Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: The Eltingville Club

By Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer

I can't recall my first encounter with The Eltingville Club, but I think it was long enough ago that MTV was still relevant.  I couldn't tell you where or in what book, but the strip always stuck with me. Oft-forgotten, but always lurking in the back of my brain as a cautionary tale of sorts. Every knee-jerk, rabid fanboy reaction I'm tempted to make is tempered by  images of Evan Dorkin's comic about the trollish, ugly side of fandom.

The Eltingville Club tells the tale of Bill, Josh, Jerry, and Pete, a quartet of teen fanboys embroiled in the world of comics, role-playing games, horror films, and a myriad of other facets of nerdery. They're full of geek-culture quotes, arcane trivia, and the very venom of the worst of fan culture.  Arguments, visceral insult, fisticuffs, the odd arson, and all around horrible behavior categorize the meetings and day-to-day goings on of the club and the behavior is cringeworthy.  This is the archetypical fanboy behavior that mainstream culture mocked for so many years and drove great portions of nerds back into the parents basement from whence they came. This is the ugly side of fandom turned up to 11.

Part satire, part commentary, The Eltingville Club really is quite humorous in the way that it makes you second guess some of your own nerd behavior, be it gate-keeping or any other flavor of elitist behavior. It'll keep you looking over your proverbial shoulder for that bad, bad, fan hiding inside.

Or at least it should.

Sacred cows are slain left and right, and fans of Dorkin's other work will feel right at home. Admittedly, Milk & Cheese springs foremost to mind, but that's probably because both strips are bleak, wickedly funny, and almost self-loathing. As an added bonus, thin-skinned fans are almost certainly to find offense somewhere in this book. Even I was a bit taken aback when the book took a shot at Peter Cushing, entirely due to my personal bias.

An afterword by Dorkin tells the origin story of The Eltingville Club, born out of hate-mail that rabid fanboys send to artists, writers, editors and the rest of the lot. The club exemplifies the worst we have to offer, with the exception of Gamergaters, and the author explains that this collection is the Eltingville Club's swansong.
You see, it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Spend any amount of time amongst anonymous Internet nerd fandom and you'll find the worst we have to offer. Horrible, judgmental little stoats of human beings engaged in all manner of verbal abuse directed towards creators and each other. Given that climate, there's no more need for an Eltingville Club comic. I can log on to Twitter and see it unfold in real time.

That said, Dorkin's book is excellent. Funny in ways it shouldn't be, hopefully The Eltingville Club gets under your skin a bit and maybe keeps you a bit more on the straight and narrow.

The art is phenomenal Indy work, which sounds pretentious as hell, but it sure ain't mainstream art. The layouts are eye catching and reminded me of Underground books from the 60s-70s, as well as some earlier small-press comics.

All said, I'd recommend this collection to any responsible comic fan. You'd be doing yourself a disservice in not reading.
If nothing else, you'll have a laugh at the asshole fanboys in The Eltingville Club and remember not to be an asshole out here in the real world.

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