In the lead-up to Young Liars ending on (I believe) August 19 with issue 18, I will be rereading the 17 issues already out and discussing them at a rate of one issue per day. I haven’t reread any of these comics since they came out, so it should be fun. Spoilers, of course. Let’s dance!
Young Liars #5, “The Midget & Mr. Johnson,” by David Lapham is the issue that won me over completely. While the book had gotten better since its first issue, it still didn’t have that coveted ‘pull list’ status yet as I was waiting until the sixth issue to make the final call. “The Midget & Mr. Johnson” made the decision for me as this was the singularly most fucked up comic book I’d read since Preacher. Or, as I put it when the book came out, “David Lapham’s Vertigo book continues to shock. Sadie is strangely sweet in this issue, Danny is still an asshole, and HOLY FUCK DID THAT MIDGET JUST DO WHAT I THINK HE DID????? JESUS CHRIST!” So, we’ve come to the midget in the title and the ‘Mr. Johnson’? Why that would belong to Danny… something that Sadie loves, CeeCee has inside of her at one point, and the midget cuts off.
Sudden, shocking castration is a bit of a game changer.
Okay, that’s not the only good thing about this issue, but that moment is so unexpected, so sudden, so shocking that it would go unmatched in making me stop reading and utter a “Jesus!” or “Holy shit!” or “Sweet Christmas!” or whatever else came out first until No Hero #6’s final page. I don’t react that way often (my tolerance for fucked up shit is surprisingly high… although, having lived on a steady diet of Ellis The Comic Writer, Ennis, Thompson, Ellis The Novelist, and the internet, it isn’t that surprising), so something that makes me stop dead should, like, make children weep for days or something, I dunno, I haven’t tested that theory out yet… (I am trying to write a short story currently for a call for submissions where the theme is dinosaur porn… I kid you not. The first line of the story: “Have you ever looked around at the other people on the bus and wondered how exactly they get laid?” Anyway…)
I’ve gotten ahead of myself I do believe. The gang is in Ibiza, Spain, and Danny is depressed/drunk off his ass, convinced that Sadie is out having sex with every man in the city, country, continent, hemisphere, world; Runco and CeeCee try to get him active again, but he chases them away — or, more accurately, Runco is an asshole, so CeeCee kicks him out of the hotel room, and Danny then yells at her and everyone else. Sadie, meanwhile, has just been out partying and getting into a fight/contest with a Brit called Puss-Bag, waiting for Danny to be ready for more sex. Her monologue on his ‘Mr. Johnson’ is damn funny, partly because of the sheer look of glee and joy on her face while she delivers it:
BUT I ONLY WANT DANNY’S MR. JOHNSON… >>SIGHBIGGER MR. JOHNSONS, THICKER MR. JOHNSONS, AND BUMPIER MR. JOHNSONS.
IF THERE’S ANYTHING WORSE THAN GETTING RAPED BY YOUR BROTHER, IT’S GETTING RAPED BY YOUR BROTHER’S BUMPY PICKLE.
SO, I HAVE FIVE FRIENDS. AND THAT’S A GOOD NUMBER, CUZ I CAN REMEMBER ALL YOUR NAMES, AND I CAN THINK ABOUT YOU ALL SIMULTANEOUSLY.
WELL, THERE’S WHAT? LIKE THOUSANDS OF MEN IN THE WORLD AND HUNDREDS OF MR. JOHNSONS.
IF I SPREAD MY LEGS FOR EVERY ONE OF THEM, NOT ONLY WOULD I NOT BE ABLE TO REMEMBER THEM ALL, I THINK THEY MIGHT GET BORING.
BUT WITH ONE… I’VE BEEN GETTING SO HORNY ANTICIPATING DANNY’S WARM ROD POUNDING–
At which points she’s interrupted. While funny (thousands of men, but only hundreds of ‘Mr. Johnsons’?), her speech is also shockingly logical and acts as a counterpoint to CeeCee who we know has a history of sleeping with a lot of men — coincidentally enough just as she and Danny are about to hook up. Oh no? Oh yes.
Danny confesses that he shot Sadie and tells her how it came about. This is prefaced by Danny narrating the issue in self-loathing and depression. We flashback to early 2008 when Sadie was apparently raped by a record producer after getting a limo to earn rent money (that scene was shown in a previous issue) and she shot him as a result. Danny reacts by wanting to call the cops, which leads to a confrontation between the two that’s abusive on both sides and ends with another bullet in the record producer and Danny agreeing to help Sadie after she promises to have sex with him… We know what happens in the alley where they dump the body, but this new information paints that in a new light. Sadie lies to Danny, promising him the one thing he wants most, and then, after receiving his help, mocks him, tears into him viciously, and he shoots her. Both are victims, both are abusers, both are guilty here.
CeeCee confesses that she had an abortion when she was younger by taking pills, and they comfort one another by having sex. Sex that’s interrupted by the issue’s eponymous midget, a Pinkerton that’s been following the group since the ship — he apparently knows Runco and we also see Annie make a call to turn Sadie in to the Pinkertons for a reward — and he reveals that Danny killed one of his brothers and shot another, and can’t understand how a scrawny guy like him could pull that off… maybe it’s his ‘Mr. Johnson,’ since he’s such a ladies’ man? And… slice.
The midget then possibly rapes CeeCee, is interrupted by Donnie and Puss-Bag (at different times), gets stabbed in the eye with a toothbrush and escapes out the window, leaving a naked CeeCee to recover, Danny bleeding from his crotch sans genitals, and things in a very bad position for all involved.
Danny’s self-loathing continues here as, while having sex with CeeCee, he narrates that he’s a bastard, an asshole, and what does he get? Sex with Sadie! When will he get what he deserves? Well, the midget sees to that, don’t you think? At the end of the issue, Danny also tells us that his spasms when the medics try to treat him were him laughing inside, because he got what he deserved — he should have died, but having his penis cut off is fair enough, I guess.
Runco and Annie are both traitors; CeeCee and Danny betray Sadie; only Donnie and new friend Puss-Bag are loyal. Sadie, meanwhile, is… a reformed liar and betrayer?
What this issue really does is show just how little David Lapham cares for traditional storytelling and is unafraid to take things in different, unsettling directions. These are unpleasant people who do unpleasant things, and he doesn’t shy away from that. He doesn’t try to make us like these characters, he hopes we will… Danny, for all his faults, is easy to relate to. He’s sad, he’s pathetic, he brings it on himself, but there’s something about him. And the rest of them, too. They’re selfish liars, but we want to like them. We want them to get away and not get raped and not have their ‘Mr. Johnsons’ cut off.
Why? If these characters are such bad people, are so unlikable, why do we care about them?
See you tomorrow.
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