Comics
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Lisa Hanawalt Brings a Marvelously Weird Perspective to Hot Dog Taste Test

Comics Reviews Lisa Hanawalt
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Lisa Hanawalt Brings a Marvelously Weird Perspective to <i>Hot Dog Taste Test</i>

Writer/Artist: Lisa Hanawalt
Publisher: Drawn + Quarterly
Release Date: June 14, 2016

STL006668.jpg Lisa Hanawalt’s second collection of work isn’t only about food, but it does have blurbs from Momofuku’s David Chang and Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold on the back, so food is certainly a large part of it. One of my other hats is that of a food writer, so I find most writing about food insufferable: too full of adjectives, too gross, too focused on morality at the expense of deliciousness, too boring, too self-important and/or too much about the writer. Hanawalt somehow manages to avoid any of these traps. She is appreciative of weird foods without coming off like a dilettante, and she expresses a love of junk without seeming like a glutton. She can even be directly autobiographical without being annoying, as in her comic about how she prefers her egg yolks thoroughly cooked. One explanation is that she keeps things brief instead of rhapsodizing for 6,000 words on breakfast. A better reason is that her comics on food are no different from her comics on anything: the product of a mind with a marvelously weird perspective.

Hanawalt is not completely unfiltered in what she draws—there is control in her color palette and in the way she allows her characters white space to do their thing—but she lets her unconscious mind take the wheel a bit. Comics about pooping? Yes. A ceramic vase of a lion with a darling little cat-style butthole for one to insert a flower stem? Um, yes. Tiny birds everywhere, carrying a dulcimer and frolicking in a crisper drawer? That, too, plus pages of new slogans for big companies (e.g., “Toyota: You need a fucking car unfortunately”), list-based humor that features no pictures but still feel drawn because of Hanawalt’s handwriting, travel narratives (also not annoying!) and, of course, quite a bit about horses, one of her obsessions.

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Hot Dog Taste Test Interior Art by Lisa Hanawalt

Some of Hanawalt’s drawings are encased in panels, but mostly they roam free around the page, taking up the space they need. Some need to be big. Others need to be compact. Weird and complicated scenes that take up two-page spreads get no explanation, while other pages are made up only of words. Some drawings are almost a series of comics symbols: small, simple, heavily outlined in black and colored in flat blocks. Others are lyrical, bright, wildly colored and emotive. It’s nice to see her exploring her range visually as well as just being amusing. The best comedy and maybe the best art, period, straddles the id (saying things the rest of us are afraid to) and the superego (carefully crafting the way in which those seemingly spontaneous things are communicated) —that’s the zone where Hanawalt exists in Hot Dog Taste Test.

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Hot Dog Taste Test Interior Art by Lisa Hanawalt

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