It's amazing how many people with the word “crab” in their names are surprisingly interesting and attractive (e.g., Miss Crabtree in the old “Our Gang” comedies). Jennifer Caban, working as Molly Crabapple, is no exception to this rather hastily made-up rule. Tonight, she and longtime artistic companion John Leavitt celebrate her first graphic novel, Scarlett Takes Manhattan. It's a queer kind of fable: pitiful Bowery girl Shifra Helfgott defies the social caste system of Gotham's Gilded Age (1865-1901) and becomes the world's greatest pyrovore. Imagine if she met legendary fartiste Le Pétomane on an adventure in Paris! More impressive than the usual cavalcade of burlesque clichés is the fact that Crabapple turned her back on the seductive world of Draw Tippy and founded a chain of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art Schools, of which there are now 50 branches, all embracing the figure-drawing of pretty girls in their scanties and less.

Wed., July 15, 7 p.m., 2009

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