CAKE DEBUT: Miseryland by Special Guest, Keiler Roberts
Miseryland is a collection of Keiler Roberts’ ongoing autobiographical comics series Powdered Milk. Throughout the book, short stories and vignettes build into one narrative. The first scene shows Roberts’ three-year-old daughter Xia watching her shrink the window cellophane with a hairdryer. “It’s getting fancier and fancier,” she observes. Throughout the book Xia is a major character: challenging Roberts (“You want to say dammit?”), entertaining her (“There’s a little man inside my butt, cleaning it. Some poop might come out.”), and loving her (“You’re a good friend to me Mommy.”) Xia’s at the age when she’s unintentionally funny and lacks self-consciousness. The awkward yet realistic drawings establish the tone of the work and perspective of Roberts’ character. The compositions, gestures and expressions work in combination to achieve a deadpan humor, often with underlying darker emotions. Roberts’ character is earnest, but flawed—moody and volatile. She screams at a stranger on the sidewalk during a dog walking conflict, bursts into a swearing/crying rage over a car seat, and tunes out her husband and daughter. The book concludes with a family trip to Wisconsin to visit Roberts’ parents. Her mother recalls a recent eBay loss while her father delights in new shoes, which are superior because they are “shaped like a foot.” They arrive home and unload the packed car (dog food was cheaper there). Roberts leaves a message for her mother, letting her know they arrived safely and thanking her once again.
Keiler Roberts teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and DePaul University. Her autobiographical comic, Powdered Milk has received three Ignatz nominations and was included in The Best American Comics 2014 Notables List. Her work has been published in The Chicago Reader, Mutha Magazine and Newcity. She was special guest at Chicago Zine Fest 2013, a panelist at CAKE 2011, and performed at Brainframe.