The Quality of Sappho is Not Hatred
House of the Muses: The Quality of Hatred
Sword and Labrys Productions, 2008
by Elf Girl
House of the Muses is the graphic novel version of the writings of Sappho and Alkaios, which follows a Spartan woman named Dika and her life and loves in one of the earliest lesbian soap operas. Pam Harrison, the writer and illustrator has taken the ancient writings and given them new life.
The story is told from a standpoint of an older Dika looking back on her life. As such, the story is told in vivid detail, capturing the full essence of her experiences. Even if there were not pictures to go along, the reader could imagine it well enough.
However, the writing can become a little dry from time to time. As I read it, I found myself glossing over certain areas that really did not seem to lead anywhere. The first several pages are like that, in fact, making it a little difficult to get into the story. From time to time, there is a jump in when the story is taking place that can leave the reader a bit confused. Usually it’s done as a flashback, but occasionally, there are leaps that just aren’t explained.
Once the story starts to pick up, it becomes quite interesting to see how she comes to realize who she is, and how those around her react to that news. To use a cliché, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It becomes quite easy to feel a connection to Dika and how she sees things, her reactions to other women that she finds appealing. This is very much where the book shines, making it very much worth muddling through those dry first pages.
The images are done with a 3-D program, one that I’m actually not that fond of, so I’m not exactly impartial on the look of the characters. That being said, it is clear that great time and pain was taken to make each of the panels interesting and authentic as possible.
There are problems, however, with the layout and the text. Sometimes word balloons are pointed at someone who isn’t actually saying the dialogue, which needless to say, can be a little confusing. The story that is put into text boxes sometimes can be a little difficult to read as you can still see the image behind it. The text boxes really should have been more solid rather than partially transparent.
The content of the comic is really quite tame by today’s standards. While there is definitely violence and sex, neither are particularly explicit and rarely go beyond just implied. Dika has been abused quite a bit in her life and she does talk about that quite frequently, which is pretty much the extent of the more “adult” nature of the book. The sex scenes themselves, while not for younger kids, aren’t even as explicit as prime time television’s.
House of the Muses is available both online (once you get a hang of the odd layout) and in print. At the time of this article, only the first volume is out in print, the second is online only until it finishes. Fans of history, lesbian romance, or Sappho herself are sure to enjoy it; though it can be difficult to get into initially. Once you do, it’s definitely worth the read.
Editor's note: "House of the Muses" can be purchased at IndyPlanet.com or at Amazon.com.
Megan Parker aka Elf Girl is on loan to Prism from Pink Kryptonite via her editor Jonostarsmore. The article is cross-posted there.
House of the Muses © 2008 Pam Harrison. Review © 2008 Elf Girl.
Prism Comics promotes the works of the LGBT community in comics. It does not implicitly endorse any other material or products associated with those works. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s).