ABOUT BETTY'S BOOB by Véro Cazot and Julie Rocheleau
ABOUT BETTY'S BOOB is a sweet and humorous comic about loss, recovery, and self-love. Véro Cazot and Julie Rocheleau cleverly mix together surrealism, referencing classic cartoons and exaggeration to portray Betty's experience with cancer and her whimsical journey to reinvent herself.
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Véro Cazot and Julie Rocheleau’s wordless sequential narrative is anything but quiet. The comic celebrates recovery with color and style. While ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB explores the aftermath of breast cancer, Cazot’s story with Rocheleau’s art is both entrancing and whimsical. The two brilliantly capture the process of mourning while refusing to dwell on sadness. Instead, the BOOM! Studios comic is a joyous tribute to body positivity, no matter what life throws at us.

ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB stars Betty, a young woman from Paris whose life seems to take a drastic turn for the worse. The comic begins shortly after Betty’s mastectomy. If that wasn’t bad enough, she loses her job and her boyfriend in quick succession. Rocheleau portrays each of Betty’s experiences with an appropriate sense of surreality. Indeed, the comic at times enters a dream-like state, matching Betty’s whirlwind traumas. Although Betty’s sense of loss is overwhelming, ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB encourages readers to live in the moment as Betty finds support from a cheerful band of burlesque performers.  

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB: Depicting Cancer and Recovery

ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB challenges the cult of perfect bodies. After her surgery, Betty’s body is one she does not recognize. Moreover, with a wig to cover her bald head and one breast missing, society responds to her with a mix of horror and disdain. Indeed, even Betty experiences nightmares of her breast being cut up like an apple. Rocheleau carefully fills the world with a fabricated symmetry. However, as Betty’s life becomes topsy-turvy, Rocheleau exaggerates it, tilting frames, highlighting asymmetry and disproportion. For example, Betty’s boyfriend is so afraid of her new body that he deflates like a balloon. Others, like her boss, grow to gigantic sizes as they interrogate Betty about her lopsided chest. The comic depicts cancer and recovery in an innovative way, giving readers a hero who faces real challenges.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

Rocheleau’s art importantly acknowledges the surrealism of cancer and its effects. Rocheleau pictures cancer with an astrological sign: letting small crabs climb all over Betty’s body. The medical world is also depicted surreally as a mysterious comic laboratory; a bespectacled scientist works a Dr. Seuss-like gadget that produces Betty’s left breast in a jar of formaldehyde. Her wilting boyfriend, domineering boss, and the culture that sees only Betty’s imperfections, therefore, appear cruel. But out of the uncanny illustrations of despair comes hope as she makes new friends who honor her body and are not afraid of her battle with cancer. Without giving too much away, Betty finds a group of marvelous misfits who she might not ever have befriended previously. The group gives Betty a sense of solidarity and their boisterous antics add volume and excitement to the comic.  

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Homage to Comics: Reviving BETTY BOOP

Clever readers might instantly hear the name of another comic heroine in ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB. Indeed, the English edition changed the French edition’s title, BETTY BOOB, thereby avoiding confusion with the buxom cartoon character BETTY BOOP. Still, in both editions, ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB pays tribute to, among other influences, the Fleischer Brothers cartoon BETTY BOOP, who has also graced comics since the 30s an, most recently, in the 2016 Dynamite Entertainment series.

Indeed, Betty of ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB resembles the doe-eyed flapper visually. However, while Betty Boop might be a stereotype of hypersexualized femininity, she pioneered female sexual agency in visual media. Cazot’s Betty does even better with its feminist twist. Our Betty takes her sexuality and body into her own hands with the support of her physically-diverse friends. Indeed, Betty is not afraid or ashamed of sex. She even manages to have a quick rendezvous at a party! But she also finds ways to admire her own body and embrace the beauty in those around her. Consequently, ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB emphasizes appreciation for bodies of all shapes and sizes as creative and sexy.

Image courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

No Words: Plenty of Action

Unlike Betty Boop, our Betty doesn’t have the cutesy high-pitched voice to go along with her charming character design. Indeed, ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB has almost no words at all. Some characters have a few speech bubbles, and Cazot includes some music lyrics, but the comic is otherwise wordless. Comic snobs might say that ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB is not a true comic. Silent sequential storytelling subverts the assumption that comics are words and images in juxtaposition. Regardless of picky definitions, ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB is a successful comic. Indeed, Cazot and Rocheleau hardly need words because Rocheleau’s artwork is highly expressive. The two carefully convey concepts with evocative symbols and images to express meaning. In a few instances, readers may have to puzzle through what is meant; however, this only adds to the comic. Readers participate in how Betty understands the world, which is occasionally fraught with confusion.

Without words, readers can spend time with Betty as she navigates the tilt-a-whirl of new traumas and triumphs. Indeed, words simply could not do justice to the comic’s emotions the way that Rocheleau’s art can. Being reassured that someone’s chest is flat is not nearly as evocative as a picture of an iron. Nor could readers truly feel the pain of Betty’s break-up without seeing her shatter as if struck by lightning. Without words, ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB witnesses Betty’s emotions with tremendous force.

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Does Betty Verge on Inspiration Porn?

Disability rights activist Stella Young coined the term “inspiration porn” to describe the depictions of disabled people as inherently inspirational purely because of their disability. Put another way, Young points out how disabled people are objectified by non-disabled people who look to disabilities to feel better about themselves. One way inspiration porn manifests is in glorifying everyday activities of disabled people purely because the person is disabled. What society says is kind is, in reality, patronizing. That said, within the context of ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB, I want to apply the concept of “inspiration porn” briefly. Betty’s experiences, from facing an unsupportive partner and employer to the social pressure to be “fixed,” may mirror some experiences of disabled people. Therefore, the question remains: is ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB inspiration porn?

It’s tricky. ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB has many hallmarks of inspiration porn. We congratulate Betty for getting up and trying to woo her boyfriend despite both their fears. We congratulate her for going back to work. Taking cancer and her mastectomy out of the equation, both activities are normal. But, ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB does not fall completely into the inspiration porn trap. Instead, the comic lets Betty achieve authenticity in ways that disabled and non-disabled people alike can admire. Cazot shows Betty rise to the top and become an icon of body positivity and entertainment, in ways that have very little to do with her cancer battle. By embracing her body as it is, with one boob, Betty becomes a star for readers and her friends.

Final Thoughts ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB: Finding the Way Past Trauma

ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB emphasizes the beauty of diversity, asymmetry, and differences. Although Cazot’s story is wordless, Roceheau’s artwork fills it with vibrant color and gives it a musical quality that accentuates Betty’s wild adventure. Cazot and Rocheleau make a dynamic team, crafting a fantastic heroine with a powerful message. Indeed, the comic reminds readers that although no body is perfect, it is important to love your body as it is.

ABOUT BETTY’S BOOB is available for purchase here.

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