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Ugly Girl by Nanda

Ugly Girl is a webcomic about an ugly girl. Well, at least that’s what many of the characters spend a lot of time telling us. The thing is, the figures are drawn simply, often with crosses or lines or swirls in the place of one eye. Everyone is drawn in the same style, and we only know Ugly’s ugly because we’re told so. It’s a lovely way of showing how arbitrary beauty standards are.

The comic is about Ugly’s high school adventures, crushed hopes and friendships. We follow her as she learns to assert herself and not change herself. At least to suit other people, that is. After a nasty blow, she cuts her hair, which acts as a marker of coming into herself.

It starts off a bit “oh look at me not conforming to gay stereotypes but now I will!” with Queerboy, but his portrayal improves. It gets deeper again when another character turns out to be a lesbian, and we tag along as she sorts things out for herself. And the comic covers a range of social issues, notably Tilde struggling to keep things together for fear of the authorities taking her and her brother away from their ill mother.

Getting back to body image, I’m a bit worried about the treatment of the larger characters, though I can how things might develop. Fat Boy isn’t actually fat, he just is compared to the majority of the characters with their impossible dimensions. And fat is still thought of as, in Ugly’s wording, ‘undesirable’. Then we meet Ugly’s lab partner Spaz – let’s not even go there – whose best friend turns out to be called Fatty. As everyone’s coupling up, it’s the fat characters whose love is left unrequited (or at least as yet). I’m hanging out for more fat positivity but am as yet seeing only a few glimmers.

The updates have been on the slow side for a few months, but I’m looking forward to reading more of this comic. It’s not all happiness and light, nor is it dark and sad, it’s just a comic that puts a bit of a smile on my face. Recommended!

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