Geraniums and Bacon by Cathy Leamy
I’ve been remiss in not talking about Cathy Leamy’s comics before now. I mentioned her Greenblooded a couple of years ago, due to its unique subject matter (“an introduction to eco-friendly feminine hygiene”), but I haven’t covered her main series, the anthology Geraniums and Bacon.
Each issue is 20 pages of introspection and observation, with expressive, cute, approachable drawings. Instead of being self-indulgent, her self-awareness is eye-opening. I learned things and took lessons in how to approach my own life from her comments. And I laughed when she reimagined herself fighting Death while dressed as Captain America in a piece on religion and whether to believe. She tackles big issues, but she also writes light-hearted entertainment, as in her one-pager on the punchbuggy game.
She makes fun of the process of writing autobiographical comics with the idea of Writer Embellishment, a product that adds excitement. Her dream pieces are full of the kind of symbolic transformation only comics can capture. I especially like her obsession to keep learning, even if she does worry it indicates a lack of self-esteem.
My very favorite piece occurs in issue #3. In one page, Leamy tells us how she turns programming for the web into a positive affirmation. It’s funny, creative, unusual, and I’ll remember it as a guide for how to approach work with more optimistic energy. But even her daily life stories are interesting, as when she worries about the lyrics of the music she’s dancing to or views an experimental lesbian film or shares travel tales (issue #4, whose centerpiece is a justification of traveling alone that makes me want to go voyaging).
Book 5 leaves the more introspective work behind, instead documenting a visit to a “running of the brides” wedding gown sale, telling the story of a rotting pumpkin that became a home mascot, creating an alternate history/mecha mashup, and trying to shop for underwear. The change and growth in subject matter makes sense for a young author learning more about what kinds of stories she wants to tell and how much material is found around her.
The five issues of Geraniums and Bacon are available for $2 each from Leamy’s website, where she’s also posted samples. Her newest work is What’s the Word? — right now, it’s only available through her show appearances, but I hope it will be available for order soon. Leamy also created the idea of the Paper Mirror, one of her most famous strips, unfortunately not collected in any of these issues.