Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers: Burn Baby Burn
It's not every day that you get an email from Lynda Barry asking you to look at the work of one of her students, in fact, this was the only day. One day three years ago. They met at the University of Wisconsin, where Lynda is the Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity, Ebony was earning her PHD in Curriculum and Instruction. You guys please let that sink in: you're going to school for one thing, you meet the Lynda Barry, and your life shifts direction.
And so I looked and I was floored. Soon after we signed the book, Ebony earned a major award, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award that identifies and supports women writers of exceptional talent early in their careers. This page is from the story "My Lil Sister Lena," and I love Ebony's use of the comics medium here so their award was spot on when it comes to spotting talent.
There is a fluidity and movement that is obviously reminiscent of her mentor Lynda, but also reminds me of Vanessa Davis and Rina Ayuyang.
And yes, the characters are dancing, and yes they dance to TLC. Perhaps my tenure as D+Q publisher will be best recognized for acquiring multiple comics with characters dancing to 90s R&B. That's ok with me!
But Ebony's comics are all her own. They are about family, community, the neighbourhood. It's about your granny, auntie, it's about funerals and babies. It's about being an outsider and people's presumptions.
And it's about hair, Black women's hair, and what I adore about Ebony's short story treatment is the myriad of ways hair binds women and culture in all stages of life.
We needed a story to end the book on and Ebony created "Last Angolan Saturday" which the last panel of sent shivers down my spine. Women having fun, letting their hair down (no pun intended) and letting loose.
Hot Comb has already been featured in the New Yorker, Huzzah! Ebony writes a short introduction on the Black imagination in hair products ads of her youth in Jet, Ebony and Essence.