Try, try, try... just a little bit harder
Lurking under my stack of weekly comics, two new releases from Bluewater Comics were waiting, silently and unsuspectingly, to ruin my afternoon. Now, I am by no means a cultural snob; Lady Gaga and Robert Pattinson are alright by me. I’m curiously mystified by the cultural phenomena that each have induced, yet like many people, neither Gaga nor Pattinson elicit strong emotions of devotion or abhorrence from me. They are merely passing icons I encounter on the internet, radio and television. If anything, their iconoclastic presence and the near idol-worshipping legions have actually intrigued me some and led me to the books and ultimately review you find before you.
When Bluewater Comics’ two new graphic mini-biographies emerged from the bottom of my “to read” bed stand pile, I was probably the least probable of consumers, a 20-something male with little knowledge of the personal and artistic lives of the Fame subjects. And although what you are about to read is hopefully the worst review I will ever write in my life, I feel the need to emphasize that I am still equally intrigued by these 21st century pop-icons for their ability to resonate (positively or negatively) with large swathes of global consumers. However, what Bluewater Comics has done to Gaga and Pattinson is a travesty and disgrace to the artists, audiences, and the comics medium.
Let’s start with the better (relatively) of the two—Fame: Robert Pattinson. Here’s what this book isn’t: an engaging narrative using both images and words to tell a story. There is very little narrative here. Instead, writer Kimberely Sherman presents a Wikipedia like entry in essay form moving between summary, interview snippets and ill-conceived listing in place of dialogue and prose narration. The text is merely an boring essay of Pattinson factoids broken up into digestible pieces and placed above or below photo-referenced illustrations.
Then there’s the, the art. Penciller Nathaniel Ooten does little to try to tell a story with artwork. What readers will find instead are generic renderings of publicity shots that a simple Google image search will turn up. Even for an apathetic consumer like me, many of these images seemed vaguely familiar. That’s because they were. I’ve seen these photos gracing newsstand racks and supermarket aisles before. Granted, Sherman gives Ooten little to work with. He doesn’t really have a script to work from—just a gaggle of facts to accompany with semi-relevant artwork.
The positive note, if there can be one, is that Fame: Robert Pattinson is chock full of information that the average Twi-hard might delight in: Pattinson used to dress up as a girl and go by the name Claudia, or that he once portrayed Salvador Dali in his “most controversial” role to date. There’s tons of little odds and ends in here, and for all but the obsessive fan, I think this book might contain a couple nuggets of new information for readers.
But things get worse quickly with Bluewater’s other Fame offering.
Fame: Lady Gaga is the worst comicbook I have ever read in my life. I’ll say that again, “ever”. Yes, I’ve read X-books from the early ‘90s (no offense, mutant fans). Fame: Lady Gaga treads the space between it’s-so-bad-it’s-good-funny and I-feel-embarrassed-that-someone-has-their-name-on-this pathetic. It’s almost indescribable. One friend unlucky enough to read it lamented, “It’s not so much the money that I want back, but my time”. Unless you can share the tragedy of Fame: Lady Gaga with friends in some humorous manner, you will feel like someone has just made a joke of you. You’ve been had, Dear Reader! Not only does this book feature the worst possible art and most deplorable storyline, but it also includes virtually nothing about Lady Gaga herself.
It is easy to see what the intent was—to relay information about Lady Gaga through the frame of a fictional narrative about a couch-potato slob who slowly becomes obsessed with Gaga after seeing a video on TV. But somewhere along the line the actual biography of Gaga was dropped, and the only narrative present is one man’s attempt to become Lady Gaga.
The writing is gruesome, and grueling. It’s riddled with corporate product placement, with passages devoted to talking about McDonald’s McNuggets. Dell computers and YouTube logos are featured prominently, as Gaga’s story, which I’d imagine would be quite interesting, is pushed beyond the page.
The artwork is… well, it’s something else. Lady Gaga, when she is depicted, looks like some kind of disfigured monster. Lady Gaga is more like Lady Gladiator. Artist Kristoffer Smith draws Gaga with Popeye-like forearms and huge Hulked-out hands. In fact, everyone’s hands are strangely enormous and crooked. Hands, for poor Mr. Smith, appear to be some kind of insurmountable wall, an Achilles heel in the rendering of the human figure.
In the end Fame: Robert Pattison is an informative book but one that ignores the storytelling potential unique to the comics medium; Fame: Lady Gaga, on the other hand, is an absolute train wreck of a comic. Stay away if you can.