Sara Ryan: Me and Edith Head, Flytrap

Where to start talking about the work of Sara Ryan? How about I steal her website self-description: she “write[s] books and comics for teens and others”. Her comics so far are mostly self-published, but don’t underestimate them: her first, Me and Edith Head, was nominated for a Best Short Story Eisner Award.

Illustrated by her husband Steve Lieber (Whiteout), it’s a story about a character from her young adult novel Empress of the World. Katrina wants to be in the school play to avoid friction at home, but she’s instead selected to make costumes. Her resulting studies of famous Hollywood designer Edith Head open up her unexpected talent in the area.

For a 16-page minicomic, it’s surprisingly meaty, with a full character arc and thoughtful details worked in around the edges. The subject, costuming, may sound flighty, but Katrina’s mentor makes some excellent points about the importance of how we choose to present ourselves to others through dress (or how that choice is made for us).

Lieber’s art is very well-suited to it, since his style tends to be down-to-earth with realistic character expressions. His work with detail is needed to support all the different costume looks and background setting. The script is included in Panel Two along with comments from both writer and artist.

Ryan and Lieber followed that up with the first issue of a minicomic series called Flytrap. Maddy’s trying to balance work, love, family … thus the subtitle, “Juggling Act”. This issue is about how she starts doing marketing for a small independent circus called Flytrap.

It’s a situation ripe for good lines and great art, and this has both. I love the way the ringmaster talks like one all the time, flowery words and old-fashioned phrasing. Maddy’s also impressive in the way she keeps it together after a really bad day.

The second issue, “Deep, Too”, has a new artist, Ron Chan. Maddie’s trying to get some good publicity photos, but the two clowns she’s shooting are playing “can you top this?” with each other. They combine classic circus feats — wire work, trapeze, stilts — with more out-there stunts, like juggling broken beer bottles. Chan’s style seems to me smoother than Lieber’s, with fewer rough edges. It’s a little prettier, which isn’t bad, just different.

He continues as the illustrator on Flytrap 3, “Over the Wall”, in which a tattooed performer thinks back on the reasons behind his first ink. It’s a classic story — kid doesn’t know what to do with himself, picks up some odd skills, gets in trouble, runs away and joins the circus — told sideways, with allusion and inference. Ryan relies on Chan in several spots to carry the story with silent art, and he comes through.

I suspect I won’t be able to shake it from my head for a while, even though I miss learning more about Maddie. She made such an impression on me in the first issue that I feel the loss of the spotlight on her. More Flytrap is promised for later this year, and I’m eager to see it.

She has also written Click (link to review by Greg McElhatton), with art by Dylan Meconis.

5 Responses to “Sara Ryan: Me and Edith Head, Flytrap”

  1. Paul Sizer Says:

    Is it too fannish of me to say that Sara Ryan is one of my heroes? Well, she is, and “Edith Head” is just one of the reasons. You are spot-on that, for a 16 page mini, it nails it; I mean comic writers should see how WELL it is NAILED in just 16 pages. I love it, and it speaks well for how powerful and good the medium can be when used by talented people.

    That, and the fact that Sara is almost insufferably cool in person make my hero worship all the more justified.

  2. Kevin Moore Says:

    Also check out Click, a collaboration Ryan made with Dylan Meconis. It stars Battle, the love interest in Empress of the World and the star of the new The Rules of Hearts.

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