Being a lady can really suck. From the day you get your little girl body, other people are constantly telling you, subtly or not so, how to act, who to love, what to consume and what your limits are, often with no regard to individuality and actual circumstances. If you are unlucky, this constant critical voice creeps into your own brain to haunt your every action like one hundred disapproving aunts and your big cartoon eyes dim a little and the forest seems less magical and more dangerous with each day.
Alabaster (one name, like, um, Cher) explores this state-of-being in her animal comic, where a cute creature named Talamaroo tries to find her way in the forest while being constantly harassed by banner-bearing birds. Cute comics aren’t a draw for me, but Alabaster’s cruelty to her character works to examine suffering in a funny, yet effective way. I love how the birds, often symbols of nature’s poetic beauty, are used here to deliver Talamaroo’s humiliations and short-comings to the reader. “You stupid shit,” they whisper in issue one, “It got away. Now you’ll starve.”
Each issue covers one feeling, roughly paralleling the emotions experienced during self-discovery: Issue one is “Hunger,” issue two: “Dizzy,” and the third is “Lonely.” The second features Talamaroo’s fight to eat what she wants and not kill her fuzzy bunny friends (silent characters in all three comics), despite the birds’ insistence that eating meat is natural and good. Instead she ends up taking a freaky mushroom trip that solves something for her. The issue ends on a saccharine note from the birds bannered over the body of our worn out hero. Issue three explicitly covers the topic that runs through all the series: loneliness. Though the stories work in a superficial way, each inspires reflection about our world in a way that surprised me. Hey, that’s what second reads are for, right? Though the author has given us a cue that shouldn’t be ignored with her character’s labia and curvy body, anyone who has felt like a deformed creature (or wanted to know what that’s like), will get something out of Talamaroo.
My buying habits demand that lovely, lush, silkscreened covers must be checked out, and this comic perfectly fits that description. The black and white, copied pages detail Talamaroo’s adventures with tiny lines and botanical decoration that seem inspired by old-timey tattoo art and create a full, if not precise, setting for the stories. Talamaroo’s body distorts as if trying to contain huge emotions, a really effective way of showing her internal world, while the rest of the characters generally remain stoic. When she meets similar creature in issue three— “Stand up Talamaroo. Don’t be too vulnerable.”— it’s fun to see how their interaction is almost entirely physical.
I’ve been checking out Alabaster’s other work, especially her color drawings, and I am really looking forward to seeing what she does next.