And now we’ve arrived at an indie comic! Dolltopia by Abby Denson, from Green Candy Press in 2006. You may know Abby Denson from Cool Japan Guide, Tough Love, or some issues of comics like Powerpuff Girls and Josie and the Pussycats. I didn’t know her at all, although I’ve randomly seen her name several times since I read this comic!
It’s a strange book. Kind of like a queer Toy Story…? It’s about dolls who don’t want to play out the boring (and boringly gendered) lives they’re designed to live, so they escape and form Dolltopia. Overall it’s geared toward expressing your gender however you darn well please… The message seems straightforward, “it’s okay to be different,” but in practice it gets weird. It’s hard to tell what the author meant to be positive and what was meant to be negative. For instance, it’s very judgmental toward dolls with traditional gender expressions. So, that might be a good thing in that the characters are more nuanced than you might expect. The book may well be making a purposeful comment on how some LGBT+ folks get disdainful of the mainstream. There’s also a lot about surgery, though, replacing doll parts with other dolls’ parts, and it’s kind of creepy. Is it supposed to be pro-surgery or anti-surgery? Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s tempering the “be yourself” message with “no one else should pressure you into things.”
The takeaway is that it’s an interesting book and worth a read. You might even keep your kids in mind, since it’s a fun color scheme, not overtly mature-themed, and might give them something to think about re: what makes a “girl” doll and a “boy” doll — I just suggest you do read it first, because of the reasons above.
As a bonus recommendation, the whole time I was reading Dolltopia it was reminding me of Fox Bunny Funny — a wordless graphic novel from Andy Hartzell and Top Shelf Productions in 2007. The idea there is the foxes are violent, oppressing and eating the bunnies, but the main character secretly wants to be a bunny, eventually going through an operation to that effect and joining a utopian society of mixed foxes and bunnies. It’s pretty twisted and gruesome, but there’s a happy ending? Sort of? If anyone else has ever read either of these books, I’d love to know what you thought they were saying!