Heavy Vinyl: Riot on the Radio by Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva (artist) is a contemporary, LGBTQIA+ graphic novel that follows seventeen-year-old Chris who recently began working at her local record store, Vinyl Destination. When the lead singer of a band that is scheduled to perform at the store goes missing, Chris very quickly learns that her music-loving colleagues have a secret: they’re members of a girls only fight club dedicated to protecting justice and women equality everywhere.
If I had to describe this graphic novel with one word, it would be adorkable. The characters really steal the spotlight with their fun and feel-good banter and interactions, the cuteness of their affections for one another, and their overall fierceness when it comes to empowerment. Toss in their passion for music, many of which stem from the 90s era (I believe that’s the time period of the story, actually), plus some exploration of trying to figure yourself out, and you have a truly inspired read.
Even with all of those fantastic traits, there are two things that made my experience with Heavy Vinyl such a pleasant one. The first is the diversity. There is such an abundance of it that I was left feeling stunned when I finished reading. We have sapphic representation, interracial couples, a girl who has two fathers, a Puerto Rican lady, and a black lady. There are no racist jokes or awkward commentary about race and orientation, or anything else of the sort. Even though the story is about women and their amazing strength, whether physical or of character, they also don’t go out of their way to demean the opposite gender, or any other genders. The novelty of it is one-hundred-percent intersectional feminist and it’s fricking fabulous.
The second element that I loved above the rest was the simple and charming yet very genuine representation and exploration of not knowing who the fuck you are and what the hell you want from life, especially as a teenager. Chris has a crush on one of her fellow employees and her awkwardness when she’s around this other girl is so sweet and relatable. I remember the first time I had a crush on a beautiful and intelligent women whom I felt was out of my league. I was a hot, bumbling mess around her all the time. That is combined with some mild insecurities that she has and some confusion about what she wants to do as she gets older, which just made me respect and appreciate what the narrative stood for even more; it’s definitely a sentiment readers of all ages can empathise with. Most of her development and her difficulties are brought to light via the fight club.
The girls fight club gig is a phenomenal symbol of what it means to take chances and to step outside of your comfort zone. It is easy to hide in a small shell because that shell is safe and familiar and smells like your favourite cat (guess we know what my shell consists of and my cat smells like fresh laundry, I kid you fucking not) and there is no logical reason to leave something so comfortable. But if all you ever see are the protective walls of your own making, then what is the point of having aspirations and dreams and goals? Even if your goal is to make the best bowl of cereal ever, you eventually have to leave the shell to go the shtick you need to make that bowl, right? Bad analogies aside, this theme of not being afraid to experience new things, particularly on a journey to find your identity, whatever that may be, is so fricking awesome.
Everything in Heavy Vinyl is signed, sealed, and delivered with the delightful artwork, which is quite reminiscent of 90s cartoons, such as The Magic School Bus and Gargoyles (less dark and dreary) with a modern and more mature touch. These cartoon-esque aesthetics help contribute to the fluffy and warm-hearted ambiance of the girls’ camaraderie and humour, as well as their confidence and tough vibes. It further enhances all of the references to music from the respective era (e.g.: Spice Girls) and the general style of the story. The colour palettes are very natural with splashes of vivid reds, purples, and yellows while still maintaining a subdued and relaxed aura. Nothing is overtly bright and exaggerated.
All in all, I believe that all types of folks should read Heavy Vinyl, especially youngsters, no matter your gender, because the messages in it are incredible and it’s just a whole lot of fun. People who enjoy diversity, badass ladies, and a kick-back, feel-good story will adore this comic.