Sunday, October 21, 2012

Palookaville 1: Seth Gets Started!

The first issue of Palookaville appears to be an autobiographical account of the time writer/artist Seth was attacked by homophobic thugs on the subway.  Here are some random thoughts on the comic:

*Palookaville originally was spelled with a hyphen as Palooka-ville.  At some point Seth must have changed his mind and made it all one word though.

*Seth's real name is Gregory Gallant.  Seth is his penname.  Perhaps he chose it so he wouldn't appear to be a Stan Lee character come to life (Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, and the list goes on).

*I like the cardstock covers Drawn & Quarterly uses.  It makes their comics stand out from most others, even other alternative comics.  My copy was a second printing from 1994, so I got the improved production values.  The first printing in 1991 was probably not so fancy.

*If you read a lot of indie comics, then you may have met Seth before as a character in Chester Brown's Yummy Fur and Joe Matt's Peepshow.  Brown and Matt also appear as characters in Seth's comics.

*I must have liked Palookaville a lot.  I complain about $2.99 comics now, and Palookaville was $2.95 back in 1994.  I was willing to accept higher prices on indie comics though since they generally had no advertising and so were financially supported entirely by the readers.  I must have fancied myself patronizing the arts.  Along those lines, I have always regarded action figures as the poor person's sculpture gallery.

*The reason that Palookaville is the last bit of my comics collection being reread is that I started reading it before and then realized I was missing issue 15.  I seemed to miss a lot of issue 15s as this happened with a few other titles as well (34 was another problem number).  In any case, I tracked this issue 15 down, but saved the series for last because Seth has been publishing a serialized story called "Clyde Fans" in the comic since 1997 and I was hoping that he might finally finish it.  A new issue of Palookaville is supposed to be out this month, so maybe I'll get lucky.  If not, the series is still going out the door.  I like it a lot, but while downsizing my comics collection from thirtysome boxes down to just one, if I kept everything I liked, then I'd still have thirtysome boxes of comics.  I can always read "Clyde Fans" when the completed story is collected.  Even if I never read the finished story, waiting 16 years for it is probably being patient enough for a reader.  It's especially frustrating when Seth will go off and do another complete graphic novel in the middle of "Clyde Fans", which has happened several times now.  I'm surprised a crazed fan hasn't kidnapped him yet and chained him to the drawing table and told him to finish the damn thing already!  Not that I would ever consider doing that.  If I drove up to Canada, homeland of Seth, I would be too busy gorging myself on Big Turk and Coffee Crisp candy bars to worry about Seth. I might get in a sugar frenzy though and harass rocker Danko Jones about when he's finally going to bring his band to play Cleveland.  

*This issue is a bit gritty for Seth.   He's not exactly a Harvey Pekar everyman type of figure, so much of his work is stylish and nearly-pretentious (he usually dials it back in at the last minute by making fun of his pretensions).  Aside from the stylish art, this issue is straight-up social realism.  A bit of Seth's trademark irony does work his way in.  He gets beat up by homophobic idiots, and he's not even gay.  The jerks just think he is.  This is likely a true story, but with Seth it's hard to tell.  This is the guy who once made up a fake New Yorker cartoonist and then wrote an entire "autobiographical" graphic novel (serialized in Palookaville first) about how he tracked the cartoonist down.

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