Review: Juicy Mother

Artist(s): Alison Bechdel, Ariel Schrag, Diane DiMassa, Howard Cruse, Ivan Velez, Jennifer Camper, Joan Hilty, Leanne Franson, Michael Fahy, Robert Kirby, Robert Triptow.

Opening an anthology with one of Diane DiMassa‘s in-your-face stories is a clear signal: we’re not here to cuddle you! And DiMassa doesn’t cuddle at all, although her characters aren’t looking for anything more exotic than love and friendship. Right from the start, Juicy Mother1 shows that it’s not here to mollify or please a complacent audience.

Robert Kirby (Curbside) then teams up with filmmaker and producer (Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation) Stephen Winter for another bittersweet story of young love in New-York City. Between DiMassa and Kirby’s art, the contrast couldn’t be stronger: there’s a manic energy in the former’s line, whereas the latter’s is all round and precise.

From Serena Pailli's strip

Ariel Shrag (Potential, Likewise) contributes two short autobio stories, while Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch out for) manages to both skewer mainstream press’s attitude toward minorities and gently mock her own reactions. Italian artist Serena Pillai gives us a rather hot encounter between a young dyke and her butch cousin, and the far too rare Howard Cruse only does one page, about an old woman’s view of typewriters. After bi-dyke Leanne Franson (Liliane) tells the story of her art-school crush which lead to the offering of a chicken head, Michael Fahy gives new meaning to one of Shakespeare’s Sonnets in a sexy interpretation, and then Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women) writes and draws what for me is the strongest contribution to this very good and varied anthology. Entitled Ramadan, it tells the story of Arab lesbians, and the way anti-Muslims/anti-Arabs racism can compare with homophobia, especially in the current American climate (not that we don’t have racism and homophobia in my own country, mind you). Thanks to talks with a number of concerned women, Camper manages to tell a realistic story where personal and societal problems conflate, which doesn’t prevent those women from living a full life, some being quite religious. Camper’s strip feels like a good documentary on the specificities of the lives of people who might find themselves doubly lost, among other Arabs for being queer, and among queers for being Arab.

Fom Jennifer Camper's story

Back to funner stuff, we get a one-pager by Joan Hilty (Bitter Girl) about the dangers of reading One Hundred Years of Solitude after a break-up, and former Gay Comics editor Robert Triptow does an acerbic strip about gay marriage, which had a recent sequel in the last issue of Naughty Bits. The following jam between some of the contributors is also quite funny, if only because all those artists with so different styles in art and themes seem to have a blast lampooning each other. Ivan Velez Jr. (Tales of the Closet) creates a very weird strip where a young, angry girl discovers why a bland classmate often sleeps at school, and Jennifer Camper and G.B. Jones close the book with a fun story showing dangerous lesbians (is there any other kind?) at play, drawn in a style reminiscent of Tom of Finland, without the big dicks, obviously.

As my rather too short indications hopefully show, Juicy Mother is another proof of the vitality and variety of queer cartoonists. And even though it took a long time for Jennifer Camper, who edited this anthology, to get it published (most stories were drawn before the end of the previous century), I definitely hope she’ll be back for more queer goodness.

  1. This 96-page anthology edited by Jennifer Camper is published by Soft Skull Press and is available from from Amazon.

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