*Why I Hate Saturn — Recommended

Why I Hate Saturn is only the second graphic novel by Kyle Baker (Nat Turner, The Bakers), but it’s one of his best.

Why I Hate Saturn cover
Why I Hate Saturn
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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 the Seinfeld show 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.

16 Responses to “*Why I Hate Saturn — Recommended”

  1. Ali Kokmen Says:

    Ah, way back then, in the waning days of the 20th century, it was WHY I HATE SATURN–not Maus, not Dark Knight Returns, not Watchmen–that I’d recommend to non-comics-phile friends who wanted to know what the heck I saw in the medium.

    Thanks for the reminder. I gotta go dig out my old copy an reread it.

  2. Craig Welsh Says:

    It remains one of my all-time favourite graphic novels. When I finally got to meet Baker at the NYCC this year I asked him to do an Anne sketch for me. He asked why Anne.

    Me: She’s exactly the kind of woman I would have chased after in the 90s.

    Baker: You’re nuts.

    Me: Well, yeah….

    Great book, great guy. And I love the sketch.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Ali, I totally agree. I first read it when I borrowed it from my hairstylist in the mid-90s. I had mentioned comics, and it was the only one she’d read.

  4. Paul Sizer Says:

    Without hesitation, when I’m getting ready to do dialogue for a comic, I pull this book out and read it end to end for how to right words that sound like people talking. I love this book, and the humor is still right on the money! Classic!

  5. Paul Sizer Says:

    Errr, I meant “write words”, not “right words”, although I do find the “right” words to “write” from this book.

  6. odessa steps magazine Says:

    I remember when SATURN is what you read over and over because no one could get a copy of COWBOY WALLY.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Ha ha! That’s still on the review list too.

  8. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Sept. 5, 2008: You’re no one till you sell in Bobby’s shop Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson on Kyle Baker’s reputation-making novel, Why I Hate […]

  9. James Says:

    In total agreement with Ali: Why I Hate Saturn is STILL the book I hand to anyone who’s never read a comic before (and to a handful who have). And every time they come back asking for more.

    It’s one of a select few comics I reread at least once a year, and the true lasting power of WIHS is that even though I know what’s coming, it makes me laugh every single time.

    Thanks for putting this review up Johanna. I knew it was high time for me to read it again.

  10. JRVJ Says:

    If I may, those in the know would not take kindly to the cover you posted for this book….

  11. Johanna Says:

    It’s the book’s current version cover and the same one the author has on his site. Not sure what else I’m supposed to have posted.

    I don’t like the game of “I know something you don’t know”. Please elaborate or go elsewhere to drop hints.

  12. *The Cowboy Wally Show — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] you liked Why I Hate Saturn, be sure to read this. There are preview pages available at the artist’s website. Similar […]

  13. How to Draw Stupid and Other Essentials of Cartooning » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] do what he does, the reader sees how special Baker’s work really is. (For examples, check out Why I Hate Saturn and The Cowboy Wally Show.) After reading, I now understand why even Baker’s illustrations […]

  14. Birth of a Nation » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] by Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) and Reginald Hudlin (Black Panther) with art by Kyle Baker (Why I Hate Saturn). […]

  15. the mehallo blog. beta. » Hating Saturn Says:

    […] a copy here. Review here. Kyle Baker’s website […]

  16. Read a Lot of Great Kyle Baker Comics Online for Free » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] that you can read for free. Titles include some all-time classics, including Why I Hate Saturn (my review) and The Cowboy Wally Show (my review), plus his how-to book How to Draw Stupid (my review), his […]




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