Band vs Band Webcomix by Kathleen Jacques – Archie meets Riot Grrrl
If you combined Archie Comics with Bikini Kill, you’d probably get something like Band Versus Band.
Band Versus Band, a webcomic by gay Canadian artist Kathleen Jacques, is a fun and sweet story about rival musicians Honey Hart and Turpentine as they compete against each other to have the best band in the scene, and accidentally fall in love.
Honey Hart is the singer and lead guitarist for her bubblegum pop band, The Candy Hearts. Her interests are: positive vibes, picking up litter, and cats. Turpentine is the singer and lead guitarist for screamo punk band, The Sourballs. Her interests are: mischief, petty vandalism, and also cats. Obviously, they’re meant to be – they just don’t know it yet. The comic follows the two women as they make their way through musical misadventures and slowly but surely fall in love.
Jacques’ graphic design background shines in the design and layout of each page. Not a single element is wasted. Everything from the shape of the panels to the position of of speech bubbles contributes to the mood of the pages. Jacques’ wide range of hand-lettered text styles – most noticeably in the scenes where Honey and Turp sing – is, in my opinion, the coolest visual aspect of the comic. (The song lyrics are also lot of fun – especially when Honey and Turp slip into song together!) And, each page uses the same turquoise, salmon pink, and grayscale colour scheme, which keeps a sense of unity across the different pages.
It’s not surprising that a comic with such a thought-out look would also have an immersive and detailed background. The world of Band Versus Band definitely riffs on the comics of the 50s and 60s. Digital technology, for the most part, is lacking. Characters use pay phones, drink soda pops, and never swear (“rat fink”, Honey Hart’s preferred description of Turpentine, hardly counts). But the punk attitude and aesthetic of Turpentine is totally modern – as is the diversity of genders, sexualities, and ethnicities in the supporting cast and crowd scenes.
Jacques further crafts the world of the indie music scene that connects Turpentine and Honey by including excerpts of interviews and album reviews. The excerpts are a neat way to give readers exposition on the characters and plot, while also making them feel like they’re a part of the scene, too. Plus… watching Honey and Turp’s rivalry spill out in the pages of local publications is pretty hilarious.
The PG nature of the world where Band Versus Band takes place is mirrored in the overarching conflict of the plot. Honey and Turpentine are in love, despite being rival band members with wildly different aesthetics. Fears about admitting attraction to other women and openly dating women are common in both the lived experiences for LGBT women and media about them. Band Versus Band takes those fears and transforms them into a kind of manageable, charming anxiety. No one is scared of being kicked out of their homes or communities – just anxious about what being open about that relationship will do to their reputation in the scene.
The story of Honey Hart and Turpentine feels meaningful without indulging in angst or grittiness, and relatable in spite of the escapist, gentle setting. It’s so nice to read a light-hearted tale of gals’ romance, especially when it’s as fun to look at as Band Versus Band.