Vanity Cases: Sina Grace Reveals His Favorite ‘Self-Obsessed’ Icons
A little self-obsession is a prerequisite of autobiographical comics, but learning to actually love yourself? That's a near-mythic destination that cartoonists might hope to someday reach, and that's the journey undertaken by Sina Grace (Burn the Orphanage with Daniel Freedman; Li'l Depressed Boy with Steven Struble) in Self-Obsessed, his upcoming collection of comic strips and personal essays from Image Comics. Taking 'self as project' as its premise, Self-Obsessed is a frank exploration at sexuality, relationships, and a life in comics.
But what does it really mean to be self-obsessed? We asked Grace to pick five icons of vanity and personal indulgence to help us unpack the phenomenon of masterful self-obsession. He also shared a few select strips from his book, so that you too can get to know him a little better!
A glaring beast of sexuality looming over the Los Angeles boulevards my entire life, Angelyne’s always been a mystery to me. My dad was a big Sunset club guy, and the legendary lady of few discernible talents had always been a favored subject of his. She still makes headlines and earns legit cash selling merch out of her car, all without a social media presence.
Rufus Wainwright would have been a more obvious choice for “Obscure Gay Icon,” but he never made an album called I, which featured a song called “I Wish I Had an Evil Twin,” wherein he dreams about all the lurid, blame-free stuff his twin would take the heat for. Nor did he tour with a Best Of setlist arranged in alphabetical order from A-Z. But the infamously aloof man behind The Magnetic Fields did. Like Jeffrey Brown, Stephin Merritt proves that even the sullen, shy guy in the corner can make things 100% about himself.
He has a song called “I Am A God.” He’s interrupted acceptance speeches to posit his opinions about the outcome. Yeezy’s created a soapbox, and then erected a cross to bear himself upon, and in his career-long insistence that he’s an undeniable talent has proven that he’s certainly undeniable. There’s an admirable theater-like quality to his bombastic self-promotion, because it’s 100% earnest. Maybe it’s not chill that he’s his own crass cheerleader, but dang, “Send It Up” still gives me shivers.
When I was a freshman in high school, I remember my teacher keeping a copy of Naked on his desk at all times. I know Armisted Maupin came first, but David Sedaris was everywhere as an iconic gay voice known for acerbic reflections. Sedaris’ work was the first I had encountered to prove that you can make a living from talking about your hook-ups, hiding your sexuality in grade school, and most importantly: general sh-- talking.
She’s technically not a real person, but I can say that this beloved Nickelodeon character had me talking at walls about life’s tribulations since I was starting elementary school. Clarissa Explains It All truly set me up to be a fashion-forward weirdo with a penchant for externalizing problems in order to resolve them. In her case, it was making video games in 10 minutes to show her BFF how she’d handle a conflict. For me, I just draw a comic in the same amount of time. Also: Did Clarissa teach kids nationwide about the value of Keith Haring’s work? I’ll say yes!
Self-Obsessed in on sale September 30 from Image Comics. Final orders via comic stores are due August 24.