She's been praised by R. Crumb and compared to Bukowski, but she still doesn't have a Wikipedia page. She's rather elusive, but she has a reason: "My paintings are the only place I feel that I fit in." Well, Eve Gilbert doesn't quite fit in. Her messy, unapologetic, and crude illustration style deviates from the standard easy-to-read typefaces, clean storyboard lines, and distinguishable characters that most comic book enthusiasts have come to recognize and appreciate as quality. Maybe that's why I was drawn to Eve's Tits, Ass & Real Estate: An Autobiographical Road Trip Through the Other America as I scanned a rack littered with books filled with Vargas' pin-up girls and Sailor Jerry tattoos.
I stumbled upon Eve's collection of crass visual narratives in the XXX section of my favorite "comic book store." (The place is more like a multi-media wonderland; everything from vintage cult movie posters to sealed Phyllis Diller records to Penthouses from 1993 with Marky Mark can be found here.) Intrigued by the title and moved by R. Crumb's introduction, I thumbed through the pages of Tits, Ass, & Real Estate. Immediately, I was struck by the "shit you draw during Algebra" style of her work—raw doodles turned into vile tales of sexual abuse, failed motherhood, and drug addiction.
Eve Gilbert was born in New York City in 1967 to a metric system manual writer and a psychology professor who dropped acid with Timothy Leary. The youngest of 11 children (all from various marriages and affairs) Eve explains that her family "could be a hot ABC reality show in itself." After moving to New Jersey, Eve's life began to spiral. She rarely fit in with her peers and was a tomboy with a filthy mouth. Becoming a boozer and a user at an early age, Eve was kicked out of high school during her junior year and so began her travels around "The Other America."
Junkies, perverts, stumbling alcoholics, and aliens live within the pages of Tits, Ass, & Real Estate. Eve says the inhabitants of the other side of the tracks have always been drawn to her: "Magnets have been installed on each limb . . . special psycho magnets, that is." After reading the first narrative in the collection, "The Lost Highway", you'll understand. Eve falls for a poet, begs for change only to get propositioned, waits in a soup kitchen line while some evangelicals try to save the "punk rockers", and forms a "posse of Lost Vegas street urchins."
The nihilistic world that Eve's created can be draining. Yet, she maintains a sense of humor; her satirical take on applying for more bullshit part-time work in "Happy Rat" is a perfect example. Arriving at a job interview for the position of "asskisser" in an upscale restaurant, Happy Rat, who I take to be Eve, puts on a smiley face mask—the typical ware for a wage-slave—and stands around "Cafe Bourgeoise" [sic] waiting to be interviewed. The rest of the interviewees are male; "I shoulda worn a penis instead," says Happy Rat.
Happy Rat isn't the only character in Tits, Ass, & Real Estate who has something to say about sexism. In "Be You To Full", a bumblebee gets bombarded with beauty advertisements and advice. In the check-out line, at the bus stop, in front of the TV, the bumblebee just can't avoid it. Eventually, she goes to a plastic surgeon and comes out to join the hoards of engineered beauties with big lips and blonde hair. Guess what!?! Being a bumblebee becomes fashionable shortly after her conversion to the norm. The moral of the story: Bee yourself.
In "Thru Her Cunt", Eve retells the pain of abuse. From the bruises to the honeymoon phase, Eve documents everything with her twisted style, which matches the depravity of her situation. I will say that "Thru Her Cunt" reigns as the one tale in Tits, Ass, & Real Estate that takes strength to get through as a reader. Just imagine the strength Eve had to survive and pen her story. In "Pregnate?", which was written in a San Francisco porn shop, an insectified Eve waits for a job interview while mulling over her unplanned pregnancy—a pregnancy that happened despite protection. (Just her luck.) She daydreams about keeping her aborted fetus or birthing a human condom. Twisted, yes. But, that's the point. Through assaulting her readers with unrestrained illustrations of the depravity that exists within our country, Eve reminds us of how truly fucked up things are.
From her zine, Dangerous Pussy, which was published by Manic D in San Francisco, to her latest series of paintings, "Vanishing Landscapes", Eve maintains her cynical eye. In "Vanishing Landscapes", Eve gives us a nostalgic look at urban life before the "cleaning up" of most cities. Her new paintings still have her recognizable grotesque style, which is even better in color. She's cleaned up since the days of her journey across "The Other America"; she's now a sober Summa Cum Laude of Hunter College with a BA in history. Her latest project, a graphic novel about the Vietnam War, should be a kick in the gut and quite a treat.