Tales of the City

Very little came out this week that’s worth talking about (except for the DC reprints of Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen by Jack Kirby. But I want to talk about that for when it got really weird), so it’s to the back catalogue and one of my all-time favorites (pop-pickers). Minimum Wage by Bob Fingerman, published by Fantagraphics.

The graphic available at the moment is the re-mastered version called Beg The Question, which Fingerman re-drew from scratch, updating and deleting scenes from the first two graphics and bringing all the comics into one volume ( except the issues from Eros Comics). Fingerman likes to call this the definitive collection but if you can, get all three to give a fuller story. Some of the deleted scenes are very funny.

Anyway, Beg the Question tells the tale of Rob and Sylvia. A couple very much in love and the trials and tribulations that life can throw at them. It’s rare to see a graphic novel that deals with the important things in life like sex, death, marriage, abortion and religion. But Fingerman juggles his characters beautifully without making clichés out of them and the setting of New York with all its grotesques and seedy places feels real and true to life. There’s no great plot to tell of but that’s one of the reasons I like the book. Real life can be just one day to the next but it doesn’t have to be. It’s funny, sad, argumentative and full of questions (like. Why do humans like dried leaves in boiled water? (“Wow, it’s a biggie “. Eddie the Computer)). Even better if you have the partner of your life to share it with.

Some of the stories ring very true to life. The adventures at a comic-book convention. Getting your books signed by a favorite author. Worrying about being a freelance illustrator and taking degrading jobs to keep you going. Friends who come through for you or are just plain irritating. It’s all here and I defy anybody not to recognize something that’s happened to them in the book. It could also answer the greatest question that has puzzled psychologists all over the world. Why DO men like porn? *

Looking at the original art for Minimum Wage and then the re-mastered version can be jarring at first but it grows on you and of course it’s all about growth for an artist. The writing is taut, if a little knowing and pop culture based. Some of the references can go above anyone who doesn’t know modern American culture too well, but this just brings home the fact that we are reading about New Yorkers.

A thoroughly recommended read, to be read with your partner.

Beg The Question is available in hardback from all good comic-book shops, priced £17.95

* We just do, is the answer

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