It’s not every day you stumble on something amazing growing in your backyard. That is one theme that will run through Tomatoes, the new comic narrative by Carol Tyler that begins on our back page this month. It also describes the talent perennially sprouting in these hills.
Carol is a prime example. In 1997 she closed her eyes, stuck her finger on a map of the U.S., and landed on Cincinnati. “That’s where I’m gonna move,” she told her parents. With her 12-year-old daughter in tow, she made the leap from the West Coast to the middle of everything. What prompted the move? Suffice to say, an intense period of personal upheaval. Or as she notes in her first installment on page 224, “It was…starting-over time.”
Things worked out better than she may have expected. Over the last 16 years she has, by her own account, achieved a lot: “Paddled her way” into a job as education director for Tall Stacks; worked as a substitute teacher in Cincinnati Public Schools; become a popular adjunct professor at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning; and raised her daughter. She’s also plowed much of her life into her work, including her 2005 comics collection Late Bloomer and her critically acclaimed trilogy You’ll Never Know, an illustrated memoir of her father’s experiences in World War II and the lingering effects that had on her family and their relationship. (Both books are published by Fantagraphics Books.) She’s been an Eisner Award nominee many times over, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and has won an individual excellence award from the Ohio Arts Council. All that and she’s successfully maintained a healthy crop of tomatoes over many seasons in the garden outside her Avondale home (which she compares to “living in an Edward Hopper painting”). In truth, the tomatoes have sometimes been a struggle. But that’s what her monthly serial will be about: the challenges of living in Cincinnati, stitched together with epiphanous moments of inspiration, frustration, perspiration, and elation.
So, you may be wondering, what happened to Bob Woodiwiss? After five years, Bob had pretty much stuck his finger in the highly charged light socket of traditions, sentiments, and cultural foibles held dear by proud citizens as many times as a guy can. (We have the letters to prove it.) But as we wave goodbye to The Last Detail, we say hello to his new column—The Observer. Every other month, Bob will take the mundane stuff in life and show us what we have missed, for good or ill, for lack of engagement or lack of neurosis.
You’d be hard-pressed to find two more thoughtful yet distinct voices growing in such close proximity. Must be something in this fertile bottomland.