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Welcome back to Ltd. Edition, the monthly corner of La La Lista where we bring you the most interesting new releases from the world of Argentine independent comics. On this occasion I want to talk about two works that have been published in recent months, Campamento Negación by Paula Sosa Holt and Banzai by Femimutancia. Both works have been chosen because they share an approach to the world of dreams and fantasy in their relationship with the sorrows of the real world, in ways that are as different from each other as they are faithful to the authorial styles that they display.
Campamento Negación was born from an experiment by its author: intertwining the imaginary of her poems with a graphic story without any dialogue, a kind of dreamlike journey similar to those found in children’s books.
Although Paula Sosa Holt had previously made fanzines featuring brief poems accompanied by illustrations, this time she brings us a deeper work: in the illustrated pages, we follow a girl who wakes up in a kind of magical forest, finding fantastical friends with whom she advances in her journey as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Next to each page of this story, we find a poem by the author that could be in some cases the chorus of the saddest pop song you’ve ever heard, keyed in with heartbreak and existential anguish.
This approach creates a sort of “double exposure” experience, the two universes that seem different at first glance feeding on each other. The stories about procrastination, the feeling of wanting to postpone every plan, or the fantasies about the end of the world that appear in the poems give an earthly anchor to a grand visual adventure. It gradually transforms into a realization similar to being in a dream with the sound of the alarm in the distance calling awake, much to our chagrin.
And so, two approaches that seem opposites in theory begin to converge: Both in the forest the protagonist and her companions explore, and in the introspection in which we dive through poetry, we find both pain and pleasure. As in the best stories of the so-called “children’s authors” and illustrators, the line between innocence and the perverse, between the purely child-like and the sinisterly adult, blur and coexist in the same universe: The enchanted rose-colored forest begins to show streaks of beautiful darkness, and the words that seem to predict the end of the world convey more relief than pain.
Sosa Holt is an author who likes to lay her cards out on the table and make no secret of the works that have influenced and nourished her. She accompanied the release with a limited issue of the meta-zine Atmósfera, where she cites the influences that accompanied her when making this work. “Authenticity is priceless; Originality does not exist” is the mantra by Jim Jarmusch that guided her in filling the issue with the films, books, and animated series that resonated with her. Thus appear on the pages a manifestation born of dark feelings as in The Brood (1979, David Cronenberg), the atmosphere of a mysterious forest in Over the Garden Wall (2014) or the dream logic lived as a Labyrinth adventure (1989, Jim Henson). These are keys to decode complex emotions and transform them into a story (poetic or visual). The references are easy to find, but the result is 100% Paula Sosa Holt.
This title is part of the EP Zines collection of the Espacio Paradojas publishing house formed by Ivan Riskin and Wendy Niev, who spoke with Paula Sosa Holt about the process of creating Campamento Negación on their IGTV channel. It was also uploaded to their networks in two great videos Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about the process of creation.
When it comes to talking about the emerging names in the Argentine comic scene in recent years, Femimutancia is undeniable. This author began to appear in various anthologies, and self-published their Alienígena comics in 2018 (later published by Hotel de las Ideas) and Piedra Bruja in 2020. In April of this year, they published their third book Banzai, this time in partnership with a new publishing project Feminismo Gráfico, led by Mariela Acevedo (who was editor of the feminist comic book anthology Clitoris) and Daniela Ruggeri (part of Panxa Ediciones).
In this new work, Femimutancia builds a story where personal ups and downs and traumas of the past intersect between fragments of dreams and daily battles, between links that are assembled and disassembled, and the constant reconfiguration and search for identity of Be, the protagonist of history.
In this story, the dream dimension is not a harmless escape from the dramas that haunt us in daily life. Each dream that Be goes through is a piece of a painful puzzle, mirages of subconscious fears in the form of avatars of their sentimental upbringing that force them to face fears, or accompany them while everything disintegrates as in the explosion of Neo Tokyo in Akira.
In Banzai, these characters do not function as mere empty shells of pop nostalgia: they represent influences from Japanese animation and manga in a generation that internalized them as a mirror of collective insecurities and fears. At the same time, Femimutancia dares to imagine honest conversations with them: Questioning and resignifying is a mechanism that not only applies to our own identity but also to the fantastical characters we think we know. And by extension, questioning what is real and what is a fiction (and the difficulty of distinguishing them) is the minefield where the author displays their anguish and pain.
Once they opens their eyes, Be has to deal with daytime life and its logic: the gaze that imposes a binary on their body assumed to be a man or a woman, the difficulty of sustaining a love bond in a turbulent present where it is difficult share what ails your mental health. It will not only be therapy that will help Be to create a connecting link between what is difficult for them to face in dreams and the feelings that they find it difficult to process in their life. Just as the crudest reality seeps into their dreams, sparks of fantasy seep into their days to help them process their emotions, being able to share them with beings who feel as misunderstood as Be feels.
Both in visuals and script, Femimutancia shows a great growth and a stylistic evolution since their first book. The use of expressive color allows them to alternate dreamlike scenes with incredible urban landscapes, which personally feed my obsession with the murals of Buenos Aires subways. I get an immense feeling of saudade of being a pedestrian again through the streets of Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, their ability to create credible dialogue with fantastic characters or to capture the poignant rawness of a highly personal conversation were their greatest growth as an author, as well as the key to generating the atmosphere of the book.
Banzai is a tale filled with equal amounts of pain and courage. A window to the most vulnerable core of a person mixing fiction and reality. The cartoonist Luciano Vecchio describes Femimutancia’s process in the prologue as “exposing oneself in order to expose. Using narration to process, to transform who narrates and who reads.” This idea is sustained throughout the work, resonating with everyone who reads through its pages.
Femimutancia has the ability to mix fiction and reality in their illustrated pages and turn its vicissitudes into a cathartic experience where words (and images) are put into what we usually silence or suffer in solitude. The fight that Be wagers throughout Banzai is not in vain, at the end of the book we feel less alone and with a little more strength to face our own nightmares.
That was it for this edition. I hope that some of these graphic daydreams will motivate you to immerse yourself in their pages. I say goodbye until next month where we will have new material to read while we wait for the world to be a little better. Or at least once we’re vaccinated.