Saturday, 27 November 2010

Review - Dork Volume 1: Who's Laughing Now? TPB

This book collects most strips from the first five issues of ‘Dork’ by Evan Dorkin. It does not collect the Eltingville Club stories from those issues – which is a shame because I seem to remember those being the best strips in Dork – but most of the stuff that is here is still very good. We get three episodes of ‘The Murder Family’, a parody of US sitcoms featuring a family of serial killers, three episodes of the ‘Fisher Price Theatre’, in which some Fisher Price toys act out classic novels (‘Catcher in the Rye’, ‘The Lottery’, and ‘Of Mice and Men’), the Devil Puppet tells us a few unlikely stories that never made the press (like the story of the riots that took place in Japan when actor Dick York was replaced by Dick Sargent as Darren in the TV show ‘Bewitched’) in ‘The Invisible College of Secret Knowledge’, there’s a bunch of strips sending up the Generation X / Slacker era (‘Generation Echh!’), nineteen pages of four-panel gag strips (seven strips per page), and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Dork itself was an irregularly published collection of short strips that had originally been published elsewhere and these strips come from the period 1988 to 1996, in which Dorkin’s art quickly went from being scruffy and slightly amateurish to neat and stylish. Nearly every page in this book is packed with content – reading an Evan Dorkin comic can be quite a daunting prospect to a lazy reader like me, as there is just so much to read on every page – and this slim volume is therefore no quick read. I must admit that there was very little here that made me laugh out loud, but then I had read all of this material before. I still found most of it amusing and was full of admiration for Dorkin’s obvious wit and talent while reading it.

My favourite thing in here was all those pages of four-panel gag strips but I also really liked one of the ‘Generation Echh!’ strips in which the audience at a Lollapalooza festival consumes smart drinks and suddenly wises up (‘Alternative? My whole friggin’ high school is here!’) as it pretty much sums up my feelings on teen rebellion and festivals. Meanwhile, ‘The Murder Family’ is a good idea that doesn’t quite work for me, for some reason.

There is a second Dork collection available – ‘Circling the Drain’ – and I will certainly be looking out for a copy, as I think the strips in Dork got better and better as the series went on. Unfortunately, the Eltingville Club strips – which were about a bunch of obnoxious comic nerds – are not collected in that volume either, and as far as I am aware the proposed collection of those strips that Dorkin mentions in his downbeat introduction to this volume – and a promised animated series – never appeared. Still, even without those strips, these books are well worth checking out if you haven’t read Dork before.

Cost: This book has a cover price of $11.95 but I got my copy for just $6.00 (about four quid) from the bargain bin in Brian Hibbs’ Comix Experience store in San Francisco on a recent visit to that fine city. Yes, even when I am on holiday, I am on the look-out for comic-related bargains. I am the bargain master!