Gina Wynbrandt’s collection of magical realist autobiographical comics Someone Please Have Sex with Me from 2dcloud is a unique take on the genre. While the protagonist of her stories is always Wynbrandt herself, the events that the cartoon Gina takes part in are anything but real. Which makes her comics not a document of her external life as lived in the world but instead an investigation of the life she lives within herself. Free to explore this inner space, Wynbrandt uses her tightly controlled lines to dig deeper into the ways in which the lives lived in our bodies and the lives lived in our heads are intertwined.
Within this collection, we see Wynbrandt frequently trying to negotiate the complex space between fantasy and reality. The first story, ‘One Less Lonely Girl’ deals with Gina’s obsession with teen heartthrob Justin Bieber. From the beginning the reader knows how doomed her desires are when she tells her younger sister that as a 21-year-old she is not interested in “seventeen-year-old boys” only to spend the next two pages detailing her newly Bieber-obsessed lifestyle. His image adorns her walls and her breakfast cereal, dominating her thoughts. His lyrics give her validation as she imagines herself the object of his affection, a stark contrast tothe unpleasant interactions she has with men in her class or on Internet dating sites. In the world of her mind she manifests Bieber as the idealized boyfriend she lacks in real life.
This is the seductive draw of celebrity. We imagine the life of the celebrity as one in which we are not only loved, but also adored; one in which all our whims are catered to. A life where we are constantly told how funny we are, as Usher and Drake do before absconding on their hover yacht in one Gina’s fantasies. For many, a celebrity’s attention, or even the illusion of their attention, has the potential to nourish the soul. An idea played out when a tweet reply from Bieber is enough to pull Gina’s mood up after a humiliating attempt at flirting with a boy at a party. The connection made is real in only the barest sense, but the fantastic potential hinted at by such an interaction has Gina jumping for joy.
Bieber is not the only celebrity to offer Gina the dream of salvation from the disappointments of the everyday. In the second story ‘Tiger Beat Exclusive’ we see Gina depressed and suicidal at the thought that she is too ugly to ever gain the affection of the boys from One Direction. She is then rescued at the last moment by her fairy godmother Kim Kardashian. Kim flies her by the hand to Hollywood where she is made over to look like the “really expensive prostitute” she has always dreamed of being. Allowing her to attend the Teen Choice Awards as Kim’s protégée. There, sexually overwhelmed at the boys on display, Gina lights up a cigarette and burns the whole place down. Only she and Bieber survive to ride off into the sunset to start a new life incognito in Jamaica. That is until the tabloids discover them months later, labeling Gina a “fat, expensive prostitute.”
This balancing act between the fantasy of wish fulfillment and self-deprecating reality is the core of Wynbrandt’s humor in Someone Please Have Sex with Me. Every time Gina gets what she wants it always becomes a monkey’s paw wish. Realizing her dream of attending the Teen Choice Awards she is still mistaken for a very pregnant Kim Kardashian. When she gets to run away with Justin Bieber she still gets dumped on for her appearance.
In the collection’s fourth story ‘Big Pussy’ Wynbrandt depicts herself as a permanent adolescent who imagines her life mirroring that of the hapless Usagi from Sailor Moon (here titled Lunar Princess). Trying to match the anime’s conceits she goes in search of a feline life coach but ends up exploited and dragged into a life of crime by a gang of grotesque human-faced alley cats. Finally becoming an adult in name only when she gives birth to a monstrous cat/human hybrid. In the collection’s titular third story we see Gina again disappointed while trying to live out her fantasies when, after several failed attempts to seduce boys at school, she shouts, “YOU LIED TO ME” at a DVD of American Pie. No matter how hard she tried to live the dream lives of people in the media, reality will always fall short of expectation.
Through smart artistic choice Wynbrandt reflects this division consistently though her cartooning. Her art has a unique brightly colored hyper-real aesthetic that is reminiscent of Tom Goes to the Mayor in its crystallization of awkward frozen moments. The ability to capture the grotesque nature of the human form (particularly her own) is one of the hallmarks of Wynbrandt’s work. What is telling is that in many panels Wynbrandt will render her cartoon self in an adorable, alluring, and confident manner. Both versions are equally true and much like the separation between inner and outer reality in her work, the divide is very narrow. Wynbrandt will draw herself in an unflattering manner primarily when she is behaving in a pathetic way. Within the same page she will go from confidently flirtatious while winking at a boy to goon-faced at getting @-ed by Justin Beiber.
At first glance, it would appear that Wynbrandt mostly focuses on close-ups of faces to showcase her ability to render the intricacies of expression and hair but when she does choose to show a wider shot the settings she depicts are equally intricate and precisely rendered. An early panel of Gina riding the Chicago light rail reaches that perfect level of detail as to be unmistakable to anyone who has ridden on those same trains. Almost ironically, the artist making these comedic choices in the writing and aesthetic options in the art is vastly more confident than the person she portrays herself as. In the world of the comics Gina is at the mercy of her desires; in the realm of cartooning Wynbrandt is fully in command.
In ‘Manhunt’, the final story of the collection we then see perhaps the closest synthesis of Wynbrandt the creator and Gina the character. Here we see the lovelorn and ever thirsty Gina’s wish of agency being fulfilled when she escapes into the video game fantasy of being a Daytona Beach bounty hunter. In becoming a caricature of the male action hero Gina is the one to kick lovers out of her bed and use men for her pleasure and gratification. If they step out of line, she roundhouse kicks them into submission. For once Gina is playing a game she can win. Here she can wrestle alligators and solve the case while obtain the affection of all the men she encounters. Invigorated by her bounty huntress fantasy the real life Gina even muses that, “From now on I’m going to be less desperate.” Of course right then her no-account romantic partner finally gets back to her after weeks of ghosting and Gina is back to her old ways.
The reader forgives Gina for being unable to commit to her newfound confidence because it will feel intimately familiar. We laugh at Gina for being pathetic because we ourselves are pathetic. Her hopeless celebrity crushes are no less embarrassing than any crush we have had on someone out of our league. What endears us to Gina is that her will is indomitable. No matter how many times she fumbles, she will continue to try for the romance she dreams of, the romance she deserves. It’s an age -old tale, but we are privileged to have such an insightful and talented artist as Wynbrandt telling it to us in her distinctive style.
Gina Wynbrandt (W/A) • 2dcloud, $17.95
Review by Robin Enrico