Or – “I’m Probably Not Cool Enough To Read This…”
In my duties as a Major Spoilers writer/editor/bon vivant/playboy, I sometimes feel guilty about my complicitness in the thought process that “Comics=Soopa-Heroes.” I am a comics fan AND a super-cape fan, admittedly, and the industry is geared towards presenting the ongoing adventures of guys in ludicrous suits punching people (not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with that) but I’ve also got a lot of series near and dear to my heart that are off the beaten path. It may seem a bit odd for Boom Studios to publish this anthology series inspired by the legendary New York rock venue, but at least no one can complain about Mary Jane or time-traveling multimillionaires…
Previously, on CBGB: CBGB (Country, Blue Grass, and Blues) was a music club at Bleecker Street in New York City. Founded by Hilly Kristal in 1973, it was originally intended to feature its namesake musical styles, but became a forum for American punk and New Wave bands like Ramones, Misfits, Television, the Patti Smith Group, The Voidoids, The Cramps, Blondie, and Talking Heads. The storefront and large space next door to the club served as the “CBGB Record Canteen” (record shop and cafe) for many years. Eventually, in the late eighties, the record store was closed and replaced with a second performance space and art gallery, named “CB’s 313 Gallery”. The gallery went on to showcase many popular bands and singer-songwriters who played in a musical style more akin to acoustic rock, folk, jazz, or experimental music, such as Dadadah, Toshi Reagon, and The Shells, while the original club continued to present mainly hardcore bands and post-punk, metal, and alternative rock acts. The club closed in October 2006. The final concert was performed by Patti Smith on October 15 of that year. The stories you are about to here may not have happened at CBGB, but they nonetheless happened AT CBGB…
The first story in this issue immediately grabs me with it’s pacing and it’s words, telling a tale of a young writer in the city in the malaise of the 1970’s, and her ongoing writers block. “Words were my currency, and my deficit was growing daily,” she says, and I LOVE that metaphor. Interestingly, this piece is written by Ana Matronic (probably not her real name), the lead singer of the Scissor Sisters, who paints a very realistic portrayal of a struggling artist drawn into the life of the club-goers and bands, and ends up finding her muse in rock journalism. The whole story reminds me of the kind of thing you used to find in the pages of “hate” or “Negative Burn” in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s a very human, very telling piece, and Ana’s words are accompanied by wonderfully nuanced and personal art by Dan Duncan. The story ends with our protagonist realizing that even if she isn’t the novelist she wanted to be, she is a PART of something, something larger than herself. I got a little misty-eyed at the ending and her revelations, to tell the truth.
In our second piece, there’s an about-face in tone and art, as the realism gives way to a psychedelic color explosion (but in a good way) with the guts of an old-school EC Comics monster-preachy in “Oozy Susie Q-Tip.” My days of alternative comics in the 80’s gave me a strong stomach for gross-outs, grotesqueries and general pseudo-sexual oddity, so I wasn’t bothered by the tale of a young girl who undergoes a… shall we say, dramatic transformation, in the audience of her favorite group, with a strange and phallic upshot. Just know that if you read this, there’s some stuff going on that might throw Enid Strict into a conniption, and that neither Mr. Chick nor Mr. Wildmon would approve of the imagery, but damn if it isn’t ebullient in it’s portrayal of borderline body horror/squickiness. “Mr. Sheldon” delivers the goods here, with trippy visuals, a cute-as-a-button protagonist, and even a quiet lesson in the dangers of conformity, if you look hard enough.
I’ll admit it: I didn’t know how this book was gonna work, telling stories of a 70’s rock club in what I consider to be a retro-80’s style, flying solo in the year 2010, but I stole a page from Rodrigo’s book, and thus have to remark: I liked it! It’s kind of a brave experiment, designed to appeal to people who might not normally be part of the mainstream comic book experience, and that’s alright. CBGB’s itself is as gone as the 80’s independent comics boom that this inevitably reminds me of, but Boom! has a winner on their hands here. It’s pretty, and even though the two tales don’t mesh, their very incongruity makes them fun to “hear” back to back, like my favorite anime movie, ‘Robot Carnival.’ It ain’t for everyone, and it doesn’t have any superhumans in it, but CBGB #2 is still a good read with nice-looking art, and a few things to say about the nature of reality and the people what live there, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. If a 40ish geek from Kansas can approach this material and find it compelling, they’ve done their job well. (Just don’t tell anyone what my favorite band is probably The Monkees… I’ll never recover that lost respect.)
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Can anybody tell me what “OMFUG” means on the CBGB sign?