Dear Sophie McMahan,
I hope you feel better soon because I desperately need your dreamy images of the American nightmare for my bedroom. I think you could really make it, kid.
I picked up two issues of McMahan’s You Were Swell at Quimby’s a couple of years ago and have been longing to build my collection since. And I would, were it not for this little note she left us at her etsy (“Due to personal/health reasons my etsy will be on break indefinitely. Thanks for all the support ❤ <3”) that has me all, “Are you there, Sophie? It’s me, Rachel.” This week, maybe because I was reading Valley of the Dolls and steeping myself in Hollywood lore about Charles Manson (c/o the wonderful podcast You Must Remember This) to prepare for my upcoming role as PhD Candidate (I guess), I made a shrine to McMahan’s comics, the pages of which are positively busting with busty, twisted pin ups and dead-eyed beauty queens, on our coffee table. Revisiting these little suckers reminded me what a talent Ms. McMahan has for the uncanny, the weird, and the one-off. And so I pray, don’t let Ms. McMahan go the way of her favorite fifties starlets, burning bright for a coupla years only to fade away. We need ya, Sophie, we really, really do.
The stories in You Were Swell are brief meditations on outer beauty and twisted innards. In “Winner,” a raven haired beauty queen is crowned. And when she finally gives us that million-dollar-smile, honey, all her teeth fall out. Girls giving their best head shots despite their four eyes (really, they have four eyes not glasses, dummy) ask us, “Do you think I’m pretty?” in “??????” And in “Good To See You,” our heroine literally effaces herself, twisting her mug into something that might be fit for Burns’s Black Hole end papers, after she’s been forced to make small talk for six panels. And McMahan’s drawings are as gorgeous as they are campy as they are gross. If your mother ever told a teary-eyed you that, it’s what’s inside that counts, sweetie. McMahan reminds us that our insides are totally bombed out by anxieties, and it’s there you’ll find just the kind of two-faced liar your diary makes you out to be.
And Sophie, gee, if you get this, could you please send me Issue #3?