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Bake Sale (First Second) Sara Varon trades in the anthropomorphic animal characters of her previous comics Robot Dreams and Sweater Weather (and her children’s picture book Chicken and Cat) for a new source of character design: anthropomorphized foodstuffs.
I really enjoyed the waves of cognitive dissonance I got from seeing Bake Sale’s star Cupcake, a cupcake, making cupcakes, and other such weirdness as an animated chicken leg walking its dog in the park, a bag of sugar excitedly ordering brownies and, perhaps most disturbingly, seeing Cupcake chopping up a carrot for his carrot cake…only to visit a restaurant a few pages later and placing an order with a carrot, named Carrot! (Also, there’s a panel where Cupcake learns his place in the band has been filled by a potato, and responds, “A potato?! Everyone knows potatoes have no rhythm!” Why is Cupcake so racist against potatoes? And I’m pretty sure he’s eating mashed potatoes with his meatloaf sandwich in that scene…)
Another difference between Bake Sale and Varon’s previous works? I was able to read it without bawling my eyes out (as I did with Robot Dreams) or even getting a little choked up (as with Chicken and Cat). Which isn’t to imply that her latest is lacking in emotional content—Varon’s cute, simple cartoon characters are remarkably communicative of complicated feelings, and her visual storytelling is masterful. There remains an almost elegiac quality to it.