Reggie & Brian and the Lousy Nickname
By Cathy Leamy
It took only a single issue of her comic, Geraniums and Bacon #5, to make me a fan and follower of Cathy Leamy. That lone book showed an âanimation in her line and a genial casualnessâ that was linked to âwitty, ripened, observant commentaryâ (the full review is floating around here somewhere in the Etherium).
Such qualities got me to read â ignoring presented order â Leamyâs contribution to Inbound #2, the flagship anthology from the Boston Comics Roundtable. Her nine page story, âunWendy,â dealt with pushing back self-affixed boundaries of oneâs identity. Set in an urban environment, it had the authoritative ring of autobiography, as well as the credibility of personalized fantasy.
In issue #4 of Inbound, the one that dealt with the history of Boston, I went straightaway â ignoring chronological order â to Leamyâs chronicle of âThe Old Howard,â the cityâs venerable burlesque house. This narrative ran from the Howardâs origins as a church to its days as âathenaeumâ (given Beantownâs Puritanical antipathy to the designation âtheaterâ) and finally to the spasm of urban renewal where it and its neighborhood gave way to the cityâs architecturally Brutalist City Hall. Again her nonfiction was enriched with a lively insight and visual ingenuity.
Two very different examples of her most recent work were available last summer at the Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland. One was Reggie & Brian and the Lousy Nickname, a gentle if cautionary tale of a fishing lad, his merboy pal (in a handsome cable-knit sweater) and aforementioned undesired moniker. Itâs a simple story, writ and drawn large, pitched to be accessible (and useful) to children. Leamyâs work doesnât appear at this physical scale often.Â She makes the most of it, conveying the drama of the situation and the nature of relationships through enlarged faces. (Oddly enough, the story broaches, to a degree, the same subject as âunWendyâ but from a different tack and to different effect. Here, Reggie reacts to a chaffing aspect of identity, one imposed by his social circle rather than of his own making. For us as readers, the resolution is more immediately ironic and humorous than that of âunWendyâ although itâs likely to be less satisfactory from Reggieâs standpoint.)
A second book is Greenblooded, an informative pamphlet that, as it bears no affiliated or sponsoring organization, represents pure public service on Leamyâs part. Subtitled âan introduction to eco-friendly feminine hygieneâ itâs a humorous but no-nonsense walk-though of the menstrual cycle and its distinctively singular challenges (âSo for a few days of each month Iâm leaking unused womb liner! Iâve got a job and a life. I canât sit on a bucket for five days.â)
After detailing the wasteful, resource intensive, costly and sometimes unhealthy aspects of disposable pads and tampons, Leamy frankly depicts the alternative choices along with their various advantages and disadvantages (and in â I might add â all their occasionally scrotum-contracting glory). Her presentation of factual information is almost as clever and engaging as it is practical (a user confronts a discarded mound of odiferous âdisposable thingsâ labeled âMount Ladyproductsâ). Starting with a âmix of researchâ and her own thoughts, Leamy addresses fellow travelers who are willing to trust experience and common sense to triumph over the occasional âmessy mistakesâ of a personal nature and the enduring messier mistakes of an economic, social and environmental nature. In content and delivery, the material seems eminently useful and pertinent, especially for the under-informed, reticent or squeamish of every gender.