Welcome back this grand experiment wherein we look for answers to some seminal questions: “What happens when you take normals to a comic book store?” “What hidden nerdy desires do we all hide deep within the recesses of our hearts (or on our t-shirts)?” and of course, “How difficult is it to wrangle a group of busy people during the months often used for vacationing?” The answer to that last one is “real difficult.” (Did you know there are people who use their weekends to go to the top of a mountain and then go down the mountain, piece by piece, on wooden things? This sounds like science fiction, but they call it “snowboarding,” and it apparently only sounds like torture.)
Last time we saw what Andrew and Alex thought about Screw On Head and Sgt. Rock, respectively. I only have one more participant’s response this time, but it’s meatier than the last two, and I’m going to be pretty away from computers for a week or so, so I thought I’d post what I have. So meet Melissa. When I first started teaching, she was the art teacher at my school. She later moved on to working in film. So, in a way, she’s like the Reverse Joe Rice, but pretty much only in that way. Melissa picked three books, but for the purposes of this column, she chose one of those to write up. In my opinion she chose this brilliantly, because even I don’t have a clue what “Executive Assistant” is outside of illegally downloaded pornography the workplace. Without further ado:
Melissa N. on 100% by Paul Pope
Name: Melissa N.
Age: [ed. note: she left this blank, so I am going to assume she is immortal and has inside her blood of kings]
Occupation: Educator /Producer/ Editor of non-fiction media
Place of Origin: Brooklyn born, Jersey bred. Deal with it.
Website/Project/twitter/whatever you’d like to plug: www.passitonfilm.com [ed. note: really good film about relating the civil rights’ movement to today’s kids]
What sort of history do you have with comics? Did you ever read? Do you sometimes read? I vaguely remember reading some of my dad’s old old comics as a kid. Recently, I’ve read a handful of graphic novels- nothing that I think would be considered connoisseur material- just stuff that has been suggested by friends. I’ve never gotten into any particular series- there always seems to be so much back story that I don’t know, that I probably miss most of the nuance. I’m not even sure how to talk about comics.
What would you say you nerd out for in life? (Football, cooking, porcelain miniature houses) Any particularly nerdy lengths you’ve gone to/stories to tell? I nerd out on a lot of things for brief periods of time…. footnotes and appendices, cooking, documentaries, Nat Geo and assorted random trivia. I’m more of a dabbler than a nerd.
If you drank with us, what did you drink? Yuengling, I think.
What comic did you choose? Paul Pope’s 100% , based upon Joe Rice’s recommendation and a few teasers (Gastro strippers- sign me up!?) of what I might find inside.
Why did you choose it? See above. Also, I’m a sucker for anything dark/ post-apocalyptic or dystopian.
Now here is the meat of the piece, which I hope might involve some back-and-forth questioning. What did you like and what didn’t you like about:
the story The story is actually three different ‘classic’ romance stories involving loosely connected characters whose lives converge at a futuristic dance / gentleman’s club. You’ve got the bus boy, and female bar tender, the dancer and the dance manager; and a couple of supporting characters from outside the club all connected through various relationships. The arc following the main female protagonist, Kim, stood out as very well developed, somewhat more interesting than the others. Maybe she was just the character I could relate to the most. I found the other two stories a bit more, well cliche; or perhaps adhering too strictly to the canon. That said, I still found them enjoyable, due in part to the clever (not in a bad way) sci-fi elements that were worked into each story, which helped unify the three into one solid piece.
the art The art was absolutely brilliant and by far my favorite element. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but each frame was incredibly rich with detail, and movement and emotion. The larger ‘establishing’ frames (I have a film background so forgive me but the terminology seems to apply) were gorgeous and moody. And the composition through out was exquisite. When I mentioned the incredible artwork to our fearless leader, Joe Rice, he said, “No one else combines American, European, and Japanese cartooning so seamlessly.” I’m still not sure what that means, but I want to see more of it. The only piece of artwork that I did not care for was the cover image- mostly the choice of color.
the format If by format you mean the interweaving of three loosely related stories, it worked fine for me. Pope mentioned this being a departure for him in the index, but I didn’t think it was earth shattering.
the dialogue The dialogue seemed pretty standard, and at times a bit cliche. In some stories it worked better than others. You hardly need it anyway, because the art is that strong.
the characters I have a feeling that some folks are going to disagree with parts of this. My two favorite characters were Kim and Eloy-the bartender and the starving artist. She was the most believable female character, more nuanced the the other two — with a believable emotional range, though no real back story. (that I can remember- correct me if I’m wrong) As for Eloy -I usually abhor the ‘starving artist’ character, especially when written by other artists; but Pope pulled this one off without pissing me off, and writes some lovely scenes between the two.
My second favorite story line/ character pair were Strel and Hatious- street smart dance club manager and her estranged aging fighter. Pope hits the classic story/archetypal characters nail on the head with these two.
I absolutely could not stand the John-the-bus-boy-pines-for-Daisy-the-damaged-stripper story line. That was an example of why men shouldn’t write female characters. I understand the story he was going for. I still hated it/ them.
the concept So, in the index Pope describes the concept as “old-fashioned romance comics of the boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl type, disguised as low-voltage science fiction stories.” I kinda thought it was the other way around… Low voltage science fiction stories disguised as boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl stories…but I may just be over thinking it.
The story is set in NYC in 2038. As a New Yorker, I was amused when I spotted some familiar graffiti tags in the scenery, or recognized a block beneath the detritus of the future. I enjoyed the subtle and even the not so subtle politics- legalized marijuana, massive wars, oppressive police presence- that make their way into the story. And of course, Pope’s imagined use of MRI technology (described in more detail in the index) to facilitate the ultimate strip club and combat sport experience was the little bit of info that got me to buy the book in the first place.
Would you want to read more from this writer? This artist? Of this book/story? Does this make you think of something else you’d want to try? The art is amazing, and I’d definitely like to see more of it. I get the sense that Paul Pope is slightly more of an artist than he is a writer, but I’d even give his writing another shot.
See what I mean about my friends choosing well? Frickin Paul Pope right off the block. I found Melissa’s difficulties with the stripper interesting …the character definitely walks the line of cliche, but something about her really worked for me …it’s been a while, but I felt the end of her arc was more interesting than your average manic pixie girl.
So that’s this installment. Melissa has said she’s definitely down for further outings like this, so that’s three for three on return customers. I WILL MAKE COMICS BOOMING AGAIN ALL BY MY LONESOME! Or at least get puzzled and swap stories.