Sunday, July 3, 2022

Brendan McGinley:

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The Left Bank Gang + Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story

The Left Bank Gang

Norwegian artist Jason probably has the market cornered on gritty noir tales told about fatally vulnerable, sensitive people, but just to make sure, he makes a signature style of minimalized expressions, frequently neutral faces, and, oh yes, animal protagonists.It tends to work, and continues to do so here, where the heroes of Western Literature are still struggling in 1920s Paris, though they happen to be comic strip cartoonists.

It’s amusing how well the simple geometry of his clean-line style can align to make accurate, animal portraits of writers like James Joyce or F. Scott Fitzgerald. To alleviate their poverty, Ernest Hemingway concocts a heist scheme, but there’s a traitor(s) in the group adding a classic crime cross and double, triple, quadruplecross. The ending is perfectly Jason, with a lone, world-weary character wearily returning to the respite of simple, human company in the wake of an existentialist conflict.

Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story

Michael Malice’s encounters with the world are best summarized on page 72 of his biography: “I still pass for 16 at age 29–as well as seeming innocent to boot. This is a huge advantage to me strategically, as people always underestimate me.”

Malice is one of those people that’s remarkably engaging on paper, but probably quite alienating to most people in real life. Harvey Pekar adapts his lifestory to illustrations by Gary Dumm, and shows a highly principled and intelligent, hard-working man, with zero tolerance for others’ qualms, quirks and faults. Malice is a consummate Objectivist, but his self-assured, cold-blooded personality exceeds that of his hero, Ayn Rand’s fictional Howard Roark, because he is honest about his personality, and abhors hypocrisy. Those who accept him for who he is find themselves on great terms, whereas Roark expects others to implicitly understand his worldview, and then damns them internally when they don’t.

Brendan McGinley is a long-time writer for ComicBase. His comic favorites include anything featuring Grim Jack, Punisher, Guy Gardner, Green Lantern, or written buy Evan Dorkin, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Deadpool… and the list goes on. But he insists he is of discriminating tastes.

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