To start off this open thread on pages 34-154 of Bayou, here are a few issues to consider:
- I’d love to hear your thoughts on the parallel world of “Dixie” and the way it imposes itself on the material world of the 1930s South. In this great review, Scott Cederlund describes Bayou as a “southern gothic fairytale,” but I am particularly fond of Zetta Elliott’s recent formulation of black speculative fiction as a kind of immigrant “way-finding” narrative that “celebrates tradition and innovation.” She says:
Over time, Africans in the Americas developed hybrid identities that retained aspects of their African roots yet still enabled them to adapt and survive in their new, and often hostile, environment. “Way-finding” manifested in the Great Migration of the early twentieth century as millions of blacks left the rural South for northern cities; today immigrants from across the African Diaspora continue to join these urban communities, infusing vital energy into existing cultural practices.
- Do you have any favorite pages or panels that blend the fantastic and the real?
- What is it about Lee that allows her to see and do things that others can’t? She can see Billy’s spirit under the water, stumbles into the lynching trees (an amazing panel on p. 49), and she can walk freely on the bank of the swamp while Lily’s feet are stuck. And does her tragic accident (103) change the meaning of her quest?
- Any thoughts on the use of “The Yazoo Herald” as a framing device? (79)
- How about the adaptation of folklore and caricature such as the Golliwogs, Brer Rabbit, Cotton-Eyed Joe, Jim Crow, and the Confederate hound dogs?
I think the question Lee asks her father on page 35 is a central concern of the comic: “Why didn’t you fight?” Calvin Wagstaff’s experience keeps him from speaking up even when he knows his daughter is innocent. He wants to protect his family and home, but it makes Lee’s burden even heavier: she has to battle against white supremacy and the fears of black folks. I like the way Jeremy Love uses the parallel world as a mirror to reflect this absurdity. Bayou, for instance, is an enormous creature, capable of great strength, so why is his back covered with scars (141-142)? Lee responds to his “whining and crying” with a great line: “If I was as big as you, I’d be the Bossman!” She’s a bit naive, of course, since physical strength is not always the determining factor of who holds power, but her honesty is important.
And finally, check out this roundtable interview with Jeremy Love and Trevor Von Eeden, whose comic on boxer Jack Johnson appeared in print this year. (I like Love’s brief, but affirming response to the question about African-American girls and women in comics.)