SEXUAL POLITICS is probably the most brutal aspect of being human. the ability or inability to attract a mate or companion and navigate the EMOTIONS, EXPECTATIONS and CULTURAL BAGGAGE that comes with the territory. as awkward as the subject matter can be, cartoonist JOE MATT practically revels in it with unflinching gusto in his autobiographical graphic novel THE POOR BASTARD (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 1997), a repackaging of parts of his highly idiosyncratic PEEPSHOW series.
in essence this graphic novel proves the point that sometimes there really is such a thing as too much information.
MATT presents himself as a shallow, sex-crazed egotist who is constantly seeking his embodiment of "perfect" woman that is obviously a figment of imagination. for all of his SELF-OBSESSION, STUNTED ADOLESCENCE and rampant IMMATURITY, there is a real pathos to all the insecurity he projects on womankind. this expectation of his of their physical perfection doesnt mirror in his own appearance or SELF-IMAGE, even in a comic that he controls. it is as if he wants us to know how pathetic his life is.
reading his comics is highly uncomfortable yet instructive in that it makes the reader question his/her own motivations in the relationships her/he pursues. is MATT really that bad or are well all like him, seeking in others what is not in ourselves. is ROMANTIC LOVE inherently selfish? maybe.
i cant say id recommend THE POOR BASTARD but if anything it is highly interesting. makes me want to red the comic from the perspective of his attempted conquests. itd be interesting to see these women see him. itd be interesting to see what EMOTIONS, EXPECTATIONS and CULTURAL BAGGAGE they project onto other potential love interests and what that says about them.
maybe we are all similar? or maybe MATT is a true degenerate.
i remember years ago watching an early season of THE WIRE with my father, who was born and raised in BROOKLYN, when in frustration he emphatically stated "why am i even watching this? i KNOW these people!" with the exception of the first part of that sentiment, such was also my experience reading MEGAHEX (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2014) by TASMANIAN cartoonist SIMON HANSELMANN.
dealing with characters MEGG and MOGG, a stoner witch and her feline companion, and their many anthropomorphized animal companions; this series has more to do with SUBURBAN MALAISE and the entertainment gained from individual degradation than anything else. its nearest analogue i could think of were REALITY TV shows like KENNY VS SPENNY, JACKASS or maybe even the scripted TV comedy IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA. i couldnt help but come to the conclusion that these characters were the type of parasitic people i avoided in high school and beyond. they are all vampires that seek to suck out your life force and cannibalize each other emotionally.
thats not to say MEGAHEX isnt astoundingly inventive and entertaining. and shocking, with all the PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE that comes with the constant PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL and SUBSTANCE ABUSE found in these panels. HANSELMANN has a colorful, almost cartoon-like style that when coupled with sparse dialogue really makes the MALICE and sheer DEPRAVITY of his character's ugly actions shine through that much more profoundly. its an interesting juxtaposition that doesn't led up throughout this collection of the series first three seasons.
if you are a fan of all things transgressive, then this is the comic for you. it is not for the faint of heart and im very much looking forward to reading further collections by HANSELMANN.
who wouldnt want to relive their high school years? maybe take chances you wish you had or perhaps avoid those you did?
that is the basic premise of TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN (TOP SHELF, 2008) by ALEX ROBINSON which follows a middle-aged protagonist, ANDY WICKS, who is transported back to his awkward high school days while under hypnosis for a longstanding, seemingly unbreakable SMOKING HABIT. what makes this narrative interesting is not the premise, which is well-trodden at this point, but rather the idea that what our MEMORY isolates and presents to us as crucial, identity-forming events in our past is not always the case. yes, we are the end product of our past decisions (which makes the idea of being transported back as a youth with the experiences of an adult confusing and a bit cumbersome), but as individuals we are constantly evolving and our changing PERCEPTION of our own past is a reflection of such identity-shifting.
not sure about you, but i can look to my past actions and pick out a whole slew of events that either point to me being CHARITABLE, HONEST and EMPATHETIC or CRUEL, LETHARGIC and ENVIOUS. its more a reflection of my emotional state that anything objective, because in essence i am all those things and even others i havent considered. it is a part of being HUMAN.
following WICKS' journey through his past is interesting because it shows that even with EXPERIENCE, PERSPECTIVE and EMOTIONAL MATURITY, the limited agency of being an adolescent relegates one to a strict set of options. the adult community basically serves to disempower you of your ability to express yourself, as you are considered a work-in-progress of sorts. as a former teacher, that whole sub-narrative surrounding AGENCY is always fascinating to consider and explore.
ROBINSON's graphic novel is provocatively themed with beautiful, quirky illustrations that showcase the discomforting, often brutal SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS of youth. some of which we never grow out of. great read. highly recommended.
to quote former president GEORGE W. BUSH, "well that was some weird shit."
the graphic novel BLACK HOLE (PANTHEON, 2005) BY CHARLES BURNS, originally a limited twelve-issue series published by KITCHEN SINK PRESS and FANTAGRAPHICS, is a viscerally arresting experience unto itself, with stark, often disturbing imagery that perfectly showcases a harrowing narrative dealing with themes such as the nascent AGENCY, SEXUALITY and physical/emotional VIOLENCE that marks the teenage experience. forget graphic novels, this publication is a case study for the power of image and text as one of the most affecting portrayals of POST-ADOLESCENCE that i have ever come across.
the narrative itself follows a set of small town WASHINGTON STATE high school students in the 1970s who pass on a sexually transmitted disease to one another that grotesquely deforms them. this physical disfigurement also marks a transition for these students in how they relate to the community, their peers and their own bodies. the nudity in BLACK HOLE is far from titillating, moreover it graphically showcases the emotional and psychic distance that the characters have been removed from their physical being. in essence it does not feel that difference from the experience of going through adolescence with the hormonal surges and changes in bodily proportions, textures, smells and appearance.
i can speak from experience that going through that period was disorientating and emotional wrought, which is common. i felt alienated from myself and who i once was as i transformed into this other being. it really was a surreal experience. i really feel BURNS depicts and nails that sentiment with a sense of craft and tact. depictions of often grotesque physical deformities and distressing, surreal nightmares never feel excessive or out of place in BLACK HOLE. moreover they seem to promote the idea of POST-ADOLESCENCE as an experience that garners an immediate need for escape from a perceived claustrophobia brought on by the encroaching responsibilities of adulthood and parental/societal expectation. growing up is hard.
it really is quite the achievement. i recommend BLACK HOLE to anyone interested in GRAPHIC NOVELS, SOCIOLOGY or even TRANSGRESSIVE FICTION. despite its graphic nature and adult themes, in my opinion this is a book with moral center and extreme sensitivity that marks it as a real provocative statement about the lasting psychological trauma that outlives the emotional and physical maelstrom of living through one's POST-ADOLESCENCE. thank god you only have to go through that period once.