Strumpet, Issue 3
Edited by Ellen Lindner and Kripa Joshi
Cover Art by Kripa Joshi
The transatlantic anthology Strumpet, a black and white comic featuring all women creators, sees its third volume take on the topic of taste. So what is the verdict? We’d be going back for seconds if we weren’t so full!
Plenty of parallels exist between the culinary world and comics. Like chefs, comic book creators are clearly passionate about their medium and find inspiration after consuming the work of their peers. Kitchens are as collaborative an environment as the world of comics. The Strumpet creators, alone in their kitchens and across continents, approach the subject of taste from every angle possible, from historical pieces, to autobiographical works, recipe comics, and horror tinged tales about things no one would want to eat. There are home cooked comics, made with love; tasty treats that are short and sweet; even a few that, intentionally, leave a bitter taste in your mouth. There are rare pieces in this issue that feel like they have come from the kitchen of a master in the making. That is definitely one of the selling point for anthologies like Strumpet; it is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and witness developing creators hone their skills. You’re sure to discover one or two talents worth following in this book.
In addition to the comics themselves, interviews and reviews within the book also illustrate a recent surge in food centric comics. These non-comic highlights include an interview with Sarah Beacon, creator of webcomic Sauceome, a review of Get Jiro, written by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, and drawn by Langdon Foss, and several other reviews of food related graphic novels from the shelves of Strumpet contributors. This bonus material adds depth to the anthology, as it gives these newer creators and their work context within the larger world of culinary comics.
As we touched on earlier, the creators’ approach to taste as a subject is varied. Of the most literal tasty bits, several recipe comics include personal anecdotes along with the instructions. In Stir Fry, A Reluctant Ode (see image), Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg admits that her stir fry skills aren’t always satisfying, but it is a relatable tale for anyone that went from poor college student to poor college grad. She frames her recipe within the traditional layout of a comic page, making it feel like a “twofer” story and recipe in one. Hazel Newlevant’s Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Ginger Tahini Cookies is less personal, but the inclusion of how to turn these into pot cookies (with a handy illustration) is a revealing addition.
Robin Ha’s Bad Taste, Good Taste is one of the only stories that takes on the subject of taste in reference to our cultural consumption. Her musings on the popularity of properties like Twilight lead her to question the recent proclivity of ironic viewing amongst our generation, a subject that could easily inspire an entire anthology itself. Ha’s highly detailed artwork is another striking aspect of her contribution, as the short story is composed almost entirely of crowd scenes that would intimidate the most experienced of creators.
Personal stories dominate the book, though surprisingly few take on the subject of food as identity. One exception is Joan Reilly’s Clandestine Meatings (see below) where the author discusses the evolution of her vegetarian status in relation to her boyfriends. This was a standout story not only because of the subject matter, but because Reilly effectively packs her romantic and culinary history into a dense two page, eighteen panel space.
If anthologies are a meal, the third issue of Strumpet is like Thanksgiving; there is a lot to enjoy! Seventy-six pages of content created by women, and not one ad. Like any multi-course meal, the presentation is as much a part of the enjoyment as the quality of the food. Overall, the anthology is well designed, but the organization of the stories does feel like a missed opportunity. The table of contents very cleverly illustrates how each piece fits into a different “taste”; the interview, reviews, and prose are organized together, while the more stomach turning tales are touted as “appetite suppressants.” It’s a nice visual, but it does not make it any easier to navigate the book (the stories are not presented by their varied taste in the anthology, only in the table of contents). I don’t think the anthology would have improved from keeping the similar stories together, but the standout comics come later in the book after a lot of shorter stories that are not as fulfilling. Like having too many appetizers, it made the main course hard to finish in one sitting. It is also unfortunate that the stories could not have been presented in color, especially considering the benefit that color could have brought to stories focusing on such an appetizing subject. Sarah Beacon’s interview is in color, as are the reviews, the back, front, and inner covers of the anthology, but the rest of the comics are presented in black and white. For the more skilled artists, this choice is not to their detriment, but several other pieces feel flat and do not utilize the black and white form to their benefit. Here’s hoping the continued success of the Strumpet anthology will provide the opportunity for future volumes to be presented in color.
If you find yourself craving this anthology but missed out on the Kickstarter, you can still purchase copies from the Etsy page of Strumpet editor Ellen Lindner, along with the first two volumes.