The thing about positive gender representation, is that it’s about more than just creating a bunch of cookie cutter characters in order to fulfil a quota. To get true equality the characters also have to be meaningful and engaging – and that means making them unlikeable as well as likeable. And that is definitely what Ryan Heshka has done with his new book The Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn, which features a bunch of hell raising, ass kicking women who make the residents of Bitch Planet look like the Downton Abbey Women’s Institute!
Publisher: Nobrow Press
Writer: Ryan Heshka
Price: $20.95 from Nobrow.net
We’re introduced to our heroines via a raid on their club house from the local police force. The local mayor, (a Fatty Arbuckle type character) who wants to do away with the MGC, and along with the corrupt police chief and the local Christian fundamentalists, attempts to do just that – except the Mean Girls have other ideas. After this failed raid on the clubhouse the mayor sends an undercover operative into the club, (a young female mechanic called Roxy who he is blackmailing) but will she bring down the Mean Girls or find solidarity with her sisterhood?
With it’s mix of vintage exploitation comics, and a 50s rockabilly chic, The Mean Girls Club feels like the Pink Ladies from Grease have been possessed by Elvira and demonic spirit of a vintage hot rod poster. The group comprises an eclectic bunch of misfits with their own penchants for violence, booze and fast cars, and they are all brought together by charismatic leader Pinkie – who simmers with vintage goth chic. Heshka attempts to make these girls more than just a bunch of 1 dimensional cliches thanks to a sequence of flashbacks which introduces each characters’ abused past that explains their mean attitude and how Pinkie recruited them to the club. However the characters struggle to stand out from the group and apart from Pinkie don’t really have much memorability apart from their looks and iconic names.
Visually it channels 50s pulp comics with a gritty attitude and stylish approach that even includes a horror inspired finale. There is also a slight Silver Age style to it with the girls having the kind of arched eyebrows that would make Jack Kirby’s Sue Storm jealous. With a simple duotone colour scheme, that uses a vibrant pink highlight colour (often offset slightly to replicate old fashioned printing presses) to counter balance the heavy blacks and inky line work, the whole thing feels like it has been plucked out of a lost archive of classic 50s comics, but it also has a very considered and studied feel to it. It’s more than just a cheap copy of that era, as thanks to the colours and strong sense of design it also feels really contemporary and slick. It has a really neat angled panel design which everything a real sense of action and dynamism but without taking it out of that vintage style throughout.
Mean Girls Club continues that wonderful Nobrow trend of creating books you never knew you wanted to read, but once you do are utterly drawn in. It’s super stylish and as a cool as cool can be, but with a really gritty and subversive edge to it, that should shock and entertain in equal measure. Despite being an obvious homage to those 50s exploitation books, it manages to skew the gender stereotypes in a fresh and modern twist that makes this into a really enjoyable and original read. A few years ago we’d have describe this kind of subversion as Tarantino-esque with its strong ballsy female leads and retro attitude – but I’m not sure if that’s a compliment any more. But just as we saw in those movies, when you think you have gotten a handle on where the action of Mean Girls Club is going they turn around and punch you in the face and steal your car, but despite this, we can’t help but come back for more each time!