Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Three Words - An Anthology of Aotearoa/NZ Women's Comics - Edited by Rae Joyce, Sarah Lang & Indira Neville

This book is a lie.  A falsehood.  A deceit.  The brief: contributors were invited to create a comic around three words, provided by, error someone, such as 'Deep, And, Meaningful' or 'Electric, Tapir, Dreams'.  Firstly, WTF is a 'Tapir' ? And how can you make on 'Dreamy electric'?  What a crock.  Seriously, how pretentious!  Yeah, Yeah.  The white middle class male reviewer doesn't understand.  Why should he?  He was brought up on Spider-Man and Marvel comics with all the overdrawn, exaggerated objectification of women and minor players to the outer under-pantied, bubble biceped heroes toking out on kryptonite and radioactive spider venom.  Ok.  Yeah, you got me.  'Love and Rockets', Jamie Fernandez, 'Tank Girl', never happened. 

Truth is, graphic novels have moved on since Stan Lee ruled the universe - though he still owns a fair chunk of misogynist Hollywood - but I, as a reader still need to connect with great art and even greater writing.  Much of the work in here, this book, has the sentiment, but simply falls flat because it's either too weird, too, surrealist or just threw the brief out in lieu of doing their own damn thing, regardless. One example is artist Pritika Lal who approaches her three words - Sickening, Baste, and Scoops - with a one page graphics of a woman screwing a PC with the legend 'NB: You can't imbibe anothers success by fucking them' (no comma on 'anothers').  It's a cheap, tacky throwaway with bad grammar.  20 year's ago it was punk.  Now it's just crap.  And there's no association to 'scoop' either. Sharon Murdoch, a political cartoonist, on the other hand, does know how to succeed on the brief.  Her words: 'Scales, Kind, Prerogative' are very well explored in three pages of mini novel.  Her panels explore popular media commentaries of young women (Boozy, liberal, ambitious), the glass ceiling, and the politics of sun hats.  Her work is poignant and reflective.  It works on all levels.

Sill in other places like Miranda Burton's exquisite dream state illustrations that rip off Robert Crumb completely, the word theme is just abandoned completely in favour of simply showcasing a significant talent.  Ok, all in good.  So why not just commission Burton and forget the rest.  Including zine writers, artists, etc. is all wonderful but and action of democracy without direction. 

Ok, so some other pages work.  As a white middle class male I'm probably not the most objective reviewer.  But I want intelligent, effective writing for women to get totally obsessive with.  To take down the establishment and totally stick it to the male bastion.  Some of this book does that. That portion is inspiring and leading.  The rest is complete fish'n'chip wrapper and not worth the price.  Editors should have refined their agenda and focussed more.  Like modern political movements all inclusive diminishes the credibility to a cause - although what that is lost on me.  It all feels like this was edited by committee, where success criteria was that you were simply invited to contribute in the first place and 'quality' was an option, not a prescription.  Perhaps that's the point.  Valuing art is a beholder thing,  'Quality' is a fluid idea.  Or is the point that you don't need a point.  Either way it's a blunt success.

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