Cover, Art & Story: Jennifer Hayden
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
From the Introduction by Dean Haspiel and the foreword by Jennifer Hayden herself Underwire is clearly identified with the tradition of American Underground Comix, which first blazed into life during the late 1960s thanks to creators like Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and Trina Robbins.
This type of graphic narrative is foremost interested in expressing an explicit, and often an outsider, point-of-view with honesty and integrity but without self-censorship. The form is not afraid to utilise a more rough-and-ready style, because it reflects the reality of people’s lives (even if it does so by using flight-of-fancy – Comix are nothing if not relentlessly individualistic).
Hayden admits to coming to Comix late in life, after marriage, children and a battle with breast cancer (documented in The Story of My Tits). The series of cartoons collected in Underwire are those she created for Haspiel’s ACT-I-VATE.com web site, and are beautiful depictions of her inner quandaries, her relationships with friends and families, and her spiritual identity.
Many of the stories in Underwire are on the surface about mundane, everyday missions – such as getting a sandwich with her daughter – but they also demonstrate how even the most simple chore can evoke a profound insight or memories of past events.
Reading Underwire is like having a conversation a friend. Stories bubble up, morph, and move in unexpected directions. Serious observations about important life events and changes in loved ones are intertwined with ridiculous moments of levity. There is a range of light and serious moments, all tied together with wit and humour.
It’s easy to keep reading through Hayden’s entire book because the vignettes are engaging, and like your friend’s company, you don’t want them to end.
This book is a rare treat, and unfortunately it is consumed all too easily.