History Draws to a Clowes
I don't know how many of my faithful fans are also fans of Eightball,
a comic book of pure genius written by Daniel Clowes. Given that Girlygirl is definitely a fan, I have to assume it's at least 50% of my faithful fans. It's also for sure that any Silver Springers who read this are going to have to spend some gas- or bus money to get a copy if they want to become
fans, because while we have a pretty deluxe comic shop in the 'hood, they only sell superhero books.*
Anyway, for a quick primer, look here.
Girlygirl and I are big fans, and amazingly (and in stark contrast to most underground comics**) the appeal seems to remain steady in spite of the increasing years since we graduated college. I thought I'd think publicly here for a minute (and only a minute, since I'm running rapidly out of lunch hour) about what the appeal is.
For sure, the appeal is shared by a number of things, as noted in my last essay: Freaks and Geeks
, Napoleon Dynamite,
and Ghost World
come to mind. The last is because he wrote it, of course. For me, anyway, these cultural offerings have a common thread--the reality, or at least the personal sense, of what it is to be a total lame-o, as defined by the beautiful or popular people. Revenge of the Nerds
was an attempt to define the world of the geek in terms that beautiful people can understand. The nerds win. A true nerd knows that the nerds never win at what the beautiful people want to win at. As soon as nerds figure out how to be cool, the bullseye of cool is, and must be, shifted by the beautiful people. ROTN
for the nerds. Not for us,
if you will.
(and it's kin) is
for the geeks. Clowes understands that most people are ugly and maladjusted for at least part of their lives, and that the feeling of being that way lasts long after the outward signs are gone***. He understands that nerds never win--the very definition of nerd-hood precludes it. Nerds either stop being nerds, stop competing with the beautiful people, or most likely, keep on losing, even if it's only in their own minds. With that said though, I need to point out that Clowes (like me) doesn't think that's a bad thing. It's the way the world is, and what we need is perspective on our own geeky suffering, not some kind of cure for it. Eightball
offers us that perspective. And of course, in the comic, the "winners" look like losers too.
Also, the world of Daniel Clowes is inhabited by the "realest" people you'll ever see in a comic book. Even his wildly exaggerated characters, such as "Needle-dick Bug-fucker," or Pogeybait the Samoan, are at their core utterly human. I think probably twice a week I'll notice an "Eightball person" on the street. They don't all look like an Eightball
character--some people just act like one, some people you can just tell are thinking Eightball
thoughts. As weird as the world of Clowes is, those people are out there. You're probably one, at least some of the time.
And of course there's just the fact that Clowes is a brilliant observer of the world writ small. Sure, I think he's got a good grasp of how things work on a macro, historical scale. I also think he's amazing at sorting out the bullshit that just spills from everybody's mouths all the time. Stuff that I might say that seems totally innocuous to me will come out of the mouth of a Clowes creation sounding like the most amazing like of self-serving crap. And I just paid a few bucks for a comic book to call bullshit on me. It's more fun than it sounds.
On top of all that, his stuff is really funny. Except when he's being serious. Then it's not funny--it's almost scary.
OK, lesson over. Was this a crappy posting? Probably--I was interrupted about 50 million times, and didn't have a great idea what I was going to write when I jumped in anyway. But I hope I've encouraged someone somewhere to give something from Daniel Clowes a chance, even if it's just renting Ghost World.
*Now, I'm all in favor of a comic shop that refuses to sell crap like Richie Rich or that goddamned-and-frequently-reviled-by-me Sad Sack, but I think they're really missing out (or maybe I'm missing out) because they don't carry other, more worthy non-superhero fare.
**"comix" in the vernacular of the insider. shudder
***And they almost always do go away. Even the biggest geeks I knew in school are now pretty cool, or at least outwardly normal. Even I appear normal to the casual observer--you'd never know I used to be a total geek loser. Until you talked to me, of course. Beauty's skin deep, but geeky goes to the bone.