humour definitely doesn't have. I've been led to believe that this kind of humour has a counterpart in New England, and I imagine in other semi-remote parts of the world.

However you describe it, and wherever you find it, it slays me.

You won't find this collection on Amazon (but wouldn't it be nice if someday you could?), but you can order it directly from the publisher, Tulip Tree Press.

ETA: It turns out you CAN pre-order it from Here's the link. And it'll be available in comic shops in February, so watch for it then or pre-order it any time after this month. (Thanks, Hope!)

And if you can recommend any other good girl comics, please do!


Ali said...

I don't know if this is exactly what you mean, but I have a webcomic. I draw it, and my best friend is the main writer.

Anonymous said...

Lynda Barry is, to quote the woman herself, the total god of me. I don't think anyone's ever captured childhood so exactly. Have you read her '100 Demons'? The comic in that about the various smells of houses is one of the most perfect things I have ever read.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of Alison Bechtel's "Dykes To Watch Out For." It's what Doonesbury would be if it was written by a lesbian. Suitable for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I'm just trying to visit as many of the NaBloPoMo blogs as I can and I thought I'd say hi, I liked your blog.. :) I don't know any good girl comics sadly, but I do like this comic - it's about two cats. I have two cats, so I kinda relate ;)

Matthew E said...

Try Planet Karen. For that matter, the whole Girl Wonder site may be of some interest. As might When Fangirls Attack!.

Anonymous said...

I am deeply in love with Clockwork Angels, by Lea Hernandez. The prequel, Cathedral Child, was a little confusing.

Pilar Cruz said...

I love Leela Lee's Angry Little Girls.

Anonymous said...

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, maybe? There's two volumes (or four, depending on whether you get the french language ones, I suppose). It's about her growing up in Iran and then moving to Europe. It's fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Olivier Plender and her Ken Russel fetish manifest in a dark art-angst kind of way with "Masterpiece" -

Carrie said...

Though the term "girl comics" for comics by women rubs me the wrong way, I will just suck it up and give you some recommendations anyway. (Deep sigh).

I second, third and fourth and forever Marjane Satrapi

anything by Lauren Weinstein, though her newish book, Girl Stories, is aimed at younger readers.

La Perdida by Jessica Abel

Deep Girl by Ariel Bordeaux (hard to find)

little, tiny minicomics by Alison Cole

anything by Julie Doucet

anything by hope larson, i especially enjoyed the minicomic Letters form the Sea

anything by Gabrielle Bell

check out, and see Sara Edward-Corbin and peruse their featured guests section

I feel like there is some I love that I am missing... Come to New York and we'll so comics shopping!

landismom said...

Oh, absolutely, you must check out Alison Bechdel. And Satrapi. Totally love them!

Anonymous said...

My hometown comix shop has a women and grrls section (

I'd also have to second Julie Doucet (Dirty Plotte, My New York Diary). Also Dame Darcy (Meatcake), Phoebe Gloeckner, and Sarah Dyer 's Actio Girl Comics.(

And there's two great books about female comix by Trina Robbins for more ideas!

Tammy said...

Sorry for chiming in so late, but thanks for the recommendations, everybody! These are way more than I expected, for some reason. I can't wait to check them out.

Landismom and everyone else who recommended Alison Bechtel: You reminded me that I have one of her books kicking around and you're right, I really enjoyed it. I should chase down more.

Though the term "girl comics" for comics by women rubs me the wrong way, I will just suck it up and give you some recommendations anyway. (Deep sigh).

Hee! Carrie, this is why we get along so well. It's this little frisson of I-don't-know-what we have. Heh. And if and when I ever get to New York, I'm TOTALLY taking you up on your offer to go comic book shopping. You may live to rue the day.

Anonymous said...

Eeee! I love Lynda Barry! I met her in college and she taught me how to make an oragami cat. I love "The! Greatest! Of! Marlys!"

I love how she and Matt Groening give each other shoutouts in the beginning of their books ("mattgisfunklordoftheusa").

Anonymous said...

Sylvia! Sylvia! Sylvia! Sylvia! Sylvia! Sylvia!