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!)