If you are anything like me, you are sick and tired of mainstream comic serials A guy can only take so many soap opera-esque plots before he wants to shoot himself in the head. No, what I want is SUBSTANCE from my comics. I don’t need heroes that can fly, fight crime and so forth. What I want is just to be entertained by unique stories that don’t feel like they have already been shoved down my throat time and time again. To the casual comic book reader though, it may seem like that is all that is out there. Well I have good news for you! There are tons of comics out there that aren’t made by either DC or Marvel and that don’t have anything to do with super heroes!
Without going into too much detail about it, the godfathers of regular joe type comic books have to be Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb. Harvey Pekar was just a regular joe like you and me. He worked as a file clerk at a hospital while he created his comics. Only problem was, Harvey sucked at drawing. That’s where Robert Crumb comes in. Robert Crumb (known by many for the Fritz The Cat movie and comics), who was already making comics by the time he met Harvey, saw what Harvey was writing and lent his drawing expertice to Harvey’s stories. American Splendor was born. Harvey continued to make American Splendor with various artists up until his death in 2010. These guy really made the every day joe comics for what they are today. If you want to know more about them, watch the movie American Splendor. You won’t be disappointed.
But, I digress, although American Splendor is a classic American series, it is not one of the comics I want to talk about today.
The Poor Bastard by Joe Matt
The Poor Bastard is an autobiographical graphic novel set in Toronto, Canada. It follows the author as he gripes and grumbles about how he can’t get women. I know, I know, this sounds really emo and stupid but trust me, it’s better than it sounds. The comic starts off with Joe fantasizing about women while servicing himself. This basically sets the tone for the rest of the book. He is living with his girlfriend who loves him but that does not seem to matter to Joe. This guy just can’t be happy with what he has. The story moves along as Joe slowly destroys his relationship while he chases other girls, only to be miserable in doing so.
This plot might sound horrible to many of you but you really learn to enjoy hating Joe. The character gets whats coming to him and its satisfying to read. Not only that but I really enjoy the author’s art style. It has a simple, but layered look to it that makes it fun to absorb. It also has my favorite, over the top, detailed close ups of funny faces. God that shit gets me every time.
Possibly the best, and the scariest part of the story is that you find yourself relating to Joe in certain ways. You watch this guy act like a total asshole for the entirety of the comic, all the while trying to ignore the nagging feeling that you have possibly been the same way in your relationships. I highly recommend this book!
Buddy Does Seattle by Peter Bagge
Buddy Does Seattle is another partially autobiographical novel following the character of Buddy, a dirty slob living in Seattle during the grungy 90s. I was kinda put off by the style of this comic at first. It looked too Sunday morning news paper to me. However, after the first few pages I was hooked. The story goes, Buddy and his best friend (kinda) Stinky have been traveling around America after growing up in New Jersey. They end up settling in a two bedroom apartment with another guy, George, in Seattle. They manage to do this by having Stinky sleep in a storage pantry, which he states is actually a good gig for him. Buddy works at a crappy book store while Stinky just wheels and deals to skimp by. All the characters of this comic is what makes it so great to read. Seattle during this time period was the hip place to be considering it was the birth place of grunge, which was the in music at the time. Also much like Joe, Buddy has an affinity for the fairer sex, although he is not half as wishy washy about getting them.
Buddy Does Seattle is a story that keeps you interested with the relationships and interactions that Buddy seems to fall into. Buddy and Stinky don’t have any shame when they chase after ladies, and they do it in their own unique ways. Even George, their hermit roommate, has some fun interactions with girls. And it just wouldn’t be entertaining if the girls were at all sane would it? Buddy seems to rectify this by getting drunk on a regular basis. Although he is a penny pincher, he will spend what he has on decent beer.
As I said, the art style might take some getting used to for some. All the characters features are exaggerated and unrealistic. In the end though, this only makes you enjoy the characters more. For instance, one of Buddy’s friends named Lisa, is a gal with terribly low self esteem, ugly and lost, who tries to get love by basically making herself a skank. Her cartoony character design really expresses this well though by having her always looked so disheveled and hunched over. At one point she actually ends up wearing a burlap sack. The style of this comic makes the story so much more expressive by having the characters drawn in such a cartoonishly over-the-top sort of way.
This comic is really geared towards 20 something males who are too old to be emo about chicks, but too young to have much direction in life. The main character is easy for me to relate to as I also, am bitter and jaded about life. So if you like to be bitter and jaded, or maybe you like to laugh at people who are, THIS IS THE STORY FOR YOU!