I’ve never been a big Summer Camp person. Personally, I prefer the comforts of air conditioning and the Internet over a dirty old cabin with hard beds and mosquitoes eating me alive but maybe I’m just incredibly soft.The only time I ever went camping was a one night event with my Girl Scout Troop. I was in the second grade, and like most second graders, we were all incredibly gullible. The cabin where we slept was comprised of two rooms with two entrances full of bunk beds. Campers were allowed to write on the walls and in the second room, there was a ghost story. “Not so long ago, a girl scout fell asleep in this very cabin with the doors locked. There was a fire and the girl burned alive. If you lock yourself in the cabin, she’ll come back and do the same thing to you.” We spent the rest of the day asking counselors about it and only got vague answers while looking around the cabin for “evidence”. Needless to say none of us slept in that part of the cabin that night and the ghost didn’t show even when troop leader locked the door to our side of the cabin.
Every camp seems to come with legends like the extra crispy girl scout that haunted my cabin. Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters perfectly capture the mystique of Summer Camp legends and the sisterhood of the Girl Scouts in Lumberjanes, a comic about the girls of the Roanoke cabin in Miss Quinzella Thisquin Penniquiquil Thistles Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.
Lumberjanes follows the adventures of Ripley, Jo, April, Mal, Molly and their counselor Jen as they explore the woods. They find the usual stuff: shapeshifting bear ladies, merwomyn, Grootslangs. You know, the typical camp stuff.
This series is absolutely wonderful. It’s one of those comics that’s suitable for all ages. You can give any issue to your five year old daughter, your ten year old son, nab a copy for yourself and everyone will find something to love about it. Stevenson and Watters pen stories that are truly for all ages, with humor and action the universally appeals to everyone. They never talk down to the younger portion of the audience. If you’ve ever seen Gravity Falls, it would gives you an idea of what you’re in for as you open an issue Lumberjanes: quirky humor, mystery and mild spookiness.
The greatest strength of the series is the characters. The girls are diverse in personality and background. Jen, the Counselor is black, Jo, the unofficial leader of the Lumberjanes is trans and the daughter of a rich gay couple, Ripley is Latina, and Mal and Molly are a couple, and everyone has a different body type. None of theses characters are stereotypical. Too often, these types of characters become little more than tokens, but not the Lumberjanes. Jo is more than just a trans girl. She’s incredibly smart and sometimes pressured by her sincere and loving fathers to excel and takes a dislike to a Scouting Lad named Barney for seemingly no reason, which is very human. This leads to a touching scene where she explains that he reminds her of herself had she become a scouting lad. Mal and Molly are more than just a couple. Mal is afraid of water and Molly has an affinity for animals and is good at telling ghost stories. They’re people, with fears and flaws and foibles. We need more characters like them, especially Jo. Trans people are too often ignored by the media or reduced to stereotypes. Things are improving, but we still have a ways to go. Like in my experience of the Girl Scouts, the girls are all supportive and friendly to one another. Even when they fight or someone makes a mistake, they’re never really cruel to one another. They’re just so pleasant to be around. Despite the fact that the camp is full of creatures that are more than willing to turn a Lumberjane into a nice snack, this is a world I would like to live in. I wish I had friends like the girls in the Roanoke cabin.
The art is lovely. Much of the humor comes for the dialogue and facial expressions, which the art by Brooke Allen and now Carolyn Nowak does perfectly. It can shift seamlessly from humor to drama. The character designs are creative and diverse. Everyone comes in a different shape and size, making the world seem even more real. The monsters they fight look incredibly cool especially the Grootslang from issue 17.
All in all, if you haven’t read the book check it out.If you were a girl scout, boy scout or just went away to summer camp every year, this will probably hit you right in the nostalgia bone. It’s an all ages comic that’s truly for all ages, full of friendship, fantastic characters, and a creative world.