Reviews

Subtlety and the Narrative Fidelity of The Li’l Depressed Boy #8

Michael D. Stewart

If you're engaged enough, Li'l Depressed Boy will give you the intellectual wonderland of Fisher on human narration, and the emotional core of our daily lives writ large as popular culture.


Li'l Depressed Boy #8

Publisher: Image
Length: 22 pages
Writer: S. Steven Struble, Sina Grace
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2012-03
Amazon

Understatement is an art, and no comicbook on the market currently does that better than The Li’l Depressed Boy. The Web comic, turned ongoing Image series, plays with the fine mechanics of subtlety, creating an inspiringly authentic look at modern love and popular culture, and the recognition of this achievement deserves a more critical examination.

While the comic could be easily dismissed as the melancholy ramblings of a sad sack, that assessment would miss the core of what makes LDB a rag doll hero to the masses. He’s us. And the way he handles the various obstacles in his everyday life, is both a reflection of shared experience, and a testimony to the John Cusack generation. Issue eight of the series is a further continuation of that understanding. It builds upon a glum heritage LDB pays tribute to in each and every panel.

In 1984 Walter Fisher proposed what he called the narrative paradigm. Fisher believes that human narration allows us to make sense of the world around us. Moreover human narration communicate significant life experience in order to establish a common community. The narrative paradigm is what is happening now within historical context, not what will happen or what is dreamt of as happening. It is shared experience. It is common ground. As Fisher himself said, “The narrative paradigm insists that human communication should be viewed as historical as well as situational, as stories competing with other stories constituted by good reasons, as being rational when they satisfy the demands of narrative probability and narrative fidelity.”

In terms of popular culture, the probability of LDB’s exploits are confirmed by previous artifacts, especially if we compare him to the protagonists he’s undoubtedly inspired by like several of John Cusack’s roles in the last 23 years. Most effectively, we think of his turn as noble underachiever Lloyd Dobler. The coincidence of The Li’l Depressed Boy #1’s second printing cover is not lost. That image recreates the iconic radio blasting of “In Your Eyes” by Dobler – coincidentally, again, that scene is brought up again in this issue. (Bit of trivia, when Lloyd holds up the radio, it is actually playing a song by Fishbone. "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel was added in post-production after Cameron Crowe dismissed a song by The Smithereens.)

The connection between these events separated by eight issues certainly adds to the narrative fidelity of the comic, the faith garnered by a generation of righteous slackers looking for the exact things Dobler and LDB search for…meaning and love.

Issue eight opens with LDB and best pal Drew returning from their misadventures of going to see Andrew Jackson Jihad in Oklahoma. A breakfast stop allows the characters to recap briefly where we are and where the story is going, foreshadowing the eventual confrontation (or lack thereof) between LDB and his would-be love Jazz. Here again the narrative probability is enhanced by Drew’s name dropping Duckie Dale, Jon Cryer’s character from Pretty in Pink. This is another character that is a direct inspiration for our rag doll hero. That John Hughes artifact has had a lasting effect on pop insights, just as Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything has inspired the wistful intentions of many sub-culture heroes. The creators’ overt use of Duckie and Dobler (in this same scene no less) gives credence to their mission to infuse this creation with the long history of pop heroes.

Writer and The Li’l Depressed Boy creator S. Steven Struble in this issue perpetuates the idea that less is more. His script for issue eight, while littered with the tent poles of modern pop romance, does not bear down on the reader. The movement from scene to scene, situation to situation, moves with relative ease. The passivity of the scenes are actually what gives them power. They’re authentic (yes, we’ll refer to that several more times). They are reflective of LDB’s own relationship with the world and the people around him, especially when it comes to Jazz.

When LDB arrives home and has his “reunion” with Jazz, each and every one of us reading this book must be able to identify if not wholly recognizes the make-up of this scene. We’ve lived it – maybe not the broken door knob, but close. This is the power of The Li’l Depressed Boy. While the melancholy vague ramblings of a rag doll may sound like the dullest thing since who knows what, Struble’s script and breakdown of each scene is reliably genuine.

Artist collaborator Sina Grace does his best to execute the pencils in the framework of what Struble has in mind. No movement is wasted or squandered. The facial expressions and body postures all add credibility to the narrative rationality being achieved. The visual presentation is a fluid partner in the fidelity of this book.

Issue eight of The Li’l Depressed Boy is just another excellent chapter in this book’s run. Limitedly using Fisher’s narrative paradigm as a guide, we can see that much of this rag doll’s legacy is built upon the competition of other stories. Perhaps competition is the wrong word, as these previous artifacts of our culture infatuation with lovable underachievers are incorporated as tribute. Whatever the case, The Li’l Depressed Boy’s heritage and its own use of subtlety to authentically connect with its audience is what makes the comic a welcome addition to spinner racks each month.

8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image