Writer: Julio Anta
Interior Art: Katherine Lobo
Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
WHAT IS IT?
Unbow Your Head is a free eight-page webcomic that paints a harsh light on the dangers facing minority women when unaccompanied on the streets of major cities.
This story is a natural continuation of writer Julio Anta’s work, as Anta has dedicated his creative output to portraying the authentic experiences of young Latinx people in the United States.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Camila, a post-graduate Latin American woman struggling to gain financial independence, is questioned by police following a violent altercation with a man who sexually harassed her on the street.
As Camila recounts this confrontation, her narration becomes increasingly unreliable, especially as her retelling of the violence of this encounter escalates.
Anta’s unflinching attention to street harassment and catcalling is vitally needed as, despite the MeToo movement, the day-to-day fear women face when alone on the streets isn’t given nearly enough attention. I follow many incredibly accomplished women who live in cities like New York on social media, and the constant objectification and harassment they face is overwhelming to read.
Anta’s writing and plotting in the initial pages of the comic provides a fully formed portrayal of a young college graduate trying to take the initial steps into adulthood. Camila’s close bonds with her family, friends and neighborhood are immediately apparent, and I appreciate the efficiency of the characterization.
Katherine Lobo’s artwork is a perfect fit for this story, and she is able pack a ton of detail and effectively draw attention to vital visual elements of the story using only a black-and-white color palette.
Lobo also has drawn some of the most striking facial expressions and character models I have seen in recent years, and I would be thrilled to see her work in nationally distributed comics.
Beyond her strengths in both environment detail and character modeling, Lobo's art is highly kinetic and portrays body language extremely well. The reader immediately comprehends how Camila moves and interacts with her environment, both with friendly faces and those she perceives as threats.
Otsmane-Elhaou, in my mind, is a superstar in the art of comic lettering, and for a short, freely distributed work he brings his “A” game – with clean, evocative word bubbles and a keen sense of when to emphasize the verbal escalation of the encounter between Camila and her attacker.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Anta’s dialogue occasionally takes sudden, sharp turns into heavy melodrama and caricature, but this may have been by design to plant the idea that Camila’s story may not be true to what actually happened.
The fight between Camila and her attacker gets extremely violent, as expected, but Lobo’s art softens the violence a bit too much. Portraying the damage Camila inflicts more realistically would have helped the story feel rawer and more immersive.
The ending felt genuinely clever to me at first impression, but after further thought, it could also be seen as undercutting the message of the comic, which can make suspension of disbelief a challenge.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Unbow Your Head is a beautifully constructed showcase for the talents of Anta, Lobo, and Otsmane-Elhaou, and was a fast, engaging read that made me want to know more about Camila and her history in a full-length issue. Lobo’s art is the most alluring I’ve seen in some time, and combined with Otsmane-Elhaou’s appealing lettering and Anta’s compelling storytelling, cultivates a memorable experience despite the short page count.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
Unbow Your Head can be read for free at https://www.julioanta.com/unbow
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All of Julio Anta's characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Julio Anta’s or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED