With a population a little less than the city of LA there is always something happening.
It is a great place to call home; the best place I've ever lived.
Korea is big on the alcohol though, and I am a man with an unquenchable thirst. After four years of partying in the land of the morning calm I decided that I needed a break and some time to reflect. I decided to participate in the controversial "Master Cleanse". Also called The Lemonade Diet, the Master Cleanse consists of nothing but unconventional, homemade lemonade drinks and various forms of laxatives and herbal teas for ten days. No food.
What does this have to do with a blog about comics? I'm glad you asked. With all of the demands of the weekly pull list I wanted to take some me time to re-visit some of my old favorites, one a day to be precise. These aren't necessarily "the greatest books of all time", but definitely ones you're going to love, I guarantee it. Since we're fairly non-traditional at the HCB as well, I decided to throw in a play by play in the master cleanse process as well.
Box Office Poison
By: Alex Robinson
Box Office Poison tackles post college annui from the comic book perspective. The story follows a cast of different characters through their daily struggles, while taking a few jabs at the big two and championing creators at the same time. It's not the best drawn book on the rack, or the most clever, but it's a great, entertaining read. While it can be pigeonholed into a genre, its a genre that it helped create, not your usual hipster fodder in the slightest. Alex Robinson is a master of great characterization. Each character is interesting in their own way, and each of their vignettes keeps my interest equally, a place where the majority of ensemble books tend to fail. Who wants to listen to "Reek" muttering to himself in a dungeon for forty pages in the middle of an interestingly awesome book? Not me. Get to the good part, guy.
Being from Chicagoland, I'm sure that a New Yorker would appreciate it on an even deeper level. The collected works come in at some 600 pages. Any lover of independent comics, or shows like Lena Dunham's Girls, Reality Bites, or Freaks and Geeks are going to love this book.
Bottomless Belly Button
By: Dash Shaw
Bottomless Belly Button is another weighty tome as far as independent comics are concerned, it comes in at about 700 pages. Keep in mind though that this is merely in page count. The book is pretty sparse when it comes to actual text. There is a really minimalist, spartan-like quality to the artwork, a great use of space, and it is hard to find a better example of a creator utilizing every facet of the medium.
It also has one of my favorite throwaway lines of all time, one sixteen year old girl saying to another: "Beer is the new coffee." I would definitely put this thought provoking masterwork full of richly developed characters in your stack of things to read.
God Hates Astronauts: The Completely Complete Edition
By: Ryan Browne
I know I've been pushing this book hard, but check the archives, I've bashed a good amount of sub par Image books this year. Considering that comedy is all but dead in comics (aside from a few really good tongue in cheek superhero books), Ryan Browne is doing something truly unique in the pages of God Hates Astronauts. I had the signed, Kickstarter version mailed to me by my sister at great expense. My apartment has no less than two custom pieces done by Browne hanging on my walls at this moment. One of my greatest regrets is leaving the sketch that he did of the Anti-Mugger for me in America...terrible life decision. But I do have the Completely Complete Edition with me, and I read it constantly. I'm more than obsessed with this book and the God Hates Astronauts universe. Just like classic Simpsons episodes, the jokes keep getting funnier each time I read the book. Feature writer Will Dubbeld and I have a myriad of inside jokes going about the comic already. More good news for you, the Completely Complete Edition is now at your LCS. You too can bask in the amazing pin-ups, origin stories, and other minutia nerds like us obsess about. Seriously, buy this book today. My copy is my prized possession. You know that scene in Borat where he has that Baywatch book wrapped up in red felt? It's like that, but way more hardcore.
