Tag Archive for byron penaranda

Near Miss: BoHoS

In the late ’90s, a California teenager named Maggie Whorf and friends got into trouble for distributing a zine called “Whore-Hey” at their school. So of course, Whorf ended up writing a comic book. That comic was the three-issue series BoHoS, published by Image/Flypaper Press.

(I tracked down Whorf a few years ago and talked to her about all of this. For more background, please read Remembering BoHoS: A conversation with Maggie Whorf. There’s no need to repeat all of that here.)

Does BoHoS hold up? No, not really. Whorf had a good grasp on what it was like to be a teenager at the time, and her stand-in lead, Catherine Wheal, provided an easy entry point for readers (you know, if you were a teenage girl who could relate to a protagonist with blue hair) and that carries over pretty well, but jagged, technicolor art by Byron Penaranda and the dated references to Hanson and MTV’s Tabitha Soren place this firmly in the late ’90s. This is not one for the ages.

I actually read BoHoS at the time (the publishers reached out to me — an early web address for Comicsgirl is actually listed in the back of issue #2) and it may be the only Near Miss comic I read as it was actually being released. It’s far from perfect, but it’s still a comic I have a lot of affection and appreciation for. There was nothing else like it at the time and I’d say there really hasn’t been anything like it since.

True to Whorf’s zinester roots, the back of each issue had essays, reviews and poetry from other teenage girls as well as links to web sites of interest (this was the late ’90s — the Internet was still young for many of us). I liked that beyond the main story, it just wasn’t about Whorf. It was about other teenage girls that may not feel like they fit in and it wanted to give them a voice.

And certainly, teenage girls have always found places to share their thoughts, but I do wonder what shape BoHoS would’ve taken in today. I look at Tavi Gevinson and Rookie (and the fact that comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly was the one to put out Rookie: Yearbook One) and I just wonder what would’ve happened if Whorf had been in a world where she could’ve created a blog instead of a zine.

Which isn’t to say BoHoS was ahead of its time. It was very much of its time and not really worth reading beyond it being a piece of comics history. Still, it continues to delight me that nearly 15 years ago, a teenage girl got to write a comic that was published by a major publisher.

I think that continues to be an important thing.

Near Miss is a semi-regular feature that will be appearing on Comicsgirl throughout 2013. This project is sponsored by Big Planet Comics.

Remembering BoHoS: A conversation with Maggie Whorf

With all the talk of women in comics and comics for women that has gone on over the past few years, I’m always surprised that very few people brings up BoHoS. Unlike most comics aimed at teenage girls, this was actually written by one.

Published in 1998 by Flypaper Press/Image, writer Maggie Whorf tells the story of four friends — the contemplative Catherine, the sarcastic Amy, hippie Vicki and rock-star wannabe Stew — as they navigate late ’90s pop culture. References to Hanson, Kevin Smith movies and Dawson’s Creek do feel a little dated now, but the emotions and interactions between these friends still remains genuine. Byron Penaranda’s quirky angular style and the candy colors give the comic a bright and distinctive look. The issues also featured essays and commentaries by teenagers and women about topics ranging from dating to pop culture.

Inspired by the latest round of “women making comics for women,” I decided to track down Maggie Whorf to get her thoughts on her experiences with BoHoS via e-mail.

The comic had its origins after Whorf and two friends created a zine called “Whore-Hey,” which was “filled with the teen angst of three over-taught and highly privileged private school girls,” Whorf wrote, adding “We also said fuck. A lot.”

This, along with the fact that they were selling their zine on school grounds, led to some trouble for the three — they were suspended for three days. (The punishment “wasn’t very effective,” Whorf wrote and that the girls’ parents were proud.)

After attracting some media attention, Flypaper Press came calling and Whorf was the one to respond.

Whorf says she had creative control over the comic: “There was an amazing sense of freedom and my opinions were always respected. I was set up with a great editor and she taught me how to break down a scene and write with the panel in mind.” and that she “created the characters, the storylines and supervised the design.” She does admit “There were times I was treated like a commodity” but also understood “The story of a 16-year-old girl writing a comic book was the thing they could sell.” She wrote that she “loved it” and “felt very grown up” during the whole process.

After some movement on pitching it to production companies, Whorf headed off to college, thus ending her comic book career (for now, anyway).

I asked Whorf if she had been comic book fan previous to BoHoS and she wrote that she used to draw pictures of X-Men to sell to friends in elementary school and came back to comics through Tank Girl. She wrote that she’ll “always love Batman” and loved the Civil War run. Other than that, she hasn’t kept up with any of the other attempts to entice teenage girls to read comics, like DC’s Minx line. “That’s kind of shameful, isn’t it?” she wrote.

Whorf is currently working for “a large internet company” and writes a fashion blog call The Pudge.

I was delighted to be in touch with her and even more delighted to hear her experiences with BoHoS were good ones. As for the comic itself, it’s never been collected, but issues are pretty easy (and cheap!) to come by on eBay.