Adrian vom Baur’s webcomic Hipsters came to an end last month after an almost three-year run (five, if you count the time vom Baur was selling it in print at conventions). But, like, whatever. You’ve probably never even heard about it.
The timing, though, seems to be about right. When The Daily Dot is calling Ronald McDonald a “selfie-snapping hipster,” then the term has lost a lot of its mystic cachet. Do hipsters even exist anymore? Did they ever? I remember some young acquaintance of mine, channeling an old Cat and Girl comic, contending there was no such thing as “hipsters.” Perhaps they’re imaginary creatures, like unicorns, jackalopes and elephants.
Which makes it incredibly appropriate that the cast of Hipsters typically encounters imaginary monsters. Leo, Nike and his friends in terribly gaudy vintage clothing meet monsters, zombies and vampires in quick succession, treating each challenge with their signature air of feigned indifference. In a weird way, their general disinterest in anything outside of vintage stuff gives them an edge. “That’s just so retro!” Leo says after hearing a plan to stake a vampire through the heart. Nike agrees. “Downright post-ironic!”
While all the smug “you probably haven’t even heard of them” jokes do get old after about the 50th time, there’s something charming about these hipsters. A few go on subtle character journeys; Nike seems the first of the group to break the stereotypical behavior, as she chooses kindness over trendiness when she befriends a nice frat boy. (Who … spoiler alert! … turns out to be a robot.) Leo is the most abrasive, going to great lengths to be cool before everyone else. However, even he undergoes personal improvement: He begins the comic thriving on irony and hating things as soon as they become popular, but there are signs that he’s really just a huge nerd. At a Pokemon convention, he and a fellow hipster nervously try to pass it off as an ironic fixation, but they eventually bond over their shared obsession. His armor of irony completely falls apart when it comes to Nike, and his insistence about nonconformity and an open relationship is swept aside if it means losing her.
The “Hipsters in Hell” storyline is the perfect way to end the series. Leo dies, and a distraught Nike charges through the gates of Hell to find him. What they discover is patterned after Dante’s Inferno, only specialized for hipsters. There are punishments for wearing vintage tees that were bought new and at full price — then lying that they were picked up at a thrift shop. Women who got those mustache tattoos on their fingers get tossed in a mud pit with the men for having ironic mustaches (“No man has ever seriously grown a mustache,” explains Stalin). Hipsters, for all their talk about “nonconformity,” sure latch on to the exact same memes. Eventually, they find Leo, who’s being tossed out of Hell because he’s way too faithful to Nike … and devotion has no place there.
In a way, vom Baur both mocks and celebrates the hipster culture. Sure, hipsters can be abrasive hypocrites, always competing with each other at digging up the useless, obscure trivia. But they’re also creative, combining crazy new fashions out of unconventional materials. A scarf made of VHS tape? Sure, why not! They have a strong respect and love for history. The webcomic ends with these weirdos discovering that they really do have each other. And also that they’re stranded in space.
The Hipsters book is published by Jazam! and will only be available in German. Vom Baur, though, has left open the option for an English language version if the demand is strong enough. But whatever. It’s not like you can totally appreciate Hipsters outside the original German language version anyway …