Monday, August 30, 2004

Fables of the Reconstruction

First: whomever it was that e-mailed me from Atomeka, your e-mail did not contain a return address, and when I tried to reply there was no one to reply to!

Big doings up in here. If you’ve been paying attention to this blog for any amount of time, you should know that I’m a shameless whore in terms of trying to get some money out of this infernal blogging hobby. These are the reasons we now have Google ads and Amazon links and even a Paypal button (which, I will point out, no-one has ever used). Some of you have even bought things at Amazon through my links – for which I thank you profusely.

But I have really outdone myself now. Yes, that’s right, I have my very own CafĂ© Press store, where you can purchase Official “The Hurting” Merchandise. Be the envy of your friends with one of the Hurting’s Official T-Shirts. Drink your coffee in the Official Hurting Coffee Mug. Or just keep your pizza coupons firmly attached with the Official Hurting Refrigerator Magnet.

Personally, I am most proud of the Official Hurting Mousepad – it really must be seen to be believed. Anyone who buys one of these is truly a visionary spirit, a giant among men.

Anyway, there are other cool things afoot. Have I mentioned my wife’s adventures with hair-dye?

That’s her, all right, about 72 hours ago. It’s blue, which is not really what she wanted. She wanted purple. But she bought a new dye this month and it didn’t really turn out like she wanted. But it’s still hella cool, no?

Oni Love Can Break Your Heart - Part IV

Blue Monday: The Kids Are Alright

I did not want to like this book. This is one of those books that all the unwashed masses seem to love in an uncritical and possessive fashion. I love to be a curmudgeon. If everybody likes something, well, there’s always a part of me that is ready and willing to hate it.

Is this a rational critical platform for anyone besides a Comics Journal writer? Oh, hell no. I freely admit that. But the fact is that there have been any number of moderate to overwhelming small press successes that just haven’t been very good, or have been downright horrid, or at the very least overrated - Strangers in Paradise, Bone, Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, The Crow. Of course, each one of these titles was able to find an economic niche, and have proved to be consistent sellers, definite economic bulwarks of the “New Mainstream” I’ve been championing - but that doesn’t mean they’re any good.

So I approached Blue Monday with the skeptical eye of an experienced forensic scientist, ready to enter into a clear and unbiased critical autopsy. The only problem with this plan is that I found myself utterly bewitched.

Chynna Clugston-Major is a very talented cartoonist. She’s influenced by Mad in the same way that Evan Dorkin is, with panels full up with detail and hundreds of tiny super-detailed jokes on every page. Her figures and faces are very much influenced by manga, but more importantly than that, her ink line is directly descended from the smooth, variable brushwork of the early Image artists, specifically the Jim Lee/Scott Williams team. Most manga art (not all, but most of the stuff produced by the major studio artists) has a very consistent fine line approach, as if everything was being filled in painstakingly with a Rapidograph. Somehow the unusual combination works, because her art is extremely accomplished.

The story itself – concerning a quest for sold-out Adam Ant concert tickets - is straight out of any number of teen movies and television sitcoms. But this is not necessarily a sin, considering the fact that so much teenage life is extremely repetitive in nature. The question is not necessarily whether or not the story is unique but whether or not the characters speak with distinctive and believable voices, and act in compellingly believavble and consistently interesting ways. This is perhaps a reason why many of John Hughes’ films continue to be popular twenty years on, and why so many of today’s condescending teen flicks will probably have a very short shelf-life.

The preoccupations and obsessions of her characters ring true, and their behavior – while exaggerated – is recognizably true. There are people like this at every high-school in the world. The line that separates poor and forgettable soap-opera from enjoyable and rewarding entertainment is the extent to which the characters breathe and resonate with our own expectations of life, and in this regard Blue Monday definitely exceeds my modest expectations.

There is one very real problem with this book, however. I just can’t believe that Adam Ant could have sold out a club date this late in his career. Maybe at the height of the whole “New Romance” thing, but seriously . . . after he went off into his Hollywood exile in the late 80s, not very many people cared at all. I just don’t get it, there are so many better artists that Bleu could have been obsessed with, and there’s something undeniably pitiful about being obsessed with a b-list celebrity who can’t even stay out of jail or the mental hospital. Of course, I personally have a Larry Storch shrine in my bedroom, right under my stuffed Kato Kaelin doll.

In any event, I liked Blue Monday a lot more than I expected I would. Its just a fun book, made all the better by Clugston-Major’s commendable ear for authentic character. Its not going to change the world, but I can definitely understand how it has attracted its rabid fanbase. I might just seek out the next books myself.

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