Our Top Indie Cartoonists to Watch For in 2008: Keeping true to our “Anti-Superheroes in Tights” mood at fanboy, we took a look back at the comic books and graphic novels that caught our eye:
Being a gay teenager is tough. Being a punk teenager is tough. Both are marginalized by mainstream society, and put them both together and you have a minority-within-a-minority situation, because lets face it, anyone who’s spent time in Chelsea can tell you that queer culture and punk culture don’t overlap nearly as much as they should. But when they do, you usually end up with an explosion of creativity that brings us very very good things. Things like Liz Baillie’s My Brain Hurts, an outstanding mini-comic series, the first five issues of which have been collected by Microcosm Publishing why, just this last Fall!
The ongoing series centers around two best friends, the defiant Joey, who’s home life leaves much to be desired, and the more reticent Kate, who struggles to adapt to a hostile school environment and a girlfriend ridden with Catholic guilt. They both find refuge in the New York punk scene circa the mid 90s (I’m guessing from scenes taking place in former punk club Coney Island High, which is now a SuperCuts. Choke on it, New York ). They both deal with adversity in the form of intolerant students, gay-bashing skinheads, and ignorant figureheads.
This is no escapist, yummy-yaoi-love fantasy, but neither is it all doom and gloom. The friendship between Joey and Kate is endearing, and almost as endearing is Kate’s relationship with her second girlfriend Desi (Don’t ask me about that first girlfriend! Just read the book!) Not so endearing is Joey’s relationship with a sometimes abusive but sometimes concerned father, which is appropriately complex. While it might be tempting for a writer to portray such a Dad as a one-dimensional, bullying ogre, Baillie treats him as a conflicted man, who, while not quite sympathetic, is quite human.
Liz’s art has a gritty quality to it that perfectly captures the spirit of New York, and punk rock and the toughness of the story all together. Her art also grows in leaps and bounds over the course of each issue (at the beginning of the book, Joey looks like a different character though). Her eye for detail draws the reader into her characters world with graffiti on a bathroom stall, buttons on a characters backpack , or spilled beer and cigarettes on the floor — its a familiar and well lived in world. And even if you’ve never been a part of it, I urge you to come and visit. Liz Baillie’s comics can be seen, and ordered at her website.
Jenny Gonzalez is a New York City cartoonist and punk rock singer. You can see her stuff at jennydevildoll.com.