Liz Bolduc says she’s the number-one person in her hate club, and that’s not a bad thing. In fact, that’s exactly how she became one of the Somerville comic book store Hub Comics’ favorite local artists.
Bolduc uses comics and zines to explore autobiographical themes like identity, personality, mental health, and relationships. She goes by Liz Bolduc Sux, shortened to the self-deprecating moniker Liz Sux. She came up with the name in college, when she was using Tumblr to distribute her first comics and zines. For her, the nickname represents self-acceptance and allowed her to be open about her battles with depression.
“You can’t dislike me more than I dislike myself,” Bolduc says. “And people can take that in a very negative way. They’re like, ‘Whoa, you’ve got some stuff to work out.’ But I … worked through a lot of that. You’re not going to please everyone. Someone’s always going to have an issue with who you are as a human, so you might as well … embrace who you are.”
Jesse Farrell, manager of Hub Comics, says he got to know Bolduc first as a server in a restaurant he frequented and then developed a deep appreciation for her work as a cartoonist.
“The stories were always daring, raw and confessional,” he said. “It felt like being given permission to read someone’s journal, or even peek into their head. It’s been amazing to see the work in ‘It’ll Be Alright,’ Liz’s monthly autobio comic, get stronger and more assured with each installment. It’s often sad, sometimes very funny, but always compelling.”
During a period of heavy depression and anxiety in college, Bolduc says she turned to indie comics as a respite. Liz Prince, Ramsey Beyer, and other artists used comics to describe the experiences they had at punk shows and navigate loss and dating, Bolduc says. Inspired by their work, Bolduc asked her friends to submit artwork for her very first project, “Liz: The Zine,” which kickstarted a wave of one-page comics and zines.
Then Bolduc transitioned into longer-form visual storytelling, including comics like “Perishable Goods,” which she self-published in 2019. Beginning with a depiction of a family around a dinner table, “Perishable Goods” uses the symbolism of food to explore family, memory, and the challenges of finding individuality. In one scene, a woman appears before two dark shapes, and confronts them with the question, “Why can’t I stomach the things you all seem to swallow without a second thought?”
A self-taught artist, she maintains deep connections with her peers and looks frequently to them for inspiration. She exercises her artistic muscle by drawing every day.
Early on, Bolduc’s work focused primarily on mental health and relationships. Now, she uses art to chronicle her changing relationship with her family.
“It’s still focused around mental health, but it’s coming from a place of empowerment,” Bolduc says of her connection to her family. “A lot of my work now focuses strictly on my relationship with my family and how that has affected me as a child and to this day. As one gets older, … those dynamics change. I’m trying to explore that through my comic work as I get older in real time.”
Though Bolduc has published her work in anthologies and zines, she appreciates the feeling of empowerment she gets from self-publishing—the feeling of creating a project from start to finish.
She also teaches others how to do the same. Bolduc taught a series of workshops on creating autobiographical comics at Hub. Farrell says one three-hour workshop saw Liz leading a small group through the process of creating short comics about their lives.
Bolduc describes the city of Somerville as her “heart-home,” although she was born in Kensington, N.H. She now lives in the Jamaica Plain area, but she credits both Somerville and Cambridge with being widely accepting of her work. She worked as a part-time shelver at the Somerville Public Library for a year and held make-your-own-zine workshops for kids. She still maintains many of the connections she made there.
“I don’t feel very close to my immediate bloodline,” Bolduc says. “The people in Somerville … just like made me feel like I’m a part of something where I may not have felt that in other places.”
Cathy Piantigini, the director of the Somerville Public Library, developed a strong friendship with Bolduc during the artist’s time there. Piantigini notes that Bolduc drew inspiration from Somerville’s iconic yard shrines, statues depicting the Virgin Mary on lawns throughout the city. Bolduc has drawn inspiration from these—particularly one on Cedar Street—and reproduced them in her work.
“Neither of us, I would assume, are approaching [the shrines] from like, a religious perspective,” Piantigini says. “My impression is [of] strong women.”
Piantigini has also seen Bolduc’s art grow into advocacy.
“I love [that Bolduc is] promoting … your inner strength and … [that] it’s okay to talk about the times where you’re not feeling strong,” Piantigini says.
Bolduc also shouts out the Boston cartoonist community-at-large, which came together at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo in Cambridge last month. One of the most rewarding aspects of sharing her work is encountering people who see their own stories reflected in it.
“It reminds me of why I do this,” Bolduc says. “People have come up to me and shared some of their personal stories, whether it relates to their mental health, their family relationships, [whether] it may be dysfunctional or functional. It just helps you [to] not feel so alone, and I’ve been very grateful.”
Liz Bolduc Sux’s recent zine “It’ll Be Alright” is featured in our annual Somerville gift guide, which will be available in print in our Celebrating The Season issue starting on Nov. 12. Purchase one of Bolduc’s works at Hub Comics at 19 Bow Street.