My interest in punk rock is non-existent. Which didn't stop me from asking my library to get me Punk Rock and Trailer Parks by local area cartoonist "Derf" [SLG Publishing; $15.95]. Between his My Friend Dahmer of several years back and his ongoing comic strip "The City", the guy has earned my attention.
This coming-of-age graphic novel revolves around high-school senior Otto, who calls himself "The Baron," and two friends who are also into punk rock. The Baron's life starts taking some intriguing turns when he and his buddies go to nearby Akron, Ohio, for a night at "The Bank," a legendary punk rock hall located in an actual bank that went bust. Through several wild-but-believable circumstances, Otto gets a job at the Bank.
"Believability" is key to this graphic novel. The high school and the punk rock stuff are never too outlandish to be accepted as reality. It helps that Otto, his friends, his coworkers, his fellow students, and the musicians - some of them real-life musicians who performed in Akron - are all easy to accept as based on people Derf might have known. I'm especially enamored of Becky, a short, squat born-again Christian student who demands equal time for Creationism in biology class and who is pregnant out of wedlock. By the end of this book, I liked her a lot.
Punk Rock and Trailer Parks is funny, poignant, and tragic. It held my interest from start to finish and delivered a satisfying conclusion. It earns the full five Tonys.
Edited by Rantz Hoseley, Comic Book Tattoo [Image; $29.95] is impressive just for the mere fact of its existence. An anthology of 51 comics stories based on the songs of Tori Amos, it's an enormous 11-3/4" square book of 480 pages that weighs six pounds. A special edition hardcover sells for $75 and weighs eight pounds and, yes, I'm "vamping 'til ready" here.
My first and only exposures to Amos before this anthology was the knowledge that she was a fan of Neil Gaiman's and that, when I saw her on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, I didn't much like her. She appeared displeased to be there and was borderline rude to the host. That negative first impression stayed with me during her musical performance. No big. There are lots of musicians and actors and TV hosts I don't like.
But, y'know, anyone who likes comics enough to get involved in a project like Comic Book Tattoo and lets some 80 artists and writers have at her songs earns another chance with me. So here I am, reviewing the book.
The book is crazy with variety. There are stories by artists I know and artists I never heard of. There are lots of different, intriguing styles. Some of the stories are very good, some are not. Those that fall in the latter category for me were either clunkily abstract or pretentious in their storytelling. Those I liked most were the ones that actually told stories. No surprise in this as it echoes my tastes in music as well.
Comic Book Tattoo is too massive an effort for me to judge on my usual scale. It's a book that one can return to on a regular basis because the good stories are worth rereading and the others, well, maybe they'll work the second time around. And I'm more than a little astonished at Image bringing this book in at a cover price of only thirty bucks. That's almost bargain-priced for 480 pages of new comics material. So...no rating for this book, which shouldn't be taken as a dismissal. It's just a one-of-a-kind thing you must check out for yourself. I recommend you do so.
TONY ON THE ROAD
I'll be in Philadelphia on May 15-16 for the Glyph Comics Awards ceremony on Friday night and the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention on Saturday. It would be great to see some of my online readers there.
In this week's Tony Polls questions, we start a special three-week "THEY'RE NOT DEAD YET" COMICS IDOL competition. Taking a swipe at the Big Two's unwillingness to employ the writers of the 1970s on a steady basis, we'll be listing twenty writers of that decade and their signature features.
You'll cast three votes in this first phase of the competition and, for the following week, narrow the list down to ten writers you'd like to see writing their features on a regular basis. Then, in the final week, you'll vote on which of the five finalists you'd like to see writing his feature on a regular basis.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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