Sarararara: All-American Girl, the webcomic creation of Olivia Hicks, makes its print debut at Thought Bubble this weekend. The strip is an intriguing oddity in terms of its cross-genre, parodic appeal. Fondly sending up the core themes of an Archie comic by way of the casual horror of Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children it takes us to a 1950s high school world where the school-set japes and quips revolve around Sarararara, a new student who has just become a part of Charlton High’s social structure.
Sarararara isn’t like the other girls though. For a start she’s some kind of giant bug-like, extraterrestrial, monstrous creature with squirrel-like features and a propensity for enveloping prospective boyfriends in giant cocoons.
We never really do find out much about who or what she is and where she came from but that ambiguous central conceit is what propels much of the humour here, with the incongruity of her interactions with her schoolmates being an ongoing gag that never runs out of steam.
Sarararara is representative of the usual school dramas that dominate this kind of teen comics genre, then, but with a deliciously eerie twist. We observe the love triangle as Buzz and Slick compete for Sarararara’s attentions in a neat play on the Archie/Betty/Veronica motif and also watch as former most popular girl on campus Francine steams and schemes.
In between the dates, gossip and classroom antics there’s even a Reefer Madness pastiche-style sequence. But throughout, the silent Sarararara essentially wanders through her own narrative with events happening largely around her, like the titular character in Steve Gerber’s Man-Thing run.
Hicks uses one-page gag strips to build into a wider over-arching storyline to strong effect with some neat meta moments thrown in. Admittedly, the art here is unsophisticated but it’s perfectly serviceable and the creased paper backgrounds of each page give a sense of ephemeral pop culture to the proceedings.
Sarararara is a quiet, affectionate and witty subversion of period comics fun tinged with elements of horror and social commentary. With additional contributions from Robbie D. Kiernan, Georgia and Will Battle, and David Robertson too there’s also a distinctive air of small press comics community to the project as well.
For more on the work of Olivia Hicks follow her on Twitter here and find out more about the Sarararara webcomic here. The print edition can be bought from Olivia at the University of Dundee table in the Originals Marquee T35.
For regular updates on all things small press follow Andy Oliver on Twitter here.