Girls With Slingshots
Girls With Slingshots is one of those rare soap-opera webcomic strips that’s built up a significant backstory but still remains new-reader-friendly, due to its gag-a-day structure. In other words, while capturing the adventures of a group of young adults, artist Danielle Corsetto still remembers to give each strip its own punchline.
I admit, I’m still following the gang in part because the ridiculous things they do intrigue me. Often, when reading about a particularly embarrassing dating fiasco, I find myself thinking, “I’m glad I’m not that young anymore, especially these days.” Corsetto isn’t shy about handling sex, in particular. Her expanding cast includes a bookish young woman who works at a porn store, but all of her characters are impressively open about their lives and misadventures, often while at the bar. I admire their ownership of their sexuality and willingness to experiment.
The central character is Hazel, a single freelance writer who doesn’t always make the best choices. (Key moment: She’s told “You refuse to like anybody who likes you.”) Her best friend is Jamie, an outgoing fun-lover whose ability to get free drinks with her, um, attributes astounds me. The two booze a lot, and together, they visually resemble Mutt and Jeff, with Hazel taller and skinny, with an angled face, in comparison to Jamie’s generous curves. Hazel also has a talking Mexican/Irish cactus named McPedro, and his antics, from dancing to running away, make for some of the best cartooning in the strip.
Their friends include barista Jameson, his internet girlfriend Maureen, Hazel’s editor Thea, and a number of men who float in and out of Hazel’s life, from Tyler, the 10-year-old she babysits, to her new roommate Scott, whom she crushes on. So far, there are four books in print.
The first book has 200 strips and 50 pages of extras, which include how to draw the characters; Danielle’s early work with other strips; and lots of sketches. This is the one where you’ll really see Danielle’s style develop as she finds her way and the strength of her voice. Early on, she uses some of the typical webcomic cheats of having the characters tell the audience the artist is running late or making jokes about being in a comic. Later, she doesn’t need the crutches, and the characters begin looking less similar and more like themselves. And of course, many of the characters are introduced in this volume. The cover captures Jamie and Hazel attending an underwear party as part of Hazel’s new job, writing columns about local bars.
Book two captures, on its back cover, the mass appeal of this strip. The description (I’m paraphrasing) mentions that women can enjoy reading the adventures of “feisty females” while men can either gaze at the cuties or find out more about how women think. Everyone can enjoy what’s variously described as “raunchy humor” or “stupid jokes”, even when they’re about dildos.
The story features Hazel’s friends trying to get her laid for Valentine’s Day, at which points she meets cabdriver Zach, a wonderful guy. Meanwhile, Candy is going crazy with rejection, and Jamie has a secret admirer. Then comes Halloween, where, as Jameson puts it, “they all decide to unintentionally offend one another by agreeing to dress up as each other.” Extras include the usual sketches and pinups, how to draw McPedro, FAQs and process information on how Danielle makes the strip, and rules for drunk strip Scrabble.
Last year, Danielle simultaneously released books three and four, presumably to catch up readers more quickly. Book three is my favorite, because it has the quest to find out what’s under Jameson’s bandanna, and Hazel and Zach’s relationship is quietly and charmingly progressed. Then there’s Hazel’s crazy weekend of self-pleasure, which leads to an outrageous sequence in which she’s got stars coming out of her crotch, using traditional visual comic vocabulary to indicate pain in an unusual new way. There’s an orientation exploration, and some background that might explain why Tyler’s so sex-obsessed. It’s all hilarious!
Book four is a volume of growing up. From Thea babysitting while her sister suffers with breast cancer to Maureen and Jamie moving in together, lives are changing. Hazel’s coming to terms with Zach’s history, and there are reunions and new characters as well, including a significant other for Jamie. The extras here are crossover strips from Something*Positive.