It is probably blatantly obvious from my reading selection that I’m not much into humor comics. Part of this lies with my enjoyment of storyline comics (which is not to say that humor comics can’t be storyline comics as well), but I’ll admit another reason lies with a comic’s content. Often it seems humor comics delve into humor at the expense of the characters, which tends to hit several of my buttons unfortunately. In this, Danielle Corsetto’s Girls with Slingshots is no exception, and as I read the comic I found myself laughing and then cringing in turn with some of the situations that the cast would find themselves in. Fortunately, Corsetto has managed to effectively balance humor with story without sacrificing either on the altar of necessity.
At its core, GwS is a slice-of-life comic about a twenty-something alcoholic writer, her buxom best friend, a talking cactus, and their cast of friends. The alcoholism (or at least, as I view it; Hazel admits to a drinking problem but others might just consider her a binge-drinker) is often played up for laughs, which I’ll admit I find a tad disturbing. Hazel is written up to being a better writer when drunk (for the newspaper she worked at and the columns she writes for a monthly magazine), and there are few consequences seen for her drinking. As Hazel doesn’t drive, we’ve not seen any consequences with getting behind the wheel, though Hazel has more than once woken up in a strange bed (mostly that of a friend who brought her home so she’d be safe).
Hazel’s “buxom friend” Jamie is described as the “cheery yin to Hazel’s yang” and I must admit it’s an apt description of Jamie. Short and buxom to Hazel’s lankiness, it’s a rare instance when Jamie’s not in a bubbly mood. Or to put it another way, Jamie’s an extrovert, while Hazel’s a die-hard introvert who often relies on her more outgoing friend to help find new nightclubs to write about; Jamie’s the driving force behind more than one of the situational humor Hazel finds herself in. Oddly, while Jamie often mooches drinks off of adoring guys (with the help of low-cut shirts that often reveal her ample cleavage) little is played off of how much she drinks; if Hazel has a drinking problem, Jamie appears more to be a social drinker who doesn’t rely on this crutch.
It’s the friendship and mutual dependence of Hazel and Jamie that helps drive several of the storylines. As I mentioned above, Hazel writes columns about nightclubs and hot spots for people to socialize, but Hazel herself doesn’t go out much. Instead, it’s Jamie who drags Hazel from place to place, and Jamie also is the driving force behind Hazel’s own personal life, encouraging her to meet new people and even enter relationships.
As the comic has grown, the comic has become more of an ensemble cast. While Hazel and Jamie often are the stars of the comic, it’s the other cast who help bring the comic to life. One example is the relationship that grew between Jameson and Maureen (whose marriage helped drive the rather eclectic crossover with Something Positive). Their relationship (which had a rocky start due to Maureen being vegan, and unable to initially cope with her boyfriend eating meat) also helped drive some of the early character conflicts with Hazel being jealous of Maureen’s relationship with Jameson (who she herself was crushing on at the time).
When you get down to it, the primary draw of GwS is the characters. They aren’t all positive (I rather dislike the depiction of Candy, an antagonistic foil for Maureen who tried her best to ruin Maureen and Jameson’s marriage), and they aren’t always funny, but each character remains human. Perhaps this is why I continued to read the comic, despite my discomfort about how Hazel’s probable alcoholism is played for humorous effect (and also perhaps why that dark humor worked; there is that fear among some real-life writers that without the booze or the drugs, they can’t write) it still remains a very human depiction of Hazel, and of her friends. While the humor (and situations) can get dark in places, Girls with Slingshots is an enjoyable read and well worth the archive crawl.