Each month, we gather a team of WWAC contributors to analyze a new and notable comic book cover featuring a woman. This month Ray, Alexis, Kayleigh, Veronique, and Melissa got together to talk about the cover to My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, the hit queer manga memoir by Nagata Kabi and published in English by Seven Seas.
What is your initial reaction to this as a piece of comic art?
Ray Sonne: A little scandalized and then a little aroused. The center of the comic starts at the unknown woman’s nipple so that’s where our gaze lands (scandalized) and pulls our gaze toward the rest of her body (aroused). Her body language is forward, wanting and there’s something lovingly drawn in the slopes of her stomach, legs, and back. It’s the opposite of the woman in the background’s (presumably Nagata Kabi’s) body language. She’s backing up, sweating, not sure if she wants this. It’s from her, because the first woman is without her head, that we get the emotional part of this cover. She’s experiencing something very anxiety-inducing and I can relate!
It’s notable that the bed reflects the woman’s body, both in the stripes on the bedsheet that go the opposite way of the woman’s stripes and how the color of the pillows match the woman’s body. In that, the woman and the bed represent pure sexuality. The bed is also at a very wide angle, consuming the bottom portion of the cover, so it becomes the landscape for the person we’re empathizing with. That is to say, the protagonist.
Alexis Sergio: There is this feeling of shocked arousal. Of being in this situation where it’s hard to even believe she’s even there. The use of perspective is really great to make the protagonist seem small and her facial expression is this piece of golden nerves. The minimal use of color but the use of pretty pink helps really put the women in focus with the pink as an overall nice way to code everything femmine.
Kayleigh Hearn: I’m old enough to remember when Strangers in Paradise covers could risk the book being filed away in the “Adults Only” bin just for suggesting lesbianism, so My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness getting a mainstream, widely-talked about debut despite (because of?) a cover featuring nude women in bed together in an unquestionably sexual context was eye-opening.
Véronique Emma Houxbois: I think it’s a brilliant evocation of the title and tells us exactly what the comic is going to be. There’s a real sense of familiarity with the protagonist to be had through body language, cartooning, and so on. The way that Kabi draws herself also makes the tone immediately clear.
Melissa Brinks: This is a fabulous cover. My eyes are drawn immediately to Kabi on the cover, and particularly her heavy brows and wide eyes. There’s a sense of fear there from how wide her eyes are with such tiny pupils, but also a sense of curiosity that comes from the slightly crooked eyebrows and head tilt. Kabi looks a little unsure, a little messy, with the stray hairs and way she’s turned both towards and away from the other woman setting the two of them up in contrasting positions. The other woman looks sleek and put-together, which gives Kabi a sense of insecurity and curiosity that, I imagine, runs through the whole work.
What do you think the artist is trying to achieve?
Sonne: Because we can see her face, we empathize with the protagonist, which is the goal of the cover. She sweats, leans away, digs her hands into the pillow. She, perhaps, does not want this. Or worse and more likely–based on the attractiveness of the other woman–wants it, but fears it. Her fear channels into the viewer, pulling them into the first taste of what Nagata Kabi seeks to accomplish. Because the work is a memoir, this empathy will (hopefully) stretch out throughout the entire book.
I think, however, queer girls might experience the cover on a deeper level than other readers. I see this image and reflect on the first time I slept with another woman. It’s not a comfortable memory–I had no idea what to do and didn’t know her very well. Perhaps it’s projection, but I would expect that this is a similar incident. A familiar person would maybe have a head, for instance.
It matches the title, doesn’t it? You can be with another person, but still feel discomfited and alone.
Kayleigh Hearn: I imagine a lot of readers will focus on the girl-on-girl action, but Nagata Kabi is very successful at conveying multiple, even conflicting emotions–impressive, even, because we don’t see the first woman’s face. The pinkish hues and comfortable curves of the first figure suggest a warm sensuality, which is immediately contrasted with Nagata Kabi’s wide-eyed, string-haired look of embarrassed surprise. Her face is funny and relatably vulnerable, but the last word of the title, Loneliness, hangs over her head, indicating that there is something deeper and more melancholic here than a sex farce.
Alexis Sergio: I feel the author is trying to tell us how overwhelming her experience was. It seems that there is an attempt to convey the mix of emotions in embracing herself as a lesbian. The stunning woman before her in her bed, the nervousness of her face, the distance between the two, it all captures this feeling of this being a big step and experience. Then just the light touches to the room like tissue paper being there implies this emptiness to her home. Her experience is portrayed here showing a lonely feeling room despite there being another woman with her.
Melissa Brinks: I don’t think there’s any attempt to hide anything on this cover. The title itself is pretty clear–it’s about a lesbian, it’s about loneliness, it’s a personal experience–and the cover features two naked women on a bed. It’s open and honest, especially in the differences between the way the two women are represented, which, even without the title, lend it a sense of credibility that would make me think it was a memoir even if I didn’t know it already. It has a great sense of cohesion between the art, the title, the textures, and the color scheme, all of which suggest the vulnerability and fear and awkwardness and curiosity that make up self-discovery.