Here’s Sam Ombiri on Sophie Goldstein’s House of Women!
Sam Ombiri here: At times when I read comics I’m really invested in the scenario being presented, and I don’t really identify the characters well enough. I’m reading the story and I have to interrupt myself to study who is who. With House of Women by Sophie Goldstein, however, I was really struck by the characters’ various expressions, and the gestures the characters would make. I was impressed by how much information was conveyed through this, and in ways that aren’t that obvious. I was just reading and reading, invested in the scenario, but I found that I was experiencing who each character was in a different way. It wasn’t just their distinctive design – it had more to do with their facial expressions, and the moments that took place really stuck in my mind after reading because I could feel who the characters were.
Before the characters could speak, I felt a deep understanding of who they were. Whenever characters would act a certain way, it would come as no surprise because just their facial expressions would communicate so much. This was more so for Sarai, Kizzy, Rhivka, and Aphra than for Mr. Dean or the aliens (above). And that makes sense. It’s the equivalent of shining a spotlight.
For example, it’s not unlike Aphra to look so cross – she’s clearly a very level-headed person, so when she looks cross or worried, it’s for good reason. When Kizzy appreciates the smell of the blossoms or is really taken by children, it’s very expected. Rhivka, for good reason, is hard to pin down and her absence is really felt. She looks like someone who would be mysteriously absent while the other women are gathered.
All the expressions a character has ever made has molded that character’s face, and their gestures dictate the shape of their body. I was really struck by this – maybe because the style the book is drawn in is seemingly trying to get in the way of the story. It seems like there are things that should be obscuring my understanding and such, but the story is so clearly laid out – even the word balloons tell me where to go as a reader. What’s alluded to is what’s being said, making a rhyme with the image and words.
Maybe I’m also thinking about how straightforward the visual narration in The Oven was, whereas in House of Women Sophie Goldstein is more specific with how moments should unfold. The book is very aware of a reader reading the pages – each moment is paced very distinctly. If a scene is of the women walking up a hill (above), the page is drawn in such a way that you feel it, you feel the moment passing slowly. It’s a case of using the comics medium to its full extent.
This is perhaps like it’s filmic counterpart, Black Narcissus. I was anticipating a retelling of Black Narcissus because of how much Sophie emphasized it as a major influence – though truth be told, to me it was very far from that. I see maybe, for lack of a better term, iconography from Black Narcissus (like the title itself for example), and certain moments from Black Narcissus playing out in the book, but it simultaneously feels independent of the movie and any comparison to it would be inappropriate. What happened to Rhivka is perhaps comparable to Sister Ruth in Black Narcissus, but Rhivka is more aware of what’s happening to her. There is also this Cronenberg-esque mutation that one of the alien natives has gone through. This was actually a fantastic point in the book. The alien’s mutation was amazing. I really liked the design of the aliens in the book.
All the drawings in this book are enjoyable both to look at, and to read – from the way the story is told through the panels, to the way the sounds the characters are hearing is communicated, and the words the characters say to each other. All great. – Sam Ombiri
Announcing the Spring Semester of thee Santoro Correspondence Course for Comic Book Makers
8 weeks! $500 bux! 10 spots available!
Rolling start date because of spring break – start as early as March 30th 2018.
Deadline to apply is April 12th.
Read all about the course HERE and email email@example.com for more details or to apply.
Joanie and Jordie – 3-29-2018 – by Caleb Orecchio