Each week, the non-comics reading Nina Stone picks out one random comic book based off her own made up criteria, reads it, and then writes about that experience. While she's been doing these columns for awhile, she's only successfully managed to enjoy, remember, and keep up with one series. This week, she picked the latest issue of Phonogram.
Earlier today, when I opened my bag to pull out my wallet and pay for my lunch, I had that awful moment of searching the bag repeatedly, looking for my wallet. I was both panicked and embarrassed. It's just a weird feeling, suddenly being at a complete loss when seven dollars and fourteen cents have been demanded. I decided to calm down, assumed I had left the wallet at home -- it probably escaped my bag during the whole pizza ordering thing -- and I'd just look for it when I got back there.
Well, I just had the heart pounding five minutes of searching everywhere and not being able to find it. And suddenly realizing that if it actually had been stolen, then whoever got my wallet probably had already cleared the bank accounts, as they'd certainly had plenty of time. Then came the sinking realization that not only was my financial well-being in a potentially tumultuous state, but now my husband's was as well, since we share the account. I mean, it's one thing if it's just me, it's just my problem--but now I'm (sort of) responsible for screwing somebody else over. And that particular somebody is the same person that I would've turned to for help in this exact situation, but I can't....oy, ow, yowch and yikes.
Just before sitting down to type this, I found the wallet. Seconds before. Immediately before. And I thought that made a great jumping off point for writing this review because, you know what? I thought Phonogram was annoying. Right this second, it's even more so in comparison to the "trauma" (or rather, drama?) I just put myself through - even though all has turned out to be okay.
The comic seems even more trite. Maybe I'm not being fair. Let's get into it.
I found the whole quoting-lyrics-thing to be an irritating trip to high school. It reminded me of when my various friends that I'd known since preschool started developing groups that they hung around. Several were music related. It was pretty sudden. One day, everybody splintered off, with some band dictating everything they wore and thought about, everything they said. And yes, they quoted lyrics all over the place...wrote them on their folders. It's really an exclusive sort of thing - remember?
(I have a whole other reaction to that phenomena, too. I spent Hight School dancing three hours a night and listening to/hearing music of all kinds at dancing school -- classical, jazz, pop, avant garde -- and never suddenly found The Cure to be my savior. I just didn't understand the intense identification surrounding me. Even my childhood best friend...around 13 she became all about U2. And, they were pretty cool at the time, but I didn't LOVE them. And in her quest for a pop culture identity I felt excluded. That time, for whatever reason, was the beginning of us growing apart and although U2 wasn't the reason, it still served as the point where you can see the relationship began its collapse. In retrospect, I'm not sure what I expected her to do with her time while I was off at dance every night, and reflecting back on it, I'm struck by how obviously selfish I was being. She liked U2, and getting into U2 was something that she liked doing. If I'd been more available, maybe I would've gotten into them as much as she did. Instead, I made it personal--she chose U2 over me, when it's clear that both of us chose our own lives over each others.)
I'll admit, maybe I'm just too old for this kind of story, maybe I'm just done with it. I'm always going to come at these picks with as much good faith as I can muster, especially now that my options have opened up to include 70-100 comics. But all of the willingness and openness I showed up to this comic with was gone once I read the 10th quote from Long Blondes. A band I never heard of, although I understand it's on my "shared" iTunes library. Oh, and no. Stop. Don't tell me who they are. I don't care about the Long Blondes. I came here to read a comic book, and the general shtick in this comic book kept me feeling excluded and distant. (I know!)
I can see how in this comic it might read like a clever idea. I mean, back in the 70s, there were these 45s by Dickie Gordon that would come out with some guy asking interview questions and all the answers were snippets of popular songs at the time. I thought that was clever. In fact, I loved those records. I felt like I was always waiting for the radio DJ to play them, because I was a little girl. I'm not so little anymore, I menstruate and everything. I'm guessing, but neither are these comic creators. And some clever ideas are just clever ideas, and never really become clever creations. What am I saying? I'm saying that for me, the Dickie Gordon 45s worked when I was a kid, but this didn't.
There's a plot in here somewhere, right? I think so. But I'm not too clear on it because I got so distracted with lyrics, or the fact that at times the dialogue and action didn't make sense to me. That page where our leading lady and that guy are sharing a taxi was particularly confusing? And like, sure, she makes makes some stark statements about him, to him? I don't even know if they're true. "This isn't about changing the world. Lloyd. You're scared of anyone getting close to you, as that risks giving up you." I don't really know the backstory, so maybe that's a true statement. But her reason for saying such things, and the way she hits on him and then leaves him - what the hell is that about? I feel like someone just wrote down a break-up fantasy and plugged in whatever character was available. She makes this huge leap in four panels, from realizing that she wants to be his first choice for this crazy "world-changing" band idea he has. When she realizes that she'd be second choice, she decides to "put him in his place." But is that his place? And then those last two panels?! Leaning in close, seductively and saying, "this is about getting you off. And Lloyd....I'm the one who's getting off. Driver! Stop the car!" I mean, please. If they'd stopped with "this is about getting you off" it might be fine. Like, "This is about getting you off. Dream on, douchebag. Driver - let me out." But I feel like someone just wanted to use some double entendre in a diss and tried to make it work.
Oh, and I guess I am a bit curious--what's with the empty eyesockets? Is she actually some sort of evil being? Or just a not-so-great person? I'm not sure if her eyes are supposed to look like that, or if someone forgot to draw in eyeballs. If that does have something to do with something supernatural, there's not enough info in this issue to let me know, well, that I'm supposed to know that. It just seems like a comic about a night at the club. And reading this makes me feel like I just had to spend the evening with grouchiest girl. Bummer, man.
-Nina Stone, 2009