Lesbian love in webcomics: Punch and Pie

Punch and Pie is a collaboration between the creators of Queen of Wands (which has finished, and was completely amazing!) and Striptease (which is ongoing, but which has somehow failed to capture my imagination.) The story follows a side character from the Queen of Wands story, Angela. None of the main characters recur and most of the story involves new characters, so you don’t have to read Queen of Wands first, but you should, because I loved it. However, Queen of Wands isn’t nearly as interesting on the lesbian front.

Punch and Pie begins with Angela moving in with her girlfriend, Heather. At first I was really excited because it was the first comic I’d read where the lesbian couple was just established, right from the very beginning, no angst about getting together. And then they made a very sweet couple, and it was a fun slice-of-life comic. And then, well, plot things happened that were even more interesting and rare, but this is a review, not a critique, so I don’t want to give anything away. 🙂

I’ve now reviewed four comics with prominent lesbian characters (Red String, Penny and Aggie, and two by Rosalarian), but this is the first in which the sexual orientation of the women in question provokes almost no commentary from the other characters. Red String and Penny and Aggie both had primarily-straight casts in which, significantly into the story, a well-known character comes out. YU + ME focuses entirely on its lesbian relationship, and the obstacles it faces, and especially the ways that those obstacles are tied to persistent homophobia. And Punch and Pie just has the Angela and Heather, in a universe where one’s orientation is one’s own business. (I suppose Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Other Space! falls into the same “nobody cares about the gay” category overall, since the few exceptions are played for laughs.)

I think that with this series, I’ve been trying to articulate how to tell lesbian stories “right,” looking at what I considered to be good examples, and I’m learning that there are a lot of “right” ways. At first I thought, well, it should be part of a larger story, so it can’t be seen as a “special case,” to normalize it for other people. But then I thought of YU + ME and thought, no, it should reflect our real lives, the stories should be about us, so people can see it from our point of view and empathize. And now I’m thinking, why do we have to make a big dramatic deal about it at all? Isn’t it better to just treat it as what it is, i.e., a fact of life for a huge number of otherwise ordinary people? But the conclusion I’ve come to is that they’re all valuable, and important, and probably even necessary ways to tell lesbian stories. Any story that treats its lesbian characters with respect and understanding is a good one, regardless of the general focus of the comic.

So, add Punch and Pie to the list of comics that really succeed. The main characters identify as varying flavors of queer, and the story doesn’t shy away from that, but their orientations don’t define them. The story is really well-done, too; it feels like a gag-a-day comic (and a good one, too!) when you’re getting the updates one at a time, but when you read through the archives, you see that it’s actually a narrative comic. (Queen of Wands did the same thing, quite successfully.)

And I really wish I could find more to say on Punch and Pie specifically, but what’s wonderful about the story is the way it is a gradual surprise, something I can’t do justice in any summary even if I wanted to do a proper critique. And with sexual orientation being so unexceptionable to the characters themselves, it leaves me without too much to say on that front, either, other than “hey, good job!”

So– hey, good job! Folks, you should really take a look.

(Check out my other “lesbian love in webcomics” posts here!)

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6 Responses to Lesbian love in webcomics: Punch and Pie

  1. yinyang says:

    I love Punch an’ Pie, and I was attracted to it initially because of how Angela and Heather’s relationship was no big deal. But, to nitpick a little, there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about characterizing Angela and Heather’s relationship as “lesbian love,” as they’re both bisexual. (Which would lead me off on a tangent about how I think terms like “gay relationship” and “heterosexual relationship” are imprecise in general, but I’ll spare you.)

    “But the conclusion I’ve come to is that they’re all valuable, and important, and probably even necessary ways to tell lesbian stories. Any story that treats its lesbian characters with respect and understanding is a good one, regardless of the general focus of the comic.”

    I agree with this completely.

  2. eloriane says:

    yinyang,

    You are right that being bisexual is not the same as being gay, and I was thinking about that as I wrote, but I’d already named the series “lesbian love,” haha. Also, I’m not sure how to succinctly convey the idea of two women in a relationship without using the words “gay” or “lesbian” (seeing as I feel smarmy typing “homosexual” even in scare quotes). I tried to keep from digging myself into too deep a hole by noting that “the main characters identify as varying flavors of queer” (especially since I couldn’t remember exactly how Angela identified…) but it’s good of you to call me out. Too often bisexual folk are treated like they are completely gay when in a gay relationship, and vice versa, rather than being bisexual at all times and just happening to be with different people. I don’t mean to contribute to that perception but wasn’t sure how to work it into the post elegantly.

    So it’s great to have it addressed in the comments! 😀

  3. Cerberus says:

    I don’t know. I like the other comics deeply and even loved Queen of Wands, but Punch an Pie actually made me angry. It’s not the bisexuality of the characters, which is refreshing and rare in depiction. Angela was by far my favorite character of the original series.

    It really bothered me how abrupt Heather’s bisexuality was handled with her presented as gay and then suddenly bi especially at a time that for spoiler warnings I won’t get into. That time and all strips since have bothered me in their treatment of the issue and seemed to be more about the author herself and how she was being seen publicly. Especially given how much of Queen of Wands was autobiographical and how much the main character was herself.

    I just feel like the main character wasn’t comfortable enough in herself to tell the story she started telling and the new path while interesting in some ways, just felt like a belated cover-up.

    It was in many ways a feeling reverse to that of finding a gay character in a webcomic series you like, which is silly and could just be me as many authors don’t seem to cover those aspects for fear of “confirming things” or whatnot, but it just felt poorly done.

    Oh, some other comics with good supporting lesbian characters are Venus Envy, Misfile, and El Goonish Shive. The first two are mostly trans, but still explore the topics in their own ways.

    • Caesura says:

      I feel the same way too after reading Punch an’ Pie… I know it’s just a webcomic but somehow the hurt, anger and disappointment are totally inexplicably real. I’m being too sensitive, I know… but all my life, in dealing with my sexuality, I always want to stand up to the way I feel especially for someone I love and that’s all that matters. Heather’s on-and-off bisexuality (or her steps towards heterosexual relationship with Aiden) is just too much for me to handle when she herself doesn’t seem to know what she really wants in her relationship or for herself. Why is she mad at him for not saying that he loves her when she used to tell that a lot to Angela? And isn’t just bizarre that she breaks up with Angela whom she loves and even thinks of marrying Aiden whose purpose for her is just some loving-words-production machine? Back to conventional heterosexual relationship, I see.

      I still have hopes for this webcomic, though.

  4. Cerberus says:

    Whoops, someone already pointed out El Goonish Shive and Misfile.

  5. Tangent says:

    Cerberus, I actually have gotten the feeling that Heather’s a rather secretive person in a number of ways. We rarely see things from her point of view and haven’t seen much of her backstory or the like. Thus learning about Heather’s bisexuality through Angela is par for the course.

    Hopefully the recent arc that is focusing more on Heather and her insecurities might help shift the comic away from this pattern.

    Mind you, I think that Angela has been the main character of PnP for most of the comic, with Heather feeling like a “third wheel” of sorts who we get occasional glimpses of.

    ——

    Eloriane, I’ve rather enjoyed these reviews, and I hope you do some more of them.

    Take care

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