OK, I’ll admit it. Although I spent most of my teenage years hunched over record bins, comic stands, and toilet bowls at DIY shows, I am not a know-it-all when it comes to comics, nor am I the kind of person who gets their sense of self from being able to recite whole sections of Please Kill Me. No, I was shy and preferred art over friends. I sought out the zines and comics that I liked, and read them outside of venues or between circle pits. It was personal and comforting, not something to gloat about. I eventually chose to distance myself from the punk community, unable to keep up with its studded veneer and toxic self-damaging tropes. But when I read Liz Suburbia’s Thee Collected Cyanide Milkshake, I felt hope for all the young punk women in a way I hadn’t felt hope for myself. Cyanide Milkshake is the real, punk as fuck, thing.
This is the comic that all punk-loving, zine-enthusiast feminists have been waiting for, but the beauty is that no interest in punk music is required for a reader to get Suburbia’s sense of humor or perspective. Cyanide Milkshake is not an elitist work of art, name-dropping various obscure '80s hardcore bands for social capital. This comic strips it down to essentials. It is at once laugh-out-loud funny, self-aware, and heart-warming. The majority of the collection consists of short strips (10 frames or under) and advertisements for fake obscene movies, goods, and services that can make anyone choke with laughter.
I’ll share a secret with you: with the way that this comic is formatted, it shouldn’t really work. Usually for stories to be compelling at all, they require some sort of through-line or consistency. And the only consistent plot work in Cyanide Milkshake is the characters of Bruce and Kim, two exes perpetually DTF as the world is ending due to a zombie apocalypse…
But haven’t you had an ex you just couldn’t stop banging? Or maybe you can’t stop imagining your dogs having secrets lives as drunken chain-smoking delinquents? Suburbia’s got that covered too, in "Ulster & Penny," the episodic feature of Cyanide Milkshake, starring caricatures of her two best dogs.
Regardless of how erratic and chaotic the assemblage of the series is, it is ingeniously familiar, and the familiarity is what binds it all together. Cyanide Milkshake thrives in the same space as our daytime fantasies and private humor. Suburbia exposes that space like it’s superpower.
In addition to the quality of content, Suburbia has a way with “sharpies and printer paper.” There is something intrinsically difficult about black-and-white illustration work, yet she aces the craft and creates shockingly three-dimensional frames that remain undeniably hand-drawn. It’s a talent you must see for yourself.
The collection is part manifesto, part confessional, and part rodeo of gags. It is punk rock and law-defying. Written by Liz Suburbia, Thee Collected Cyanide Milkshake will be published Gimme Action (a female-owned publisher based in Oakland), appearing online November 1st and debuting on stands at Seattle’s Short Run festival on November 3rd.
Top photo credit: Gimme Action/Liz Suburbia
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Mia X. Perez is a creative writer and currently studies at NYC's The New School. You can find her published poetry in The Grief Diaries, an online literary journal. You can follow her Instagram @mia.xochitl or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.