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The Big Skinny


The Big Skinny

Writer/artist Carol Lay has enjoyed a long and varied career, including stints inking an assortment of DC and Marvel characters, doing spot illustrations for the Wall Street Journal, publishing her own wildly anarchic and satirical feature, Bad Girls, and writing and drawing WayLay, a weekly syndicated comic strip dealing with interpersonal relations and political issues (online at Now, in her first autobiographical graphic novel, she takes an unexpected left turn into the area of diet and nutrition. But it’s still quite tasty—and easily digestible.

If you think that The Big Skinny sounds like a boring and preachy textbook, you don’t know Carol Lay. She’s a sharp and witty writer with a great sense of humor to start, and as a storyteller, her clean lines and imaginative layouts keep things interesting. But her great taste and sensibility preclude her from ever putting anything out that was boring or ordinary, anyway.

Still, a graphic novel on diet and nutrition? Why? Lay told Newsarama’s Michael C. Lorah that “information is digested and retained more easily when it comes in story form, and visuals impact our brains better than words alone. Comics are the beautiful hybrid, combining illustrations and story for a double dose of retention in the brain. What happened when I finally lost my excess bulk was that I wanted to tell everyone how I did it because it’s what no one wants to hear, i.e., count calories and exercise daily. Sounds like a drag, doesn’t it? Well, I thought so, too, when I started, but it worked.”

Lay’s story may not be as prosaic as Harvey Pekar, serious as Art Spiegelman, or creepy as Chester Brown, but her decades-long struggle with food and self-esteem eventually culminated in radical reform and reeducation. The journey was a rough one and she had to overcome heredity, psychology, and the lifestyle and eating habits of her loving and well-meaning family. But the trip is amusing for the rest of us as she transforms her travails and subsequent metamorphosis into an entertaining, enlightening, and heartfelt story.

In addition to the story of her (eating) life, she includes a smart and user-friendly selection of recipes and tips. Some of this nutritional stuff may prove ponderous to dedicated gourmands and confirmed omnivores, but Lay’s determination to provide inspiration and support in an entertaining manner to errant food addicts is sincere at the very least. And for those of us who may not be ready to hold the fries, it’s still a very satisfying treat.

Reviewed by Richard Pachter on December 30, 2008

The Big Skinny
by Carol Lay

  • Publication Date: December 30, 2008
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Villard
  • ISBN-10: 0345504046
  • ISBN-13: 9780345504043