Mistique Volume II Offers Advice To Soothe The Psyche Of The Modern Woman Of The Universe


By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 23 August 2018
Category: Feature
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What should you do if you find yourself suddenly single? Which colours suit your alignment towards order or chaos? What's your dating style? Do you have the appropriate equipment for a self-care moment? Maya LeMaitre's new humour zine, which was launched at Blank Books, has all the answers you are looking for.

Mistique Volume II Offers Advice To Soothe The Psyche Of The Modern Woman Of The Universe

The universe decided to gift Cape Town with more rain than it had seen in weeks on the evening slated for the launch of Maya LeMaitre's Mistique Volume II at Blank Books in Woodstock, Cape Town, but those who braved the weather were rewarded with the first look at the second issue of a smart, entertaining zine that - of course - every modern woman should have within easy reach in her handbag.

Mistique parodies advice and themes often found in women's magazines, as well as more esoteric lifestyles, by highlighting their absurdities with the help of speculative fiction references that LeMaitre weaves into the humour. The first zine, which tackled concepts such as body shaming, body types, and being your best self, was launched last year in April at FanCon Cape Town Comic Con and its success has led to this second one, which hones the humour even further.

The mix of women's lifestyle nonsense and speculative-fiction concepts is clever, yet accessible, but not something one would ordinarily expect.

Mistique Volume II Offers Advice To Soothe The Psyche Of The Modern Woman Of The Universe

"It happens one of two ways," LeMaitre says of how she marries the two disparate worlds. "Sometimes the idea just pops into my head and I write it down. I'll try to refine it a bit and so will probably draw it out a few more times until I'm happy. Other times I'll identify a trend that I think is a bit silly (for example, activated-charcoal face masks) and deserves to be poked fun at or I'll identify something that has been a personal struggle. I'll wait, do a bit of research into it and explore it in my sketchbook until I think of something funny to link it to. My sense of humour tends towards the absurd so that's why I love linking up with fantasy/sci-fi themes."

Stefan Blank, the owner of Blank Books, was one of the people who encouraged LeMaitre to make a second zine due to the success of the first one. "We try a lot of the local zines and South African comics. This one we just put at the front of the counter and it [...] just sort of sold itself so we wanted more and we hoped that she would publish more - hence number two," he says.

Mistique Volume II Offers Advice To Soothe The Psyche Of The Modern Woman Of The Universe

"It's quirky, it's funny, it grabs your attention quite from the go," says Blank. "While [one can] use the word 'feminist' to some extent it's got none of those awful negative connotations that people sometimes associate with it even though I don't think they're there. It's sort of self aware to some extent. It's funny!"

The first zine has been popular with both locals and tourists. International visitors make up a significant percentage of Blank Books' client base as the store is located across the road from the Old Biscuit Mill, which hosts large, crowd-drawing events every weekend. Blank says that Mistique appeals to "a lot of random people who are literally just standing [at the counter] and they've bought something else and then they just add it to their pile [as] price wise it's not too bad. They'll take a chance at about R40 or R50".

Mistique Volume II Offers Advice To Soothe The Psyche Of The Modern Woman Of The Universe

"While the humour probably isn't to everyone's taste I think it's been received pretty well," says LeMaitre. "Mostly women have bought it (mainly those in their twenties to thirties but definitely older than that too) but also a lot of men. Some moms have bought it for their daughters, or women for their younger sisters, which I think is really nice."

LeMaitre says that readers' favourite page in the first issue seems to be the "body shape" article, in which she parodies the typical women's magazines' focus on "fruit-shaped" body types by escalating the shapes through the traditional "apple" and "pear" to her more absurd "banana" and "dragon fruit" archetypes.

Mistique Volume II Offers Advice To Soothe The Psyche Of The Modern Woman Of The Universe
Above: The cover of Mistique Volume II and its "This Month We Love" roundup.
The second issue takes its gloves off in some cases, such as the result of LeMaitre's ruminations on activated-charcoal face masks that resulted in a scathing "Budget Beauty" page of alternative face-mask ideas that's one of the highlights of the zine. It's also more overt with the speculative-fiction references, including a lovely travel idea that sends its stereotyped protagonist (who, in a traditional women's magazine, would be in dire need of help and advice) off to Arrakis in a six-panel-comic format with very punchy humour.

"I really love movies!" says LeMaitre. "In the case of Mistique it's especially focused on older (sometimes bad and cheesy) speculative fiction such as Dune, Zardoz, The Craft, Gremlins, and Legend. There's definitely a solid helping of HP Lovecraft in there too."

Mistique Volume II Offers Advice To Soothe The Psyche Of The Modern Woman Of The Universe

Both issues of Mistique feature a black and white interior on newsprint like paper to suit a zine - with an appropriately glossy (and full colour) cover to suit the theme. It's probably early days to be thinking of a third zine in the series but there are many ideas that LeMaitre could still mine in the future, although she claims that "I've used most of them for volume II! Although after I printed it I realised there was a story I'd just forgotten to do, so maybe there will be a third one! No promises though."

The zine is available at Blank Books and should be at other South African comics stores, such as Readers Den Comic Shop, soon. If you're elsewhere in the world (or the universe) you can order a digital version for US$1 through Gumroad, where you can also find the first zine if you don't already have it.

Mistique Volume II Offers Advice To Soothe The Psyche Of The Modern Woman Of The Universe

Those who braved the downpour on the launch evening were rewarded with free colouring pages of the zine's front and back cover (if you are familiar with Capetonians you'll understand that it was clearly for self-soothing purposes on account of the trauma caused by the rain, even though it was sorely needed) and stickers featuring three personality types found within the pages but if you wish to discover whether you are a bee queen, a green pile of ooze, or a monstrous, devouring void you'll have to take the quiz in Mistique Volume II to find out.

The results may surprise you - or confirm your suspicions.

Blank Books: Official Site, Facebook


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Tags: Arts And Culture, Books, Cape Town, Comics, South African Comics, Speculative Fiction


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