The fun thing about fantastical situations in comics is that the best way to get an audience immersed into the strangeness of the world is to play the fantastical situations straight. Julie – the central figure at the heart of Beatrix Urkowitz’s comic, The Lover of Everyone In the World is right there in the title – she's the lover of every adult person in the world. Rendered in black-and-white, with Julie herself being a white or white-passing woman of average height and build, framed as beautiful and desirable even as she herself is realistically shown with signs of aging and pudge on her belly. Julie’s lovers are framed in much the same way, being adult people of varied body types, races, and ages whose lives are so different and diverse that the only common dominator seems to be that they’re all dating Julie, that she loves them and that they love her. Julie is absolutely content in her role of being a pliable love interest, and in the first section of the comic, so do her lovers – or so it would appear. Julie has reached a polyamorous’ dream by the looks of it, being able to balance a love life filled with meaningful relationships with every lover she has – and this would lead to her downfall.
In a lot of other art that discusses serious subjects, an artist might render the figured in their art to be super photorealistic in order to get a grim tone of the piece across to any potential readers. In The Lover of Everyone In the World, the figures are very solid, but also plush – more clay mold than chiseled granite. The gummy and stretchy nature of Beatrix Urkowitz’s artwork lends well to the often fragile workings of The Lover of Everyone In the World’s general story, making all the figures in the comic feel real and touchable even as they’re disappearing off-screen or just resting there at the corner of the page. This intimate and imperfect rendering of Julie and her lovers implies their own intimacy and imperfections. As Julie’s lovers get more intimate in their stories about her, they find that while she is kind and attentive, she can never be enough for them alone. In this section of the comic, the lovers portraits’ turn from thigh up, to chest up, to hand, to blank page full of words, their bodies disappearing as they get more emotionally honest but further away from the person they love most, eventually losing themselves in the actual lettering of the stories they tell about her.
The feeling of "sonder" comes about when you begin to realize that everyone has as complex a life as your own, which they are constantly living in despite one’s lack of awareness of the inner workings of the other person’s live. The tragic role that Julie takes in The Lover of Everyone In the World is that she is that she does know the inner workings of everyone in the world due to her own polyamorous romantic relationships with everyone. This comes to a head in the second section when Julie’s lovers each give a monologue about her to the reader, sharing their shared experiences in dating her. “No matter what music I put on, she likes it,” one lover says. “We talk about her like the weather … ” says another. There is one quote that really struck me when reading this section that encapsulates the feeling of dating Julie when an elderly woman, states “She forgives everything. That’s too rare not to love. Sometimes it’s infuriating.” Julie is willing to be whatever she needs to be and whomever she needs to be to her lovers, and while that is comforting to them, and perhaps even charming a good deal of the time, it’s impossible for Julie to completely take in all of her partners’ feelings and individual boundaries when she also insists in continuing relationships with everyone, even people who have hurt some of her lovers. In order to maintain a relationship, one must uphold a level of respect towards the person they’re in a relationship with – this can include in them abiding by some sort of social boundary on behalf of their loved ones. Julie can't do this. She’s loving and living for everyone else. Julie puts herself up to make others happy, and in the process, this has hurt the people she loves with all her heart – again, Julie is in a relationship with every single person in the world in this comic. Being there for someone is important, but being everyone’s everything will spread you thin, and no matter how much Julie might consent to her own erasure, the people she cares about are still their own people. Being their own people means they can make their own choices: and this includes dumping Julie.
One of the fun things about a fantastical premise like this is that no matter how wacky the situation is, it can always be grounded by an emotional core – and Julie is the emotional core of The Lover of Everyone In the World. Julie has been taught what a lot of women have been taught – that if you give your all to a relationship, you’ll be given love in return. This is technically true in Julie’s case – many of her lovers do love her very much, but a good chunk of them don’t really like her as a person. Julie gives her all to all of them, but due to the growing resentment, betrayal and interpersonal upheaval, Julie ends her relationships with all of her lovers who all ultimately come to view her as a habit they must drop. They teach Julie to set boundaries by setting boundaries with her, and the comic ends with Julie alone, and this is the first time we truly see Julie as herself for herself. And it’s hard to be empty of all the people that she loves. A quick but heart-wrenching read. Recommended!