It’s Sexy When People Know Your Name
Lisa Hannawalt, writer/artist
60 tiny pages
Stay Away from Other People
Lisa Hannwalt, writer/artist
There’s a lot to like about Lisa Hannawalt’s comics/doodles/stream of consciousness/what have you as presented in this pair of minicomics. (A third, Mistakes We Made was one of the Ones That Got Away from me at MoCCA 2009). For starters, she can draw like a motherfucker, with a razor-tight line that lends itself perfectly to manically detailed portraits of nattily attired human bodies with animal or insectoid heads. Those things are sort of like if Matt Furie based his similar work on wintertime Macy’s catalogs from the early ’80s, and could easily make her the toast of a hipster-illustration world that, bizarrely, seemingly can’t get enough of weird animal stuff these days. But she’s also got the mind of a sketch comedian, or perhaps more accurately an observational webcomics cartoonist of the sort who’s equally popular in an entirely different segment of the illustration-appreciating population. Her list-based strips, rolling out her thoughts on topics such as “Ideal Wedding Plans,” “A Typical Week,” “12 Things I Think About on My Way to Work,” and the strip on unlikely things that are sexy that gives the first mini its title, progress in a rewardingly and amusingly haphazard fashion, alternating short-and-to-the-point deadpan entries with lengthy and baroque ruminations that you have no doubt plagued her brain for minutes on end. In that “On My Way to Work” strip, for example, entry #9 is “Car Crashes”; entry #6 is this:
What Does the Factory Where Money Is Made Look Like and How Do They Keep Employees From Stealing It. Paper money is printed in large strips which must be cut by giant scissors. All of the little 20s must be furiously stamped by hand onto every $20 bill. Employees must strip naked and place clear packing tape over their genitals and bodily crevices. They receive excellent benefits and are exempt from paying income tax.
Needless to say, that’s all illustrated, in all its packing-tape-covered-buttcrack glory.
But if the goofiness of the gags conceal Hannawalt’s self-exposure with silliness, other parts of these minis do no such thing. Speaking as someone who suffered through a loooong car commute of his own for several years, I instantly related to her frequently referenced obsession with car crashes, and her unnecessarily detailed drawings of animals and entrails (occasionally combined), all of which I saw and/or thought about way more than was healthy during that time. Her approach to sexuality is similarly infused with a sense of “I just can’t help it”–witness the uncomfortable gag (no pun intended) about how she distracted herself at the dentist by thinking of oral sex, and the shame-tinged images that conjures for her; or the juxtapositions of imagery and text for the strip about things that are sexy, several of them hinging on dominance, submission, or even violence in a disarmingly direct way. (“A healthy appetite is sexy, and so is the act of obediently eating what has been given to you”; “Being patronized or humiliated can be sexy.”) Hannawalt’s skill set is varied and unique; she’s going to be part of Buenaventura’s damn-the-torpedoes alternative-comic-book line, and I’ll be looking forward to it.