August 29, 2012

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Baltimore Comic-Con Spotlight: 2 Mini-Comics from Monica Gallagher

[Here's another of a few Baltimore Comic-Con Spotlights I will be doing before the show on September 8th and 9th.  Where indicated, these creators also cross over with SPX Spotlights.  You can read all of my Baltimore Comic-Con Spotlights here.]

Go for the Eyes
Middle School
Written and Illustrated by Monica Gallagher
Self-Published (Eat Your Lipstick)

Strange but true:  I know two talented artists who also have played roller derby!  How crazy is that?  While one of them participates in live art shows, the other works in webcomics and minis.  Her name is Monica Gallagher, and she will be at the Baltimore Comic-Con with her set of books, comics, and prints.

Ms. Gallagher writes not one, but two webcomics, which is pretty amazing to me, as I can barely handle writing for two websites and keep to a regular schedule.  Boonie N. Collide is about the day to day life of a roller derby girl, and has been going on for over 100 strips now.  There are collections of the strips for those interested.  Gods and Undergrads takes a mythological turn, starring a girl in college with ties to the Greek Gods.  There are two collections of that series as well if you want to catch up.

For this review, I'm concentrating on two of her mini-comics.  Go for the Eyes, featured above, is Monica'a latest mini, and features her reflections on self-defense.  How to protect yourself is an important issue in anyone's life, but given how often women are targets of violence, it takes on an additional meaning for young women.  Gallagher talks about how she fantasized about being an action hero, the impact of seeing Sarah Connor in the movies, and her attempts to learn the same moves she watched in films.

The mini is both comic and serious, depending on the subject.  We can laugh at the idea of wanting to be just like the kung-fu people in the movies, but when she describes the rage of a friend or her own failure when jumped by (thankfully) a friendly face, there's a very serious tone.  This is an excellent look at the nature of protection and reminds me very much of a topic of a good feminist zine.

Moving to another time in her life, Middle School features a short story about life at a camp shortly before moving into 6th grade.  Gallagher had been one of the top dogs in elementary school, but moving into the middle years changed her status and left her as insecure as anyone else during that time.

The comic features a few incidents from the camp that show the common theme of growing up that we've seen from other writers working in this time period, such as Raina Telgemeier or Hope Larson.  Alliances change on a dime, every action is magnified a million times, and trying to stay cool is the most important thing in the world.

Middle School is a short but enjoyable look into a time period that might be best forgotten, if it weren't for how well it shaped many of our later years.

Gallagher's art style varies in the two minis.  Middle School uses more traditional panels, working within some rather cramped lines and a grayscale that periodically hurts the art a bit.  Monica uses very wide eyes to express the emotion of the time and her character designs are varied well, so its easy to tell who is taking part in the action.

Go for the Eyes works more free-form, with no set panels, kind of like a latter-day Eisner graphic novel.  The narrative ebbs and flows across the page, sometimes with guidelines, sometimes not.  The text moves along with the art, which is freer, looser, and stronger, which makes sense because it's newer and Monica has improved her skills.  Some things remain consistent, such as distinctive characters and the expressive eyes, but it's clear how much better Gallagher is getting, even if there's not a huge difference in time between the two comics.

Baltimore is just big enough that mini-comics folks can get lost in the shuffle.  If you like auto-biographical comics with some strong reflection and solid art, definitely stop by Monica Gallagher's table.  If you can't make Baltimore, her website (with links to her webcomics and comics for sale) is here.  Check it out!