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Show Me Everything

By Lee Lai

  • July 14, 2022

This comic was made with ink and watercolor. In the first panel, three huge bodies in suits walk together. They are only visible in profile from the chest down. The ground they walk on is dark blue, and the background is white. Between them, a young figure, Lee, is walking barefoot in the same direction. She is wearing shorts and a plain T-shirt. She is much smaller than the people in suits and her head only reaches the middle of their thighs, right below their massive, big-knuckled hands. The text reads, “As a child, I detested being condescended to by adults.”

A closer image of a balled-up fist in the top left corner of the image. The midsection of a dragon in the style of the artist Shaun Tan snakes through an inky, dark blue medium — perhaps water or night air. There are two black slopes on either side of the bottom half of the frame; they are the legs of the walking bodies, but they look sort of like the sides of steep mountains. The text reads, “I didn’t find the world only beautiful and charming, and I didn’t like people or art that expected me to see things that way.”

Lee walks through a landscape of light and dark blues; the dark blues look like they might be storm clouds. She’s looking over her left shoulder, away from the viewer, and we can’t see her face. The landscape is cut up by two dragon tails, one white and one black, and Lee is positioned between them. The text reads, “My childhood was inflected with periods of seriousness and darkness. I imagine this must be true, to varying degrees, for nearly everyone.”

Lee peers into a tunnel under an overpass. There are hills on either side of the tunnel, which has a circular entrance. Above, at street level, there is a fence and two thin streetlights. Inside the black circle of the tunnel, the text reads, “Shaun Tan never asked me to see things as only beautiful and charming.”

An image of Lee’s legs standing in a shallow pool of water, still barefoot. She is inside the dark tunnel, where the background is black, and the water is dark blue. A dragon tail snakes between her ankles and a small four-legged animal, maybe a cat or dog, steps over the dragon tail a few paces ahead of her. The text reads, “Instead, his books satisfied my need to examine the monstrous, the strange, and the upsetting in exquisite detail.”

A panel in the style of Shaun Tan. The background is a dark, almost-black blue, and the drawings are done in white. There are hills in the background with smokestacks and factories and chemtrails. A large dragonfly flies on the left side of the image. In the foreground, five flaring tubes pour liquid into a river. At the bottom, there is a huge head of a giant fish swimming in the river with its mouth agape. At the top of the frame, in the sky, the text reads “He depicted the horrors of colonization, the looming weight of depression, and the strangeness of being an immigrant unflinchingly, but still very tenderly.”

An image showing Lee from behind as she approaches the end of the tunnel, which looks like a glowing white circle. The path to the opening has swirls of blues and whites from the water and the light reflecting off it. The dragonfly from the last panel appears above Lee, huge and flying in the same direction towards the opening, a stark white against the darkness of the tunnel. The text reads, “I strive for the same honesty and forwardness in my own work.”

Lee emerges from the tunnel into a wide natural landscape. She is at the top of a gently sloping hill, and water is flowing down from the tunnel. She stands inside the opening and looks out. The sky is light yellow and there are four thin trees growing from the light green-blue grass. In the sky, the text reads, “As an adult, I find the world around me to be very much what he promised — ”

An image of the short, rolling hills below the tunnel. They curve gently in the bottom third of the frame; the top section is all yellow and white sky. In the middle of the sky, text reads, “Hostile, bewildering, ridiculously gorgeous.”

 

THIS PIECE IS PART OF AN ONGOING SERIES, “VISUAL REFERENCE,” IN WHICH COMICS ARTISTS RESPOND TO THE WORK OF A VISUAL ARTIST THEY HOLD CLOSE.
Lee Lai is the author of the graphic novel Stone Fruit.