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Tuesday, May 21

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Book Club Thu May 03 2012

Robin Hustle on Chicago's Comic Art with a Female Focus

Robin Hustle is prose editor of The Land Line, a literary endeavor she embarked on with close friend Edie Fake who has since split due to his packed schedule. The Land Line is still hard at work, though, producing a cross section of content that marries comics and long form essay in a way that's all its own. Hustle also maintains her own blog, which offers a mixed media of long form essay, artwork, and sometimes video.

"We're trying to break down the line between these different disciplines, especially in terms of bringing interesting nonlinear comics together with long form essays," Hustle said. "We're balancing out the seriousness of some of the writing with the weirdness of the comics."

As a very much inexperienced party when it comes to the world of Chicago's comics, Hustle was the perfect source for me as she's attune to the literary and the comic art community alike. With Free Comic Book Day around the bend on Saturday, I decided to ask what she could tell me about Chicago's comic landscape, particularly what women are doing in the scene, in time for the day of freebies.

"I do think that there's a pretty amazing queer feminist angle to the comics being made here that's not really present in a lot of places," Hustle said. "Edie and I were just talking about this the other night; we both love and support the making of queer comics, but a lot of the stuff isn't really pushing the aesthetic boundaries of what can happen within a comic."

Chicago, however, is home to a collection of innovators, many of whom are female, producing work that functions in a cross discipline format, like The Land Line. Chicago's lit performance scene is unmatched, even on a national level according to organizers, but there's a less widely known comic performance culture changing the way readers access the art form.

"Lyra Hill puts together a comic reading series called Brain Frame and it's totally one of the most exciting things going on in comics," Hustle said. "Sara Drake is another woman making really gorgeous, incredible comics. For the last Brain Frame she did a live overhead projection using transparency. It was unbelievably intricate. Every single little movement was perfectly timed."

Drake's work took her to Cambodia where she taught classes to some of the first Cambodian women to attend college alongside writer and fellow SAIC graduate Anne Elizabeth Moore. It's a bit of an aside, but it's an inspiring story that speaks to the wide reach Chicago comics have.

Brain Frame is giving comics an alternative ground to stand on in Chicago--a stage. And with the city's background in improvisational theater, perhaps this doesn't come as a surprise. Hustle also discussed comics as playing a major role in the visual art world.

"Ruby Thorkelson, who makes really incredible comics of her own, is also a curator at Woman Made Gallery, and last spring she put together a show there called Underground that was all women and queer artists," Hustle said. "It was an incredible blurring of the comics world and the fine arts world. The exhibit also had a reading library put together with the help of Spudnick Press, which is a woman run collective print studio."

Read/Write Library, founded and run by Nell Taylor also participated in the show.

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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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