DRAWING POWER / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: ABRAMS COMICARTS / RELEASE DATE: 17TH SEPTEMBER
This hasn’t been an easy comic to review. In fact, it’s been a horrendous comic to review. To enjoy the kind of comic that Drawing Power is would be, at best, a disservice and, at worst, a perversion. Drawing Power is less of a comic, more like an accumulation of marginalised voices, collated together into a tremendous roar. It’s heart-wrenchingly grotesque and yet beautifully electrifying and valid at the same time.
Drawing Power brings over 60 female comic creators together and tells their individual stories of sexual abuse and their struggles for survival. There is nothing diluted about this anthology in the least. Editor Diane Noomin provides a sequential podium for this superbly diverse array of writers and illustrators to speak freely about these horrific events in their lives.
A distressing yet vital aspect of Drawing Power is that every creator involved in this anthology has suffered some form of abuse, and the abuser is almost exclusively male. From these traumatic experiences, the creators in question wrench forth a variety of stirringly written and drawn accounts of what happened. Some tear into their abusers, some contemplate what went wrong, some simply share the pain they experienced. No reflection or comment, just a stark, honest account of the agony they’ve been dealt. Collectively, these women stand in their power, delivering a robust, riveting encapsulation of the effects of abuse. In this post-MeToo era, Drawing Power swells above feelings of hopelessness and acknowledges the personal strengths its creators possess.
The strips themselves are merciless in their frankness, all drawn with an endlessly masterful attention to artistic detail. Multiple visual styles are at play, ranging from elegant and tender to raw and uncompromising. Riots of colour and skeletal black and white emphasise the moods of each respective strip. Panels and shape are cleverly used or torn down completely. The graceful shapes and colours of Joamette Gil’s Superglue and Kelly Phillips’ Fire are at odds with the piercing monochrome immediacy of Avy Jetter’s Hurt Not Broken and Liz Mayorga’s Sleeping Fury, yet they all carry the same blistering narrative impact. Breena Nunez’s Fuera is a particular aesthetically evocative and daring highlight. But then again, every strip is a highlight and every strip tells a necessary story that should be listened to.
There’s a muscular sense of creative freedom at work here. As if to counteract the terrible nature of the incidents each of these creators have had to tolerate, they’re allowed a platform that’s encouraging yet sensitive to their needs. Reflected in J. Gonzalez-Blitz’s “Blackie” From The Duce’s words, “People handle trauma differently. Whatever works, hey?”, each creator tells their own story in their own way, a quietly gratifying aspect of the anthology that gives each strip its own distinct identity but encapsulates the wider message within rape culture of survivors being allowed to recover at their own pace.
Drawing Power is an immensely difficult comic to read, but that’s the point. It’s receptive enough to its creators, but it’s demanding to the reader. Whether it’s through metaphor or reality, Drawing Power grabs your attention and refuses to let go. A suitable vibe for such a crucial topic. However, a bittersweet realisation hits you once you’ve finished the comic. Several stories feature the creator’s experiences at the hands of other comic book professionals. As many other strips in the anthology ask in a similar vein, how many more female comic creators are out there that have suffered similar instances of abuse? How many have kept their stories to themselves? With Drawing Power now unleashed into the world, those other creators may now feel empowered to share their experiences, to paint a truthful picture of harassment within the industry (and, indeed, countless others) and to hold those in the wrong accountable.