Rachel Nabors: 18 Revolutions, Crow Princess, Subculture of One
Rachel Nabors is a one-woman creative force. Her self-publishing comics career began with 18 Revolutions, a small 80-page book responsible for her claim that she was “the first female American teenager to self-publish a graphic novel”. Could very well be, as far as I know. It collects strips she created from the ages of 15 through 18.
When I reviewed it back in the summer of 2004, I said this:
She uses a cute manga-influenced style that is well-suited to her chatty approach to teen life and interests, including Halloween, shopping, goth fashion, and craft tips. Her early work is clearly just that, but her art improves as it goes on. The layouts gain a better sense of flow instead of just putting the elements on the page, and she has a good sense of humor about herself and her cat Tuna (the main characters). The lengthy piece called “Atrophy” tackles the typical topic of depression, but it does so in a fresh, honest way. I also very much liked the last piece, about what went into making 18 Revolutions.
Her next work was a 24-hour comic, A Brief History of Grifonton. This historical fantasy about a town asking a griffin for help can be read online. It’s rough, which is typical of that type of artistic exercise, and the word balloons are sometimes arranged as to make their order of reading confusing, but there’s a surprising message underneath this fable that I found thought-provoking. It’s a tale of everyone using their strengths to build an inter-operative community.
Then came another graphic novel, Crow Princess. It’s her attempt at a modern fairytale. It seems aimed at a goth audience, what with its love of the big black birds and its story about a smart, creative, misunderstood loner picked on at school and by her family.
This book is typical comic size, and Rachel’s spare art style looks somewhat blank on the larger pages. I found it interesting mostly for its aspirations, what it wanted to be instead of what it was. The magical ending doesn’t speak to me, but I don’t have those particular fears and motivations. Others, who dream of finding their true tribe and being discovered to be a princess, may enjoy it more. Greg McElhatton did (although for other reasons).
Rachel has a comic running weekly at gurl.com. Her two most recent publications are collections of those strips under the Subculture of One title. The first collects three stories having to deal with physical image.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the first entry, dealing with attitudes about female body hair. It’s not a subject frequently tackled in comics (unless one goes all the way back to John Byrne reportedly quitting the She-Hulk series when another writer revealed she shaved her legs, if I’ve gotten that legend right), but it’s one every woman has struggled with. The next tackles the question of whether a tall woman should wear boots, given men’s insecurity with height issues while dating, while the last is about the classic problem of finding a guy who shares your interests and is willing to look beyond the surface attraction.
The second issue opens with the lead planning to attend a comic convention. As part of her packing, she decides to be prepared for any eventuality, which means buying condoms. Tuna plays the part of an unusual Jiminy Cricket, questioning how that applies to her belief in chastity. It’s a good question that leads to some important points. There are also stories about bus travel, how Tuna got his name, and two holiday pieces.
I think these semi-autobiographical style monologues in comic form play to Rachel’s strengths in both writing and art — her style keeps the word-driven scenes moving — and I’m glad to see her continuing with them. They’re funny and insightful, and my favorite of her work. She’s grown up http://www.rachelthegreat.comdoing comics, and it’s refreshing to see how far she’s come and how far she’s still reaching.
Congratulations to Rachel for winning the 2007 Friends of Lulu Kim Yale Award for Best New Female Talent.