Weight: 215 lb. (-12)
I almost didn't sleep again, pulling a few hours at about dawn. The thing about the Master Cleanse is that I could not see how anyone could do this diet and function normally. Beyonce did it, but her job is to look good. She can sit on her ass for 10 days and eat nothing. It's actually a good career move for Beyonce. It's three pm and I still haven't had my first lemonade yet either. The salt water cleanse, all in, takes a good hour. On top of that, you just lose interest in the lemonade after awhile. It becomes something that is purely for sustenance only, I get no pleasure out of drinking the lemonade at this point. Yesterday was really touch and go, there were some moments where I felt rough, not like quitting, but sick and nauseated and dehydrated. So far today I feel much better, but it was and is almost like my body was going into complete shock. I really hate the salt water cleanse and laxatives too, and I think the laxatives could be contributing to the insomnia. I've lost twelve pounds, but it feels like mostly muscle. I don't really look much different, but I feel very different, for better or worse. From what I've heard most people say that the first three days are the hardest. Cheers to hoping that their theories are correct.
Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story
Writer: Harvey Pekar
Artist: Gary Dumm
My fascination with this graphic novel still perplexes me to this day. The late Harvey Pekar was a mentor of mine, and his writing has had more effect on my life than any other writer living or dead. Not only was he one of the pioneers of biographical sequential art and the independent comic, but he was also uncompromisingly honest. I would tell him repeatedly of his effect on my life, and I'm not completely sure that he ever believed me although his many literary achievements, feature film, and almost deification by the industry should of informed him of his impact on comics and readers long before we ever spoke. Harvey Pekar was a good man, a humble man, and a true genius.
The story of Michael Malice is the complete opposite of Pekar-centric American Splendor stories. Michael Malice is a Randian sadist who enjoys nothing more than treating almost everyone he meets as cruelly and inhumanly as possible, a point of pride for him in fact. He narrates his own tale, and this is what makes it a truly interesting read. One must doubt at least some of what he claims. Keep in mind that this book is 100 percent Michael Malice on Michael Malice. In his own words, he is smarter than 99 percent of the population and was always right throughout his entire life. The final page is him telling the audience that he was always right as a child, right as an adult, and ended up with his dream job because he always firmly held to his convictions. He claims to hold integrity above everything else, but this integrity can be compromised at any time to fit the situation. This happens more than once throughout the book. Although Pekar gets the writing credit, I have read interviews stating that he only served in an editorial capacity (see Facebook Q&A for further clarification). This was agreed upon for marketing purposes, hoping that the American Splendor brand name would help sell more books.
Working as temp by choice out of college, Malice drifts from job to job throughout the second half of the book, insulting almost everyone along the way, and getting himself fired from almost every position due to a self perceived moral conflict with one of his many superiors. He takes pride in being cold-blooded and cruel. This, in fact, is the centerpiece of the book. When rarely admitting a mistake, it's almost always completely glossed over and accompanied by a justification making his decision correct in the end.
Michael Malice leaves "the only woman he truly loved" after she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, almost revels in a childhood friend's suicide, and even disowns his entire family at one point in the story. It is not a very flattering autobiography. The thing about people who are constantly reminding you that they are smarter and better than you, is that usually they're not.
Mr. Malice claims that by bucking traditional, social norms his life has turned out exactly the way he wanted, but you're not rooting for him like you would find yourself rooting for Larry David in Curb your Enthusiasm, who is taking a completely different approach towards doing the same thing, albeit in an attempt at humor. I tried to find research on what he is currently doing today and it seems that he has published a successful humor blog, and has an upcoming autobiography (?) about Kim Jong Il slated to be released soon that was funded by Kickstarter. According to press releases, it is the story of his life told through the use of North Korean myth and propaganda.
Harvey Pekar had a knack for making the uninteresting, interesting. Somehow he knew that people would want to read Malice's story. It's not the feel good story of the year, but it will keep the pages turning. It's a story of contradiction through the eyes of a flawed human being with extremely strong, controversial beliefs. Before American Splendor no one thought that the life of a VA hospital file clerk would make a successful comic. They were all wrong. Pekar continues this tradition in Ego and Hubris. Most people would have written Malice off within the first couple minutes of hearing his story, mostly due to the tone. Instead Pekar listened, and turned his tale into an extraordinarily interesting graphic novel that I'm sure I will read at least ten more times in my life, minimum.
