Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

things comickal

-- things comickal -- fun queer comics of 2008 - the honorably mentioned section

Looking back at notable queer comics published, either in print or on the web, in 2008. The criteria for "queer" is relatively loose, but relates only to content: some sort of relevant appearance by/use of queer characters and themes -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgenter, etc. It had to mean something to the story, but it didn't have to be about any given queer aspect. It didn't have to be about coming out, or angsting over being or not being gay, or anything like that. As you'll see, the main characters didn't need to be the ones who were themselves queer. And people didn't have to be uplifting or relentlessly honorable -- some of them are not at all nice.

For this first part, we have the honorable mentions, or, Stuff that didn't make the main final list, but is still worth a look:

Adam and Andy by James Asal:


As the title states, it's about Adam and Andy, long time partners (... Who may have last names, but I don't have the slightest idea what they are.) They have a house in the suburbs (...I think), and seem to be living the gay American Dream. We see them at work, at home, at play, their friends and neighbors. We see how they've been changing -- one of the running jokes is about how they're no longer the hardbodies they used to be, despite the workout equipment in the basement. It's a sweet, gentle story.

Structurally, more or less a weekly gag strip. Asal's been expanding the strip in different directions over the past year, so the story has been flexing and changing quite a lot. Updated weekly, the continuing storylines move veeeerrrry sloooooowly. It's fun and it's a good read, it just takes a while to get where it's going. It's not terribly difficult to keep track, in part because Asal has relatively few characters and keeps the focus on an individual storyline until it's run its course. (That said, long-running storylines per se are a fairly new thing to this particular strip.)

The Alcoholic (Jonathan Ames/Dean Haspiel; DC/Vertigo)

In which we learn about the life and times of Jonathan A, who may or may not be Ames. It's basically the story of A's life in alcoholic fits and starts. We start in 2001, where A comes out of an alcohol blackout in a car with a much older woman, with whom he may or may not have had sex. We then flash back to the beginning of his drinking days as a teenager, when he used to hang out with his best friend Sal. They loved each other, in that intense and romantic way that adolescents do, and eventually more or less accidentally have sex with each other. Unfortunately, it seems to throw both of them off balance; Sal reacts by pushing A to the margins of his life, and A reacts by drinking to bury the pain of being pushed away from his closest friend. And somehow ... he just never really stops drinking. He goes into rehab, but that doesn't quite stick. He has some spectacularly disastrous relationships with women -- there was never any particular doubt that he's more or less straight, after a certain amount of understandable early floundering. And eventually -- far too late -- he meets Sal again, under some very changed circumstances. But this isn't a story about that meeting, particularly; that's just one event in a very appallingly eventful life. It's really the story of A and his addiction to alcohol -- and later, other drugs -- and how that wreaks havoc on the rest of his life.

I really love Haspiel's art. It's a bit less angular, I think, than his style for his Billy Dogma stories, and a bit more detailed. There are places where I'm not entirely sure it's a fit for the story as a whole -- frankly, there are several times where it seems more interesting and dynamic than the story it's helping to tell.

As a whole, The Alcoholic is an interesting story of a life gone out of balance. It does leave you wondering if A can ever permanently dig himself out of the morass he's made for himself ... and if A is really Ames, how much of all of that really happened.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Various writers and artists; Dark Horse)

I actually thought the storyline in which Buffy winds up sleeping with Satsu was pretty well handled. Buffy tried to avoid her, knowing that Satsu was quietly in love with her and that she couldn't return Satsu's feelings, but then winds up falling into bed with her mostly because she's desperately lonely, and Satsu cares. Given that she got involved with Spike, who should have been staked seasons ago, and with Riley who got himself involved with vampires, a one-night stand with Satsu really barely registers on Buffy's bad romantic/sexual decisions index. And the part where they decide not to tell anyone, followed almost immediately by a parade of people with urgent business coming into Buffy's bedroom, was well-done comedy. The part where Willow grilled Satsu on Buffy's bedroom skills, not so much. Satsu eventually -- eventually -- winds up coming out of the relationship just fine, once she accepts that she and Buffy Will Never Be.

In more fun tales of lesbians elsewhere, we discover that we haven't seen Kennedy because Willow's been trying to keep her out of the way, someplace where she won't get captured or killed ... well, on the one hand, given Willow's romantic history, it's understandable. On the other, given that Kennedy's a slayer who was in on the last apocalypse, it's kind of unbelievable, as well, both that Willow would do that, and that Kennedy would tolerate it as long as she does. So something good, something not so good, but as a whole, still noteworthy.

Kyle's Bed and Breakfast by Greg Fox:

basically a soap opera, telling us of the lives of the many people who flow in and out of Kyle's Bed and Breakfast. I really like this strip. It has a fairly diverse cast, and the artwork is generally very good -- though the art can get a bit strange. (Seriously, this strip just looks odd. Breyer's not-really-sleeping position looks weirdly stiff -- though I think that may be deliberate -- and in the final frame, his head looks like it's about to come right off. I'd also note that the entire strip is about an argument that we never saw, which is awkward storytelling for characters you don't see that often.)

The comic updates once every two weeks, more or less, and it's got a cast far too large for its update frequency. (Understand that I am not saying, "Oh, woe is we! Why doesn't he do that five days a week? Then we could have all the comic goodness we want!" Seriously, the guy's got a life, and this don't pay the bills. I get that, really.) The cast page doesn't include most of the characters and the older archives were taken offline to put into the book, so you have no real way of figuring out who people are in context, no way to quickly remember, "Oh, yeah, that's how the guy in the wheelchair came into the story." Especially given that it does take place in a bed and breakfast -- you have both a certain amount of regular cast, but also a reasonably high rate of turnover, because that's what a B&B does -- it can be very difficult to figure out who's connected to who, who's permanent and who's a guest, what the heck is going on, and who is that guy in the green sweater on the far right, anyway?

Punch an' Pie by Aeire and Chris Daily:

I wanted to include this one on the main list, so, so much. I really like this series, primarily about a young woman learning to be on her own and her varied and sundry friends and their lives. But ... but there really wasn't any technically appropriate content in 2008. In 2007, yes. That year, Angela and Heather had a relationship that eventually came a-cropper over Angela's persistent and unwarranted jealousy issues. In 2008, however, while neither of them was precisely over the relationship, they didn't really gotten involved with anyone else, either; the storyline focused on friends and jobs and other things. They're just getting on with the rest of their lives. Plus, to the extent that anything seems to be happening, Heather's had a couple of apparent rebound flings with Aiden, which is, you know, all heterosexual and stuff.

Shortpacked by David Willis:

fun and wacky hijinx of a retail toy store, featuring a gay guy who only figured that out a couple of years ago, the virgin and "my lesbian", and an apparently bisexual asshole. Oh, and Faz. It's fun to read, it's just ... well. One could send the "Mike sleeps with everyone for revenge over uncommitted slights" storyline to GLAAD and watch their heads explode. (Oh, the temptation...) And yet ... it does have its weirdly sweet moments, every now and again. Of course, they never end well...

Sleazy Pizza (Ryan Roman; act-i-vate.com; adult and NSFW due to depictions of sex and nudity)


Originally, I was going to put this on the main list. I really do think it's a facinating, trippy, well-drawn comic. That said, it's hard to get around the author's assertion that it became "chaotic and disjointed" near the end. (I liked it anyway. In part because I just plain like Roman's artwork, but in part because I wanted to see where he was going to take it next, and how it could possibly work.)

Sleazy Pizza tells the story of Nolan and Jon, starcrossed lovers if ever there were any. Though it doesn't seem that way at first. They find each other, they start a relationship ... and then it goes bad, and they break up. Nolan realizes that he's made a horrible mistake and tries to find J.J. again, but all of J.J's friends are hiding him from Nolan. Eventually, Nolan gets someone to tell him where to find J.J. -- at a certain cost to Nolan and the other guy both -- and their relationship begins again. And then it suddenly veers and turns into a sort of sequel to Roman's earlier comic "Kid Zero". ("Kid Zero" has the most fascinatingly grand guignol ending -- and middling and occasional other goriness -- of a superhero comic that I've ever seen. I'd link to the ending, but unfortunately, it's on act-i-vate's livejournal site, and act-i-vate's LJ archive is a mess. This is the last part I can find, with links to all the earlier parts, but I'm not sure it's the actual end, as I remember it. But I digress.)

Seriously, though, some of the places where you can see it kind of heading into odd territory are really interesting and well-done. You even got occational outbreaks of Meat Loaf, sort of. Any road, Roman seems to be reeling the comic back in -- sort of -- with the current volume, and, weirdly, has maintained the fascinatingly trippy tone even though the story is more grounded so far. The current volume seems to be about actions that have consequences, even though you may not have been in full control of your actions at the time. It'll be interesting to see where it goes.


Coming up next: the main list! (Do not even think about asking when "next" is.)

Questions? Comments? Cigars, cigarettes, Cigarillos?

Posted by iain at 06:09 PM in category things comickal