I’m Not A Plastic Bag
Story and Art by Rachel Hope Allison
Forward by Jeff Corwin
Edited by Rebecca Taylor
Design by Fawn Lau
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Cover Price: $19.95
I’ve read comics with some pretty strange protagonists before, but this one was definitely a first. The main character of I’m Not A Plastic Bag is a large island made entirely of garbage, based on an actual place — specifically, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a large spot in the Pacific Ocean which, due to currents, collects most oceanic debris. By debris I mostly mean trash that washes out to sea, water bottles, tires, plastic bags, etc., and by large I mean estimated to be twice the size of Texas. So, very, very large.
Writer and artist Rachel Hope Allison‘s book is an odd and pretty ballet. This large, unruly mass of trash (loosely resembling Aqua Teen Hunger Forces‘ Meatwad) tries desperately to interact with the beautiful oceanic landscape it exists in, only to destroy whatever it touches, meanwhile getting bigger and bigger. There are touches of the Frankenstein monster here, which I suspect is what Allison was coyly referring to in the title. It’s almost entirely wordless with beautiful colors that tastefully know when to incorporate photography and mixes crazy layouts with lovely splash pages.
The book was made in partnership with Jeff Corwin Connect, a company co-founded by Animal Planet host/executive Jeff Corwin. At the end of the book there’s maybe a dozen pages of info-tainment about what type of trash largely makes up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, what animals are harmed by it, and what you can do to help. After wrapping up Allisons’ comic, which really did feel like a great, moving, artistic experience, these backups come off as a bit too spoon-fed and jarring. And mix that with the $19.95 cover price (for an 88-page hardcover, mind you), it’s maybe a bit insulting (although, it’s selling for $12.80 Amazon). [Editor's Note: I'm Not A Plastic Bag debuts Archaia's new printing initiative in conjunction with Global PSD. Through the efforts of American Forests® and the Global ReLeaf® Program, for each tree that is cut down for the printing of I'm Not a Plastic Bag, two trees will be planted.]
I don’t bring that up to crassly dissuade anyone from giving the book a try because I do think that there is an audience out there for this, fans of the lefty comix/magazine World War 3 come to mind. There is something special about this book that has me flipping back to it as I’m writing this. It’s very simple in its premise, but extremely well executed in a way that is so experiential that I don’t think putting it into words can quite do it justice. Who knew the Great Pacific Garbage Patch could evoke terror and sympathy? If you spot it on a bookshelf, do yourself a favor and flip though it a bit.