Dorkboy #$1: tales of mirth and despair

Yay alternative comics! I picked up a stack of these things at San Diego between panels, and every week for the forseeable future, I’ll be reviewing a new one. I made it a point to only pick up books that looked interesting. They may not all be gems, but every book here, upon a cursory inspection, looked like might be worth reading once. Some of them were great, some not so great, and some were just…dorky.

Like Dorkboy #1. It’s a really aptly-named book. Issue 1 is an anthology format that collects Damian Wilcox’s assorted tales – some involving his title character, some that don’t.

Let’s just get a nasty rumor out of the way – Damian Willcox is Canadian. I don’t particularly care for certain aspects of Canadia or Canajun culture, but Wilcox seems to be a nice enough guy, eh. He sure knows his dorkiness, though. The humor in his stories is driven by puns and wordplay, and the plots revolve around robots built from the instructions on the cereal box and aliens posing as DJs. It’s a strange world that Wilcox occupies – the question is, does he translate it well for our consumption?

Well, its an interesting question. Wilcox is definitely not striving for a mainstream look, story, or feel with his work. In mixing his weird narratives with humor usually reserved for a children’s comic, he creates a strange distance between the book and the audience; he’s clearly inviting you in, but you’re not sure that you want to cross the threshold. His illustrations are clear enough and have a distinctive flavor; even the stickman story of “Scooterboy” smells like Willcox all over.

The high point of the book is “Workin’ Jones,” a short slice of life story that’s simply a small narrative. It’s a little Clowesian in nature – the conversations, strange-but-human characters, and directionless plot would have been comfortable in Ghost World – but perhaps I’m just drawing a favorable comparison here. “Workin’ Jones” is a just a well-told story about some people in a certain place at a certain time. More than anything else, this story made me want to find more of Willcox’s work.