Hair and maturity are tied together in significant ways. Getting your first haircut is a milestone in personal care, and trying to make drastic changes your own hair is a common mistake made by the young, who learn the hard way that they should trust professionals. For cartoonist Ebony Flowers, hair is an essential part of identity, which she explores in the short stories of her debut graphic novel from Drawn & Quarterly: Hot Comb.
Recounting her own hair-centric experiences alongside those of other black women, Flowers offers a rich, multi-dimensional exploration of how relationships with hair change over time. Flowers is also an ethnographer, and her passion for examining people and cultures results in stories that are sensitive to individual circumstances while tackling bigger issues faced by black women. The research section on her website has some very interesting studies that show a different side of sequential storytelling by using it to enliven academic research, and that significantly informs how Flowers approaches more personal material in her comics.
In this exclusive preview of Hot Comb, on sale June 18, that specificity is on full display as a young girl goes into her grandmother’s bedroom and plays around with her wig. Flowers paints an evocative picture of childhood and the excitement of entering an adult space and putting on something that makes you feel older, whether it’s clothing, makeup, or hair. There are a lot of small details in the room that make it real and lived in, and Flowers brings a sense of wonder to this domestic environment in how she depicts the girl moving through it. The joy in these pages is palpable, but Cora comes down from her high when she hears her mother and grandmother talking in the next room, revealing the hardships of adulthood that Cora is ignorant of when she puts on adult trappings.