With a popular blog and a book deal, cartoonist Rachel Lindsay cements herself as one of Burlington’s premier comics artists.
After leaving New York City in 2013 for Burlington, Vermont, cartoonist Rachel Lindsay, like so many young artists, found herself stuck behind a cash register at City Market. Ironically, this job at the local co-op would lead to more work in the world of comics and eventually empower her to scribble a unique path to a book deal.
Lindsay moved to Burlington to finish the graphic novel she’d been working on since 2011, though she tabled this project almost immediately after moving to town in favor of a more pertinent one—a blog called Rachel Lives Here Now. It was this comic archive of her observations of daily life in Burlington that won her notoriety, a bit of celebrity, and more opportunities to escape the register and put pen to paper.
In addition to the popularity of her blog and key coverage from the local alternative newspaper, Seven Days, Lindsay credits mentorship by other local cartoonists with helping her find success. “I was fortunate enough to befriend some of these people who are, what I consider to be, some of the best cartoonists in the world.” says Lindsay. “They really motivated me to keep going and pursue more challenging projects.”
Relatable characters and witty jokes are not the only reason Lindsay’s work resonates with readers. Her comics work because she takes full advantage of the medium. A good comic, Lindsay says, creates tension between the words and images on the page, “There’s so many comics that are completely reliant on narrative and are essentially just an anecdotal image or an image that’s just an illustration,” she says. “It has to be a partnership. My favorite jokes are visual jokes, and it’s getting harder and harder to find people who do that.”
This layered tension and added meaning exists in all of Lindsay’s work, whether she’s re-imagining stoners buying snacks at the co-op or depicting a protester reckoning with their inadequate activism. Lindsay’s Hats of City Market series is just one of many pithy yet detailed showcases of the artist’s illustrative prowess, sharp comedic sensibility, and subtle political commentary.
Lindsay’s book, to be released September 2018, will marry all these sensibilities to tell a very personal story about mental illness. At age 19, Lindsay was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and, after working in advertising to help pay for her medication, “I ended up as a closeted mental patient being promoted to the Pfizer account [to] help advertise antidepressants,” she says. “I became manic as a result of my frustration with having to work this job I hated and being behind the curtain of this machine.” Lindsay was hospitalized by her parents.
“The second I got hospitalized, I was like ‘I’m going to make a graphic novel about this.’ And I am. And I win,” she says. “”Don’t get me wrong, I loved working as a cashier at a grocery store, but I’m ready to have a bestseller.”