Blue Monday: The Kids Are Alright
Chynna Clugston’s Blue Monday tells tales about post-punk, hormonally driven teenagers. Bleu Finnegan loves music, especially Britpop, and movies, especially silent films. She’s boy-crazy about pop stars but can’t stand the local dorks. She doesn’t fit in with the popular crowd, so she’s made her own, with friends Clover and Erin and a couple of boys who have crushes on them.
This first book in the series revolves around trying to win tickets to an Adam Ant concert, a crush on a substitute teacher, and ever-escalating pornographic revenge pranks on the guys. It includes the first three-issue minseries; pinups by Adam Warren, Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, Andi Watson, and J. Scott Campbell and Alex Garner; and short stories from Action Girl #14-18 and Dark Horse Presents #127 and #133. It also reprints the charming “Sherlockette: A Tribute to Buster Keaton” from Oni Double Feature #11 in which Bleu envisions herself in the classic Keaton film Sherlock, Jr.
The art has attitude, just like the characters. The busy aesthetic mimics a teenager’s room, with every space filled with a band reference or some other piece of pop culture flotsam. Clugston’s style shares with manga an emphasis on eyes and emotions, as well as being inspired by some of those layout techniques (as when big-headed versions of the characters comment on the story in the margins, or when Bleu’s face is drawn with two dots for eyes and a circle mouth).
The crowded pages alternate between more and less cartoony styles depending on the space available and the desired effect. Firm lines and grey tones guide the eye through the panels. The page doesn’t seem to be treated as a unit; it’s something to hold as many panels as possible. The driving force is action and a madcap feel.
The short stories included here show the artist’s development over at least three years. The more recent pages are less crowded and seem to have calmed down from the earliest stories. As well, an increasing use of different line weights make the later stories easier to read.
This modern-day Archie for teens (definitely not kids, due to the language, rude gestures, and lots of talk about sex) accurately captures what it’s like to be an adolescent. The boys are boys, and the girls don’t take their crap. Like Adam Ant’s pop songs, the stories deal with sex in a playful way. Beyond the sexual, they show all aspects of teenage desire, when you’re young enough to really love pop stars with an obsession that’s boundless and when you think you’ll die from embarrassment when you do something silly without thinking.
Clugston has also created Queen Bee, a graphic novel for younger readers about two telekinetic teens. She did a short story about Fate and starting over in the anthology book Four-Letter Worlds and provided spot illustrations for Cut My Hair, a novel about a music fan by Jamie S. Rich.
There’s a four-page parody with the Blue Monday characters in the Oni Press Color Special 2001, where they visit the Oni Press headquarters, become super-deformed (Japanese-style tiny people with huge heads), and get attacked by the company’s logo.