Tuesday, March 2, 2021

We Ate Wonder Bread by Nicole Hollander


(Fantagraphics, 2018) For many years Nicole Hollander was the most interesting thing on the funny pages. Her avatar Sylvia sunk into the tub, said or typed some funny-assed shit for her cats to hear, and generally (like her cats) didn't give a fuck. I always felt that was Hollander's attitude as well, because her inky, underground comix-meets Basquiat style clearly was going to make Beetle Bailey-saluting dowagers say "Oh my!" When I lived in Providence they had a Reader's Comics Poll every so often in the newspaper to decide which strips to drop, and Sylvia always lost, but the editors knew they couldn't lose one of the only comics by a woman and risk a scathing letter campaign by Brown and RISD feminists (not to mention losing subscriptions of the massive Venn-diagram overlaps of newspaper hoarders/cat ladies). Released around the same time as Emil Ferris' "My Favorite Thing Is Monsters" and Carol Tyler's "Fab 4 Mania," this book completes a triptych of stunning autobiographical(-ish in Ferris' case) coming-of-agers by expressive women cartoonists about growing up in Mid-Century Chicago.  This hybrid text/comics memoir is not as narratively ambitious as the other two books, as Hollander reduces her Jewish upbringing (by a hustling dad, a mom not attuned to Nicole's artistry, and colorful neighbors) to a few briefly but vividly recollected anecdotes. But the gorgeous, expressive, color drawings here are wild, soulful, and viscerally impactful. This is some art...that might not win a comics poll. But when it comes to polls, Hollander, who obviously cares very much about her work, her world, her family, her history and her artistry, doesn't give a fuck!

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