Tuesday, October 24, 2006

She Draws Comics at MoCCA

With the Newark and Jewish Museums co-opting an exhibit on American comics (aptly titled "Masters of American Comics"), one might notice that all the featured artists are men. Conclusion: Comic lady scare fanboy in pants?

MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) opened an exhibit mid-May called "She Draws Comics: 100 Years of America's Women Cartoonists." It chronicles as far back as 1911's Grace Dayton ("Isn't Dottie Dimple Cute!") and 1928's Ethel Hays ("Fanny Flapper"). The pieces also span the years from WWII's women as stand-in cartoonists to the present, where more women are represented in comics than ever.

The most noticeable piece was not on the wall but sitting on a small table for perusal in the center of a tiny white room. Wedged between copies of Jessica Abel's La Perdida and Megan Kelso's Scheherazade was Barbie #59—a Marvel Comics publication. Flipping to the story entitled "Learning the Fair Way," we are presented with Barbie consoling a young girl named Caitlin, who was forbidden by a boy in a Spider-Man from playing superheroes because, you know, girls aren't strong. Barbie goes up to young Spidey in the tree, brandishing an issue of X-Men at him while saying that there are strong women in the comic. He doesn't believe her, but eventually young Caitlin sets him straight by beating him at all the carnival games in front of his father, thoroughly emasculating him before puberty. The next time Barbie sees Spider-Man in the tree, Caitlin is under the mask. Apparently girls can be heroes. A lesson well-learned despite Barbie's disproportionate body-image.

Other stand-outs include board art from Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For and a splash page from Marie Severin's Strange Tales #158, which inspired the art for Pink Floyd's A Saucerful of Secrets.

The exhibit will close on November 6. See it before you kill yourself out of regret.

-John Zuarino

The Mystery Guest

The Mystery Guest, by Grégoire Bouillier.
5 out of 5 stylish tacos

Who knew that a neurotic with a bottle of ’64 Margaux could discover the meaning of life at French photograher Sophie Calle’s birthday party? In GrĂ©goire Bouillier’s new memoir, anything is possible.

The story begins in late 1990, the day philosopher Michel Leiris died. Bouillier receives a phone call from his estranged ex-lover inviting him to attend Sophie Calle’s birthday party as that year’s mystery guest. Immediately, Bouillier’s narrative leaps from Leiris to the space probe Ulysses to Bouillier's current lover (who, as he recalls, “loved me despite my turtleneck-undershirts”).

Bouillier writes contemplatively, in a stream-of-consciousness style that delves into every nuance of his life. He draws parallels between his ex and Mrs. Dalloway, putting his former relationship to rest and finally changing the bathroom light bulb. “What was the point of living,” Bouillier writes, “if we spent our lives fulfilling the desires of inanimate objects?”

While taking forty pages to describe a ten-minute party might seem to make for some seriously daunting reading, every word Bouillier writes somehow flows cohesively. It’s magical. – John Zuarino