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Cover by Ivan Velez Jr.

Juicy Mother 2: How They Met

Available from Amazon.
A 160-page anthology, Manic D Press, 2007.

Category: autobiography, bisexual, humor, lesbian, slice-of-life.

Author(s): Alison Bechdel, Jennifer Camper, Howard Cruse, Diane DiMassa, Michael Fahy, Leanne Franson, Justin Hall, Joan Hilty, Victor E. Hodge, David Kelly, Robert Kirby, Lawrence Schimel, Ariel Schrag, Robert Triptow, Ivan Velez.

A couple of years after the first volume and with a change in publisher (Manic D Press has also given us Abby Denson's Tough Love), editor Jennifer Camper and her very varied crew are back for a second helping of queer tales.
This time, the theme, given by the subtitle, is about people meeting (and sometimes leaving) each other, though some contributions are only marginally linked to this theme. But that's what anthologies are for, especially the ones who offer such diverse viewpoints and art styles. It seems to me there's a strong indy/underground vibe in this book, maybe even more than in the first one--that might come from the almost doubled size from the first book, which gives room to even more artists who all have a very personal style. In any case, this makes for a vibrant book.

With the more than 25 contributions (and about 30 artists) offered here, I must admit I can't say something about each and every story, so I've chosen a few to comment on.
Triptow's ordinary weirdnessIn Robert Triptow's Food Klown, two lovers dress up for Halloween, hoping to have fun somewhere in their too staid town, only to meet a kindred soul in the most unlikely place. Triptow's brand of humor is very effective here: he mocks, gently or not, a lot of sacred cows, aided by his detailed art which somewhow manages to both give a believable life to the characters and comment on their foibles. Triptow is a long-time cartoonist who's far too rare nowadays.
Hooper's vitality David Hooper, on the other hand, is a newcomer, and I hope his recent website will soon show more of his work, because I thought his What Choice Do I Have? was rather good. Marc, the main character, spends an evening in bar, meeting former lovers/tricks and someone else who might be boyfriend material. Nothing original here. But Hooper has obviously thought hard about storytelling, the use of captions, and balloon placement. In other words, this is an interesting sequential short, apart from the fact that it has an all-black cast, who are all precisely portrayed in a few panels and words. In fact, the storytelling is in my opinion better than the art itself, which isn't bad at all. And that's very encouraging for a newcomer.
Schimel & Pérez's cute kids Lawrence Schimel (Vacation In Ibiza) and Sara Rojo Pérez's contribution couldn't be more different: The Anniversary is an extremely cute and engaging tale of queer family life, where two young boys, one raised by two men, and one by two women, all friends, spend an evening with the women, while the men are out celebrating something. The boys then philosophize about the two dads, wondering how they met and what they can be doing right now, showing they're perfectly aware of what goes on between adults, and find it rather funny, while the two women are divided between behaving like moms (don't talk like that!) and laughing with the boys. There's a warmth and ease in the conversation that brought a big smile to my face, which is a testament to the talents of the writer and the artist, who draws in a children's book style (they've already collaborated on projects for kids) perfectly suited to the subject. This should be required reading for anybody who calls gay and lesbian families "pretend families".
Hilty's seductionJoan Hilty (Bitter Girl) is also a confirmed cartoonist, and in Zion, we meet two teenage girls, one who's from a Mormon family, with a stern father and an innocent look on life, and the other, definitely not well-off, who lives with her somewhat unhinged grandmother and is far more wordly-wise. They find themselves working together on a project at school, and an unpredictable friendship begins--or maybe more. While this is only the first part of a longer story, it's obvious that Hilty has created interesting characters, separated by family traditions and views on life but joined by circumstances. Her cartoony style might seem simple, but is has that priceless quality of bringing people and surroundings to life with only a few strokes and then, there's her knack for body language.
Jennifer Camper's might be the most powerful contribution in the book, politically speaking. As with her story in the first volume, she manages to create a character who defies stereotypes: Rania, a young lesbian from Egypt, has a factory job, does the night shift and goes along well with the other workers (and some of the men especially, who seem to accept her for who she is). When she meets one of her neighbours, a married woman seemingly interested in a little affair, she loses control of her life. Night Shift is not about the conflicts of lesbian life, but more about the difficulties of people with not much control over their lives, this time for economical reasons.

Of course, there are other good contributions in this collection, and I'm sure anyone with an interest in queer indy comics will find a favorite. This second volume of Juicy Mother deserves to be widely read, for all the reasons I've already stated, and because I hope to see a third one sooner or later.

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