- Posted by Johanna on June 27, 2010 at 7:36 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Simon Gardenfors
- PUBLISHER: Top Shelf Productions; $14.95 US
Simon Gardenfors spent four months bumming around his native Sweden, staying on random people’s couches, sleeping around, and doing drugs. He captured this in 400+ pages with absolutely no lesson learned. (I much preferred the similar Red Eye, Black Eye, where the author had to travel, instead of choosing to goof off, and focused on those he met instead of being so self-centered.)
My first problem was not being able to judge Simon’s self-image. He puts up a call for places to crash on his website, and he calls himself a cartoonist and rapper. But because I know nothing of Sweden (and I didn’t learn much from this volume, since he rarely draws anything but himself, rooms, and couches), I had no idea how famous he was. I didn’t know whether his idea that fans would feed and house him was self-deluded or sensible.
Early on, an unidentified friend sums up the concept as shown. I didn’t know just how accurate a description of the book it was at the time. All of the pages look like this, by the way, with two mostly black panels on top of each other. Simon’s cartooning is minimal, drawing himself with a perfectly round head, as though he were a Fisher-Price person. I also never knew whether the dots on his face were stubble, freckles, or zits.
Simon portrays himself, at times, as quite the jerk. He promises people he won’t put them in his comic — but since we’re reading about them, you can see that didn’t mean anything. He fools around with a teen girl in her parents’ house. He thinks he’s in love, but he wants to keep sleeping around for a while because he doesn’t “wanna risk my freedom right now.” He screws up a promising relationship with a female cartoonist because he would rather spend his 120 days having random sex. When he bursts into tears because she finally gives him the heave-ho, instead of sympathizing with him, I thought, “good! Maybe he’ll learn something.” I was disappointed; he didn’t.
Things are mentioned that are never followed up. Early on, Simon complains about how being fed and drugged is making him gain weight. He worries that it’s going to make him less sexually attractive, but based on the conquests he later shows, that’s not a problem. We never know whether he loses the pounds or just accepts being pudgier — it’s simply never mentioned again.
I believe we’re supposed to enjoy reading about his wacky adventures for their own sake, but I’ve already seen “manboy over-indulges, refuses to grow up” in plenty of other comics. The Swedish setting could have made this unique if anything had been done with it. Instead, Simon trips out on hallucinogenic cactus, comes to a major realization, then ignores it to conclude he knew that stuff all along. His self-centeredness is breathtaking. Late in the book, he gets a $40,000 grant (that was never previously mentioned) to make all his money problems go away. What a waste!
The pictures are frequently unnecessary, mostly talking heads. The details are hard to capture in this minimalist style — beer cans look like sushi rolls, for example. During one section, where a black girl’s brother threatens him for sleeping with her, the drawings are mildly racist, with their big lips. This book is a stunning example of the usual criticisms made against autobiographical comics, that they’re about a bunch of spoiled guys who don’t have the imagination to come up with a story so instead disappear down their own navel. (The publisher provided a review copy and has posted preview pages.)