Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Gay Comics Reviews 

Kyle's Bed and BreakfastKyle's Bed and Breakfast by Greg Fox.

Probably the best, short summation of the newspaper and on-line strip collected in this book is that it's a dramatic comedy about five men who live in a gay bed and breakfast in New England. Greg Fox, whose work some of you may know from many of the Rock N Roll Comics books or Doctor Chaos (come on, admit it, I know some of you must), writes and draws this frequently hilarious, occasionally touching strip. His characters are all distinct in personality and recognizable gay fiction "types." You've got your "average" gay man, your troubled gay teen, your party queen, your Log-Cabin-ish "power" gay and your straight-acting closeted gay, all living under the same roof. And, in a nice bit of fan service, Fox has always been very careful to make sure that each of the characters is quite attractive and that several of them spend quite a bit of time in various states of undress, while keeping all the total and partial nudity well within the tasteful side of things.

from Kyle's Bed and BreakfastThe book collects the first five years worth of strips, from 1998 to 2003. The storylines are very much in the tradition of dramatic newspaper strips. New characters and plotlines are introduced on a regular basis and played out, with each of the characters reacting in a naturalistic and character-based way. They never feel out of character in their responses. A long, ongoing storyline in the strip has been the coming our, or not, of closeted minor-league baseball player Brad, apparently a fan favorite character in the strip. He's never really a character I warmed to, chiefly because of my lack of sympathy for the closeted aspect of the character. I've always preferred the more down to earth character's in the strip, such as landlord and gay everyman Kyle, or Nick, the beer-gutted, ultra-macho gay mechanic, or even Kyle's newest romantic interest, Breyer.

Again, the art on the strip is excellent, and the writing is well done as well. I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to check out the growing "non adult" gay comics scene (outside of yaoi), or anyone looking for a good, character based dramatic comic.

Max and SvenMax and Sven by Tom Bouden

On the other end of the mainstream gay comics scale, we have Tom Bouden's take on growing up gay in Belgium. Max is a teenage boy coming to terms with his sexuality when he meets and becomes friends with Sven, with whom he quickly falls in love. Sven is smart, funny with a quick, caustic wit, and incredibly handsome. Trouble is, Sven is straight. Most of the book follows Max in his efforts to not only figure out what, precisely it means to be gay, with many an anecdote that sounds uncomfortably familiar to any gay man reading the book (such as buying both gay and straight books at the bookstore so that the clerk won't think you're gay), but the mood of adolescent confusion and unrequited longing is universal enough that the book will feel familiar to anyone who fell in love at a young age with an unobtainable object.

from Max and SvenFor lack of a better word, the book has a very "European" feel to both the art and the story. Art-wise, Bouden reminds me both a little bit of Herge and a little bit of Lewis Trondheim. He has a deceptively simple, "cartoony" line to his work. The work also has a frankly sexual nature to much of it, without ever crossing over into anything that would make it feel like an "adult" comic. Honestly, it's a casual, honest way of dealing with sex, sexuality and nudity that just doesn't seem possible to appear in an American comic. Likewise with the whole process of Max's coming out. Apart from the crush on Sven, it's remarkably trauma free and casual, whereas an American coming out story would have been far more dramatic, given how schizophrenic American attitudes are towards any kind of sexuality.

I can't unreservedly recommend this book. I enjoyed it very much, and I expect most others will too, but the story is not particularly focused and tends to wander quite a bit. Also, some aspects of the translation into English seem a bit shaky. There are several moments when the language feels like it has been "Americanized" and it is distracting, as it doesn't at all feel like something the characters would have actually said.

I'm also deliberately including Amazon links for both books as, to the best of my knowledge, neither title has ever been offered by Diamond.


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