Emily Carroll, Some Other Animal’s Meat
February 2016, 9 pages, online, free.
IF YOU HAVE been the victim of a home product party centered around purchasing tupperware, Mary Kay, or some other item you don’t need or want, you will instantly understand the way Emily Carroll mixes horror with the mundane. The premise of Carroll’s webcomic is simple: a middle-aged woman, Stacey, sells Alo-Glo hand lotion at home parties. However, she’s reluctant to use the lotion herself. Stacey’s psychological breakdown is shown in relationship to selling the hand lotion and interestingly, the hand lotion itself. In “Some Other Animal’s Meat,” Carroll takes a conventional idea and complicates it. Readers get to see how, in Stacey’s mind, Alo-Glo hand lotion just might be something sinister. The mundane becomes grotesque in this dark and delightful comic by Emily Carroll.
I was captivated by the way Carroll mixed a seemingly humdrum existence with glimpses of horror. Directly following a panel where Stacey pitches the lotion at a house party, even giving hand massages, she admits to readers via small rectangular panels: “Of all the parts on the human body, I think hands are the most repulsive. / the knuckles / the nails / an alien species would think they were obscene.” Small confessions like these invite the reader into Stacey’s strange world. The art allows you to linger in this space. It slows down the narrative, and lets moments of vulnerability be given room to breathe. While the comic may give you the heebie-jeebies, you’ll be mesmerized by Stacey’s honesty and perhaps, madness.
Carroll’s artistry also helps amplify the grotesque. Even the button to click forward a page is a severed hand pointing forward. The web aspect lets the reader directly interact with the comic itself. Sometimes, the panels are uncomfortably close: in one, Stacey imagines giving a hand massage where she presses someone’s hand in. Some panels are completely borderless, while others vary in shape. The artwork is fresh and not constrained by space. When an Alo-Glo monster appears to Stacey, he can become limitless, not stuck in comic panel lines. He’s terrifying. Disgusting. And—yet—I must read on. If Carroll wants, she can turn the background completely black. And she does! By having design change, the reader can accompany Stacey on her journey into the unknown, the strange and even the hallucinatory. The exact place we’ll go is as wild as Carroll’s imagination. She has constructed a narrative we want to stay in and explore. As readers, we become more invested in hand lotion than we ever thought we could be. A psychological collapse combines with Alo-Glo in a terrifying, yet wonderful way. Be ready for a housewife’s journey into hand lotion mayhem. Be ready to hesitate the next time you reach to put a dollop of lotion on your dry, cracked hands.