Comics are Rebecca Schuchat’s preferred mode of expression. Still, the Oakland-born cartoonist, whose new comic, “Where’s My Timbrel?”, debuts here and will continue on J.’s social media, tends to make comics more introspective than humorous.
“I spend a lot of time thinking, as a millennial, about not being able to afford where I grew up,” Schuchat said in a Zoom interview from Vermont, where she lives while pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the Center for Cartoon. Studies. “I feel like an exile. I think that’s going to be a central theme in this comic” for J.
Schuchat, 28, grew up reading San Francisco Chronicle comics and treasured her collection of original Wonder Woman comics. “Love that she’s fighting Nazis in it!” she says.
She laughed as she remembered what her teachers from elementary school through Lick Wilmerding High School in San Francisco had written on her report cards: “Rebecca is a good student. She needs to talk less and draw less in her homework.
Before taking high school art, photography, and film classes, Schuchat said, “I don’t think I even realized that illustration could be a career. I didn’t think it was possible. »
While majoring in film and television production at New York University, Schuchat focused on directing and animation. “When I applied to NYU, instead of applying with a student film, I applied with storyboards, which were basically just a comic book,” she said. “My favorite part of filmmaking was storyboarding, and I just didn’t put two and two together, which is what I love to do.”
As a freshman, she spent her free time on the animation floor of one of NYU’s buildings, using graphic pens and screens to draw animations on screens.
Then, in her senior year, she learned that she carried the BRCA genetic mutation, which greatly increases the risk of developing breast cancer. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women carry the mutation.
Schuchat’s mother and maternal grandmother also carried the mutation, and she became interested in learning more about other women in her family tree who had it. (Many of them had their lives cut short by breast cancer, she said.)
She took a DNA test, created an Ancestry.com account and then accessed the New York City Archives, finding ship records of her ancestors who immigrated to the United States from Germany. She also used census data to locate buildings in New York where they lived.
“I found out that one of the women who had the mutation lived in Brooklyn, three blocks from where I was living at the time,” Schuchat said. “And the house was still there!” She passed by and marveled at the coincidence of living in such close proximity. “I was just obsessed with this idea that we had inhabited the same physical space,” she said.
For her thesis project at the Center for Cartoon Studies, Schuchat worked on a graphic novel about women with the BRCA mutation. The book, tentatively titled “BRCA,” came to life on an iPad, which she uses to create digital drawings. (In contrast, she creates her J. comics using black ink and watercolors.)
Schuchat said she hopes the graphic novel will be released once it’s finished.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about the Jewish Diaspora and this idea of ’home,’” she noted. “It’s at the heart of my artistic creation.”