who is sylvia? what is she?

by marjorieingall on October 11, 2010

I’m trying to think of my earliest cartoonist heroes. Like many girls, I was not a superhero comics reader. I’m pretty sure I was reading Lynda Barry’s Ernie Pook’s Comeek in high school. My college boyfriend introduced me to Love & Rockets. But as a teenager and 20something, I had a special thing for Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia. I still fantasize about dressing as Sylvia for Halloween — dangling cigarette, amused expression, big hair, big nose, fabulous earrings, cat. (I already have everything except the cigarette!) When I was just working out my own feminism, Sylvia was there for me. She showed me you can be pissed off and funny at the same time, and you can be a feminist and funny at the same time.

I admit that my favorite Sylvia strips are the weirdest ones. I like the way she portrays aliens. In one such strip, Sylvia is writing a sexxxy love story of the passion between a woman and a pointy-headed space creature. She types: “’My love,’ he murmured, ‘I know I’ve been preoccupied of late, but I’ve been working on two surprises for you.’ And he drew a small fragrant cake from under his cloak. ‘Why, it’s the same cake my Grandma made for me when I was a little girl, and it’s even burnt!’ I exclaimed. ‘Yes,’ he said, drawing me to him. ‘My goodness,’ I exclaimed, at his second surprise, ‘I didn’t know it was physically possible to do this,’ and sunk back into his arms, arms, arms.”

I also enjoy her use of historical figures for her own ends.

i suck at scanning. sorry.

Also, Nicole Hollander is amazing at drawing cats. I have one of her cat postcards — vintage — stuck to the spiral staircase (our fridge isn’t magnetized, so everything goes on the staircase, which is rickety and steep and iron ’cause we are SO SO BOHEMIAN) — her cats are aggrieved and entitled in a way I find very amusing.

It’s demoralizing to read The Sylvia Chronicles and realize how much of it seems dated (the references…) and how much of it seems not dated at all (the disenfranchisement…). Sigh.

Anyhoo. I interviewed Nicole Hollander in Tablet magazine this week. While preparing to talk to her, I found her cat blog and was so sad to learn that her kitty, Sally Cookie, who is mentioned a bunch of times in her new collection of Sylvia strips, died about a month ago. I am so sad for her — it sucks.

Incidentally, Hollander’s entire cat-related site, Edgycat, is a delight.

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