Here's the transcipt from our Facebook conversation:
Weight: 218 lb. (-9) Another night of insomnia but I finally went to sleep at about 8am and slept until 1pm after actually feeling tired. My body has been in full panic mode, and freaking out to the change of not eating anything coupled with an almost sedentary lifestyle. The feeling of being tired was an amazing feeling though. Losing the feeling of being tired or hungry has been really unsettling. The insomnia has been one of the worst side effects of this entire thing. It can feel so bad. It's really indescribable. I've actually felt non-human until this morning, like my body went into panic mode for the first three days. This is the longest I have not eaten in my entire life.Today so far I feel great. I'm basically doing absolutely nothing but writing, reading, and watching movies/TV all day by myself. It gets a little boring, but it has been an interesting experiment so far to say the least.You might have noticed the weight gain. The weigh yesterday was when I felt at my most inhuman, dehydrated, exhausted, and insanely stressed. Today I feel pretty normal, even dreaming about exactly what I'm going to eat when this thing ends.
Comic: You get nothing today. Sorry. I have read some insanely long graphic novels the past four days and need a break. I will give you the short list of my favorite current monthlies that are out right now. I have literally not caught up on my pull list completely in four months, but here are the comics that I read the day they come out religiously.
Larfleeze- The best DC comic out right now. Animal Man had the top spot for me, but the quality has started to slip and it's ending. I love this book and wish DC would take more chances on stuff like Larfleeze. I thought it was the whole point of the entire reboot. Instead, I don't read a single Batman or Superman title anymore and there are about 16 between the two of them.
All-Star Western- Another fringe DC book that has been blowing me away month after month, mostly due to its unconventional approach. Jonah Hex has managed to crawl has way out of the gutter after his shudder worthy feature film.
Flash- I think the creative team is what does this for me. Flash has been the only DC supe book that still blows my hair back. They'll be making the switch to Detective Comics soon. It'll be good to see the Mecca of all superhero titles back on top.
Saga- Ask anybody, it's the best book to come out in a long time.
Three- Really enjoying this Image title. The art, story, and essays that come after are great.
FF- The quality has slipped a little, but not in the art department. I'm a little Fractioned out right now, except for his work on Hawkeye. I think he might be getting a bit spread too thin. Sex Criminals is a book that a lot of people seem to like. I just don't think it's that great. Allred's work on this title has been nothing short of spectacular. I can't wait for his Silver Surfer title to hit shelves.
Daredevil- Another bi-product of a great creative team. I love this book, not wild about this run ending and DD moving to San Francisco.
Star Trek- My guilty pleasure book. I love the reboot. Both films. The art in this book is the dregs, but the writing is good if you like Trek.
God is Dead- I've really cooled on East to West. The Manhattan Projects is still amazing though and it almost made the list, but the best book on the shelves by Hickman currently is God is Dead. Mike Costa is a Chicago guy too and does a great job with the art.
Weight: 216 lb. (-11) Annnnd...I quit on the sixth day (technically seventh). Insomnia took hold of me once again. I stayed up all night to watch the NFC/AFC championship games. At about 6am I ate some Udon noodles, a Korean staple but Japanese by origin. Within a few more days I slowly started to slip into my old lifestyle again. This is something that I am trying to fix but it's been difficult. The majority of social interaction in South Korea revolves around alcohol.
I did learn a lot about myself in the process. Not eating or interacting with others for seven days makes one reflect on their entire life, and I am a better man for it. As Harvey Pekar famously once said: "Life is so sweet, and so sad, and so hard to let go of in the end. But hey, everyday is a new deal, right?"
Thanks again to Michael Malice for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. If you have any questions about the master cleanse or comics, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask: