A new comics anthology to benefit Planned Parenthood both educates the reader and tugs at your heartstrings. There’s something for everyone in “Mine!” and you come out the other side of it stronger and wiser.
(Please note that this book contains adult themes throughout.)
Written and Illustrated by Various
Cover Art by Soo Lee
Title Page Art by Alice Meichi Li
Back Cover Art by Dean Haspiel, Barbara Haspiel, and Leah Garret
Edited by Joe Corallo and Molly Jackson
Birthed in 2015 by ComicMix editors Joe Corallo and Molly Jackson, “Mine!” is a collection of short stories about not just Planned Parenthood and the services they provide, but women’s health, birth control, sexual freedom, and women’s rights. Contributors include Neil Gaiman, Gabby Rivera, Sina Grace, Tini Howard, Magdalene Visaggio, Eric Palicki, and Dean Haspiel.
One of the best things about comics is the commitment to two of the rules of library science by S. R. Ranganthan that I learned way back in the first semester of library school: Every book its reader and Every reader his/her book. There are comics that are pure escapism, comics that are political intrigue, comics that adapt stories in other media for a new audience, and comics that look to make our world a better place. “Mine!” falls clearly into the latter category and illustrates these rules beautifully – – for in 300 short pages, this anthology becomes a book for every reader, and every reader finds something in this book that speaks to them on a deep and intimate level.
I had first heard about the project this year via Geeks OUT, a New York City nonprofit that amplifies and supports queer voices in geek culture, as Joe is also active in Geeks OUT and several other members contributed work to the book. (In the interests of full disclosure, I am also a volunteer and contributor to Geeks OUT, and have also written about this work for their website.) “Mine!” was conceived (pun completely intended) nearly two years ago “in a small pizzeria in Astoria on a cold night,” according to ComicMix editor Joe Corallo. The goal was to do an anthology that can give back to the community, which led to the selection of the US-based reproductive services nonprofit Planned Parenthood as a focus and recipient of all proceeds from sales. The 2016 U.S. presidential election, while delaying production for some time, also gave it a renewed focus and awareness, with women’s health and Planned Parenthood now straight in the crosshairs of the U.S. Congress. And that brought even more support from readers and creators – – Joe and Molly used the extra time to secure some very high profile contributors, the Kickstarter campaign met its initial goal in two weeks, and the work was the topic of a featured panel on comics activism at New York Comic Con in 2017.
The talent in “Mine!” is vast in breadth in depth. There are over 300 pages of short stories – – some only one page, some several – – from luminaries in the comics world to emerging talent looking for a safe space to express very personal views. Naturally the first story in the book is a “What is Planned Parenthood?” piece by Misha Cruz that sets the tone and ensures that every reader speaks the same language to start. From there, genres and tales run the gamut. There are the private stories of experiences directly with Planned Parenthood, such as Shannon Wheeler’s “I Took My Girlfriend to Get an Abortion” to fantasy pieces exploring the power of women’s strength, like Aria Baci and Marian Churchland’s outer space tale “We Cannot Make Our Sun Stand Still.” There’s satire of the 21st century news cycle in Tom Peyer’s “Good Reasons.” Factual pieces appear throughout to inform readers on the known and lesser known players in the women’s rights movement, such as Margaret Sanger (often called the mother of modern birth control), and Faye Wheaton – – the first African American Planned Parenthood president, the youngest president in its tenure, and only the second female president.
One thing all these stories share is that they do not overtly preach. Yes, there is an agenda throughout this book – – that Planned Parenthood is a good, noble organization – – but that message is backed up with empirical evidence when it is available. For the more intimate stories, narrative is gentle rather than bombastic, sometimes using a simple statement (like “Planned Parenthood saved my life”) or humor to transmit the overall message. Naturally, one cannot talk about Planned Parenthood without talking about the protestors, and there are several contributions that touch upon this in a way that tries to humanize them. One fine example of this is Robert Greenberger’s “The Appointment,” a tale of a woman confronting a protester that leaves both of them – – and their definitions of faith – – changed.Continued below
An anthology done right is when the artists are given their own avenues of artistic freedom to tell stories in the medium of their choice, and this is prevalent throughout “Mine!” No two stories look alike, which adds to emotional resonance. Readers will find stories intense coloring and heavy line work to stories with a complete lack of color. Will Rosado bathes the second of his two panels of “For those in quiet graves” in crimson – – the only color in the two-page work – – as a symbol of death and the blood on the hands of politicians in Texas that cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Sina Grace uses orange (and only orange) in “Words” for the vests of the abortion clinic escorts, the clothing that signifies them as both a person who can help and a target for protesters. I call this the Schindler’s List tactic (after the film’s cinematography in complete black and white with a child’s red coat as the sole moment of color) and just like in that film, the near-absence of color makes more of a statement than the actual narrative.
Other stories use comic book tropes to make difficult topics a lighthearted hand. “Flight of the Morning Dread” is classic Golden Age art with a modern message of safe sex. “Tea Cakes” has the look and feel of Gilbert Hernandez of “Love and Rockets” and “Assassinistas” fame in a story of family secrets. And “Lessons” by Sammi Chan takes facial inspiration from manga.
The stories that resonated the most with me, and the ones I recommend to read and meditate on above all others, are two that deal with physical and emotional loss. “The Bride” by Mindy Newell and Andrea Shocking is a tale of a woman forced into a hasty marriage after an unplanned pregnancy, and the loss of self that eventually leads to the loss of her life. It’s a pastel palette of colors that looks soothing to the eye with narrative that is anything but. Neil Gaiman and Mark Wheatley’s “and there was joy” is a deeply personal tale of Gaiman’s wife’s miscarriage. It’s hard to read the words “And she went home to our friends’ house and miscarried into their toilet bowl alone” with a smiling baby on the page, and that’s the point for both these stories – – to provide a sense of the emotional burdens women bear on a daily basis, all while keeping up a joyful exterior.
If there is one fault to this book, it is the lack of table of contents or index. With over 300 pages of content, not having a tool to help find the stories you want to re-read or show to others makes navigating “Mine!” difficult. Of course, there are ways around this with bookmarks (physical or digital). This omission also has left me wondering if that was a deliberate editorial intention, a way to signal the reader to consider and ponder the contributions in the collective, rather than as isolated stories.
It is my hope that whatever side of the political spectrum you fall upon, whether or not you agree with all that Planned Parenthood does for women’s health, that you get something useful from this work. The lives of the women (and those who identify as female) that you love may just depend upon it.