What does the bogeyman look like to a grown woman? With an all-female cast of cartoonists, Scheherazade offers 23 different visions of this nightmarish reality. And though the focus varies, this threat to survival—be it emotional or physical—is a thematic constant in the work.
In “The Bird Eater” Eleanor Davis’s wood nymphs flee an approaching monster. The simple plot leads straight to its unhappy conclusion, but the tension is exquisitely wrought. Davis combines her gnarled figures and rich patterns with minimal dialogue, building fear in the space between the frantic visual and sparse verbal languages. In “Shit,” Ariel Schrag dispenses with such hyper-articulation while still communicating the same urgency, as a pre-teen heroine faces possible social ostracism. Her story’s taut linearity echoes the tenuous balance of middle-school existence, where the world turns on a dime.
Allison Cole’s graphic style is similarly reductive. In “Joe Blow” her characters face outside aggression when a flasher visually assaults them in their home. Cole’s rounded edges and familiar cityscape contrast with the jagged style shattering the surfaces of Lark Pien’s feral world in “Paragon.” Her savage landscape symbolizes the struggle against the self, as a woman scales a cliff simply to prove that she can.