Monday, February 15, 2016

Nobrow Press: Vacancy and Mean Girls Club

Today I am looking at a couple of books from Nobrow Press. This publisher specializes in highlighting first-time graphic novelists so they get more exposure and the potential to work on longer works. The first book of theirs I read was Fantasy Sports No. 1, a fun and beautiful book that was one of my favorites from last year. I recently ordered a couple of their other books to see what they were about.
Vacancy is short work about a neglected dog named Simon. He stays in his yard, but he longs to get beyond the fence and run with the coyotes. One day, a raccoon and a deer break into the yard, and he decides he is going to join them as they run back into the woods. During their trek, the two wild animals haze Simon, and he learns he might not be so well equipped for life in the wild. Still, all three have to band together when they encounter a pack of coyotes, who are not so keen on letting strangers join their fold. Unless by "joining" you mean being killed and eaten.
I think this comic would be accessible for upper elementary or middle school readers at the youngest. Some of the characters are cruel, but I think they could handle those situations. I thought the plot was quite compelling and the characters well defined and interesting. The ending was a little abrupt and a mite confusing, but still I really enjoyed this book. Janelle Asselin wrote that in the end "readers win with cute animals playing out sometimes devastatingly sad stories." Publishers Weekly summed this book up as "More than just a cute animal comic, this is a parable about establishing comfort zones and the dangers of breaking them."

Vacancy was created by Jen Lee, and she currently has a webcomic called Thunderpaw in progress. She talks more about her work on Vacancy in this preview/interview.

Mean Girls Club, by contrast is a much shorter and adult comic. It follows the exploits of Pinky, Sweets, McQualude, Blackie, Wendy, and Wanda, a band of hard-living women who drink, swear, commit crimes, do drugs, and engage in lots of other antisocial behaviors. Everything is so over-the-top that this book acts like a parody or even some social commentary on traditional gender roles. Also, I think this book is pretty funny, but it is way less decompressed than Vacancy, basically consisting of lots of double-page spreads of the women's wild antics. These images were originally part of an art instillation, but they still work well as a brisk, loose narrative.
This is one of the tamer pages...
I really liked the stylized artwork and color scheme. The book has a cool retro look that adds a comic dimension to the multiple misdemeanors and felonies that were committed. Dustin Cabeal summed up his view, "Sure the story is simple and crazy, but I had a lot of fun reading it." Richard Bruton wrote, "It’s a fun, interesting thing, but most of all, it’s a gorgeously illustrated thing."

Mean Girls Club was created by Ryan Heshka, who also has a couple of children's books under his belt. This book is not meant for children, in case that has not been made clear.

There is more info about Vacancy here and about Mean Girls Club here.

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