Quarterbin Follies #1: Electric GirlOctober 6, 2014
A young, attractive person, possessed of powers beyond those of mortal men, rises above both adversity and the daily struggles of life, sacrificing him or herself for the greater good. You’ve heard that story before, right? What about this one: a normal girl with a normal family, and a pretty normal life, tries to figure out how to deal with one not-so-normal talent and a constant companion that is anything BUT normal? Well, that will not sound so strange to anyone who has read Electric Girl.
You’ve never heard of Electric Girl? Neither had I. I totally stumbled on it this last August, and if you will allow me a moment, I think the finding is a story worth hearing. See, we at Ideal Comics made the decision this summer to expand the scope of what we did with our website. We didn’t really change what WE creators would do. We just decided to let in all-of-everybody on our side-conversations and geek-outs. Doesn’t that sound fun? Well, sure it does, but as time for the launch crept closer and closer, I suddenly realized something: I haven’t been following new comics for years. It’s a long story.
So, the prospect of a weekly blog sat before me–a chance for me to express my tastes and thoughts, what has informed our own stories. But a weekly column, see, that was heavy. I am not a person of few words, but I do have many weights and concerns and commitments, and the idea of not having something to say on schedule, well, it terrified me a bit.
I needed MATERIAL. I needed fuel for the nerd-fires. And so, like any good nerd, I hit the local library–specifically the Gering Library on the south side of the river. And there, wedged between dis-ordered X-men and Spider-Man TPB’s was a single aquamarine volume with a simple cover of bold, deliberate lines which formed a figure–not some over-sexualized Amazon or grim and brooding outsider, but a happy and pleasant young woman holding lightning in her hand.
Electric Girl was a comic series by Michael Brennan that followed the life and misadventures of Virginia, a girl born with the unique and unenviable ability to generate static-electric shocks from her body. In what seems a blatant if brilliant thumbing-of-the-nose to genre politics, there are no costumes and no code-names. This is not to say that the ideas of heroism and villainy fail to rise within the story, for often \’Ginny\’ is made to use her unique ability to save the day.
Written in a nonlinear style, Brennan spends time telling stories of Virginia as a child and as a young woman, although most of the tales center on her life as a 19-year old college student. Ginny herself shines like a very real star–wavering and sparkling, but bright. She struggles with the inconvenience of a static-electric life, while trying to maintain her tenuous grasp on her own happiness. Having lived her whole life with this power, lacking more control in the past than in the present, Ginny is well known as ‘The Electric Girl,’ a name spoken with derision as often as not. Nevertheless, she refuses to allow folk to dismiss her as a freak. In kindness to her friends and persistence in her day-to-day, she shows true heroic spirit.
The other aspect of the book that defines it, and really sets it apart, is the character Oogleeoog. Oogleeoog is a gremlin who has been with Ginny her entire life, serving as adviser, mentor, antagonist, and invisible friend. Brennan, with a notable ease, implies an entire gremlin society running in an unseen parallel to the human world, a society whose aims and goals are founded on the “virtues” of mischief and screwing with the humans. Oogleeoog is unique amongst other gremlins in that while he is one of the most accomplished gremlins, he holds a tenderness for Virginia and her friends and family, balancing a veiled affection with what can best be called orneriness. It is a mix that makes for wry comic gold.
All these elements make for a mulligan stew that is equal parts bizarre and comfortable. Ginny meets love struck zombies and rampaging robots, faces off against conniving cousins and bad hair days (which has some weight for the Electric Girl). And she does this all while trying to finish school and deal with her pet dog and her parents. The stories ride the line between the mundane and the absurd, sometimes leaping clean over in delightful ways. And all of this is accented by Brennan’s bold line work and stylized, almost sketchy details.
Beyond all of this is what I think might be a sublime undercurrent. Brennan tells stories from throughout Virginia’s childhood, so we see her as a young child on bad days and as a teenager on worse days. But in all this, Ginny is revealed as a remarkable young lady. She is neither vain nor self-flagellating. She is not seeking redemption or revenge. She is not some militant. She is rather like so many young women, dedicated to being and doing something worthwhile. In that, she is sometimes the hero, true. But her motive is not glory, but rather a not-heavy-handed devotion to doing the right thing. She is a normal girl in extraordinary circumstances, who uses her upbringing and support as an anchor in the storm–just like we all do.
Electric Girl has been collected into a set of three mass market trade paperbacks, published by AiT/Planetlar. More information is available at http://electricgirl.com/.