Why I Hate Saturn
The unusual format — illustrations in black, white, and a light sepia tone, with dialogue or narration underneath the panels — suits the conversational-driven story. Anne is a jaded alcoholic urbanite, full of wisecracks about everything and everyone around her. She hates the beautiful people because she’s not one of them, the kind of insecure self-awareness that makes for great humor. (Think Seinfeld or a modern Dorothy Parker living her own monologues.) She’s a writer who lives for complaining but still full of insight and talent (a reflection of Baker’s, of course).
Anne writes a column for a too-hip magazine and coasts on her ability because she can. Since she’s relatively young, her lack of work ethic hasn’t yet hurt her too much, becoming part of her aggravating charm. It’s a very realistic portrayal of New York in the 1990s, during the hangover from the go-go spending 80s and before the clean slate of the new millennium. (And the kind of story that makes one wonder just how much the creator included of his own work habits and opinions.)
Then Anne’s health-freak sister Laura shows up with a gunshot wound calling herself Queen of the Leather Astro-Girls of Saturn. When she leaves, Anne follows her to California, leading to some of the craziest elements of the book, as Anne doesn’t drive and so has no license and thus no ID. Trying to get around that state without a car becomes ludicrous. It’s because Baker has established the personalities so well previously that the reader will continue to play along with the ever-weirder events.
Baker’s illustrations capture well the expressions made up of the mixed feelings these complex personalities share. He’s a master of the unusual closeup and not afraid to use solid blacks to anchor his art. Each chapter is a different short scene capturing the lifestyle, from going to bars to obsessing over relationships to working with desperate editors. It’s a picture of a time now gone but one any aspiring creative type in the big city can relate to.