Here it is, DC/Humanoids fans: the one oddest (by comparison) comic in the imprint's brief existence. Showing up so close to the abandonment of the agreement that some stores apparently didn't even have it on the shelves until after DC had announced that they'd parted ways with this whole "publish French comics" experiment, looking nothing like any of the other books beyond the same size and physical formatting, Different Ugliness, Different Madness, there she was, and there she went. A black and white single author comic telling the 1930's story of a reclusive old radio god and the depressed, mildly disturbed woman who shows up near his property and introduces him to the concept of self-esteem--through scientific procreation--Different Ugliness was one of those comics that seems best described as "never had a chance." It's hard enough for companies with an actual reputation for publishing black & white graphic novels dealing in personal, cloistered tales of feeling and emotion, the idea that DC/Humanoids would find success with one that they neither set the tone for (by only publishing predominately aggressive science fiction and other action heavy work) nor took the time to market or advertise the product inspires one of those throw-your-hands-up moments where you just say "Yeah, even the most simple business decisions must be extraordinarily difficult to implement."
Oh, and let's get something else out of the way. Best place? Probably here.
This isn't a very good comic.
Now, I know what you're saying: "hey, this Different Ugliness, Different Madness comic has all kinds of great reviews, why, practically everybody that reviewed it when it came out thought it was the cat's pajamas from buttermilk junction, so who are you, not-Joe McCulloch guy, to be dismissing such a heartfelt work of earnest earnesty? Why, this gosh darn comic is black and white and set mostly in the 30's! For Pete's sake, it was nominated for a European Graphic Novel award!"
I hear you, I really do. And some of what those other reviewers touch on is right on--Malès is a talented storyteller, and there's some excellent cartooning on display in portions of this book, although you do have to get used to his somewhat odd decision to have shadows only appear on human beings as well as his blocky, inconsistent facial designs for the story's lead characters. (Neither of those failings are deal-breakingly irritating or anything, excepting the page where his sad sack Humphrey Bogart by way of exaggerated genetic failings becomes Lee Marvin for one panel, and one panel alone.) In all frankness, the comic itself has some nice sequences that just about make the overall time spent reading it--which isn't much, as it's quite brief--worthwhile. But in the long view? It's the story of a guy who is unattractive, lives in seclusion from his just-abandoned job on the radio, and a young woman who goes a-wandering the country following the sudden death of her twin sister. The two meet, have some conversations, he falls in love with her, she pity-fucks him after realizing that her "magic power" is to make "an unhappy man happy for several hours." Since "it only works one time", they part in the morning--her off to a loveless marriage that produces children she only mildly seems interested in, him with enough confidence to go back to his job on the radio.
What? That's not really the dialog in those quotes is it?
Oh no brother. It totally is the real dialog. And that's not all--DUDM, which is what Jog calls it--is choked with that kind of stuff. Over and over again, the comic hammers away: These people are SAD, something BAD has happened to them, what ever can they DO, it's like the world HATES them. It's a comic that delivers imagery in quiet, subtle frames only to dismantle the effect immediately everytime they open their mouths, and the overall effect is one that eventually just becomes frustrating, especially when one runs into sequences where Malès restrained art style and love of wide panels that speak to a cartoonist who can clearly operate at a different level than the one he's utilizing.
There's quite a few great silent pages in Different Ugliness, like the one that the above image is pulled from. There's quiet, completely white panels of clouded skies, there's some brilliant usage of repetition, particularly involving the female leads face, and an interesting manipulation of point of view that places the reader uncomfortably inside the skull of someone not altogether sane. But you're never able to get as lost in it as one might like, what with its constant, droning dialog, its too-pathetic-for-empathy lead who can't get over the meanness of a stranger from when he was eight years old, and there's really not much positive you can do with the end, either--1930's or not, a woman who clinically decides to fuck some ugly guy and then get married "because there is not much else I am capable of doing"--this story just asks too much. In return, it offers some pretty nice art.
Maybe that's enough for some. It wasn't for me.
-Tucker Stone, 2009
T1 Introductions & Miss: Better Living Through Crime by Joe McCulloch
T2 Fragile & The Horde here at TFO
T3 Sanctum & Transgenesis 2025 Vol 1: The Ancestor here at TFO
T4 The Incal (Preparations by Joe McCulloch
T5 Son Of The Gun here at TFO
T6 The Incal (Execution) by Joe McCulloch
T7 White Lama here at TFO
T8 The Technopriest here at TFO
T9 Bouncer, Megalex & Metal Hurlant by Joe McCulloch
T10 The Metabarons by Joe McCulloch
T11 Memories here at TFO
T12 The Chaos Effect here at TFO
T13 The Bilal Trilogy here at TFO
T14 Townscapes & The Beast by Joe McCulloch
T15 Different Ugliness, Different Madness here at TFO
T16 Coming soon from Joe McCulloch
T17 Olympus here at TFO