Bob's Comics Reviews September 1996 Arrows


Elizabeth Watasin: The Adventures of A-Girl!; Flying Girl; Susanoo the Brawler

Action Girl and Flying Girl Watasin is easily the best of the Action Girl crowd. For one thing she can draw, and beautifully. There's something about the very lines of her drawings that's entrancing. I could look at her cover for AG #6 (pictured) for hours: those cute yet self-confident smiles, Action Girl's butch haircut and off-kilter pose, the way the hands are drawn, calmly masterful. But there's more; her drawing has a wonderful and expressive range-- now cartoony, now lively and human, now impressionistic and experimental. And the writing similarly ranges from comic to indignant, from Pogo-poetic to pathos.

She's particularly strong with comic pieces-- she has a couple very funny stories about Susanoo the Brawler (Action Girl #4, #8), which have some of the everyday, character-oriented feeling of Jaime Hernandez. I hope Susanoo never gets reformed; she's a lot of fun unreconstructed. (Caught by her sister furiously fighting: "We're just talking!") Watasin even provides 'outtakes' at the end of two of her stories, which add to the fun.

Watasin is collaborating with Sarah Dyer on a set of stories about Action Girl and Flying Girl. This seems to be a serious attempt to redefine superhero(in)es on a more realistic level-- Flying Girl really flies; but she deals with accidents and vandals and would-be suicides, not supervillains. It also attempts to provide good '90s role models: self-assured and competent yet attractive and fun-loving teenage girls. It reads better than it sounds. Action Girl herself comes across as a bit of a nice older sister... you don't feel she'd like the DFC. Flying Girl is more interesting, perhaps because Watasin has attempted to capture the sensuous thrill of flying. (You never got the feeling that Superman liked to fly.)

A-Girl Watasin's own (self-published, xeroxed) comic is The Adventures of A-Girl!, whose first four issues center around A-Girl's trip to Japan. It's drawn in a much rougher style than anything she's done in Action Girl. The introduction says the A is for Asexual, among other things. I'm not sure what that means, except that A-Girl expresses a good deal of resentment toward those who want to pair everybody off-- especially into boy-girl units. A-Girl's sexuality is actually pretty obvious: she's into women. (However, when in ruminative moments she says things like "I strive to see you perfectly, without my gender, and I exist without my gender, so you can really see me... Wasn't it Virginia Woolf who... quoted Coleridge, saying genius was the asexual mind?", that seems more how bisexuals rather than lesbians talk. Lesbians like to revel in the womanness of their sexuality.)

I think I liked #3 best, for its expression of the simple joy of discovering shoujo manga. But I also like A-Girl's meditations on sexuality, and her insistence on being herself: a girl who dresses in boy's clothes, reads women's comics, can't stand pushy het tourists, and longs for pretty girls in uniform.

The A-Girl pieces in Action Girl are rather cute: one two-pager with A-Girl rowing and paying tribute to other river stories (Alice, Huck Finn, Heart of Darkness, Pogo, sun god Re); the other, a four-pager, showingA-Girl lost and sick in Japan, but rescued by Shonen Knife.

How to get it: I haven't yet found a store that sells A-Girl. Unimaginative gits. Issues are $1 each; there's also A-Girl is Swanky! (the better-rendered A-Girl stuff) and Elizabeth's Pritty Pictures Book for 50 cents each. Send the dough to Elizabeth Watasin; 120 So. San Fernando Blvd #231; Burbank CA 91502. If you're nice she might even draw a picture of A-Girl on the envelope, as she did on mine.

Also check Action Girl; she's been in #1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 (an (almost) all-Elizabeth issue). (And more later.)

Update: Review of Watasin's Charm School

Patty Leidy: Zero Hour

Leidy is my other favorite Action Girl artist. She's been in #2, 3, 5, and 7, mostly represented by her ongoing series Zero Hour.

P.J. and Ant Zero Hour, which started as a comic strip for an Atlanta alternative paper, centers on two girls sharing an apartment: the irrepressible Ant and the only slightly more responsible P.J. They're a lot of fun, especially for an old Mad reader: Leidy crams her panels to bursting with activity, and then writes more jokes outside.

Some people are just not going to like Zero Hour. Too cute, they'll say. Not enough angst. Avoid these people. Leidy's work is cute; but it isn't the Stepford Wives banality of The Family Circus; it's just energy, humor, and a dash of punk. Going from the daily comics page to this is like going from a hospital to a toga party.

How to get it: Watch for Patty in Action Girl; or for a concentrated dose, send $3 for a copy of Catfight to Patty Leidy, 905 Briarcliff Rd. NE #5, Atlanta GA 30306. You can also get a sample of her work on the web.

News flash (May 1997)... Patty has a new mini-comic out, Blue Plate Special. Same address. I think I only just noticed that she's really a pretty good artist-- if you ignore the expressive, cartoony heads, the bodies are quite well drawn. One of her very latest strips seems to show Ant coming out. It'll be interesting to see where she goes with this.

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