In this week’s installment of Heroes and Villains, I take on the role of the cool adult from a modestly budgeted after school special. Now, circle up while I sit on this chair in a cool but still relatable fashion while I rap at ya about drugs and alcohol!
The Alcoholic Tenth Anniversary Expanded Edition
Jonathan Ames (W)
Dean Haspiel (A)
Dark Horse Comics
Back in print to celebrate its 10th anniversary, The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel is one of those reads that sticks with you for days after reading it. Well, at least that’s how it was for me.
This books was Ames’ first foray into the world of comics and coincidentally my first exposure to his work. A fictional biography of a writer named Jonathan A., the book starts with his first drink of beer and the ups and downs that follow. I know that the word “unflinching” is prominently featured on the New York Times quote from the book’s cover but nothing can really prepare you for the story the book lays out in graphic detail.
Personally, I was never much of a drinker until it was legally acceptable for me to be one. But I always did wonder about the kids I went to high school with who spent their weekends shoplifting six packs of Zima. Or the ones who were cool enough to get invited to college parties with red plastic cups and keg beer.
The book follows a pattern of concentric circles as Jonathan A. drinks, dries out, drinks again, moves on to harder drugs, cleans up, hits bottom and starts over. The circles get smaller and smaller until he’s just struggling to maintain some kind of normalcy in his life. The book is a search for self with a protagonist that is constantly running from his tragedies instead of facing them. Jonathan A. grows as a character but, as a reader, you find yourself both rooting for him and dreading the next stumbling block that is only pages away.
The Alcoholic is also deeply comedic throughout. Part of the opening involves him running from the cops a burying himself in the sand under the boardwalk at Asbury Park, New Jersey. If I recall correctly the gag was also used in Ames’ HBO show Bored to Death where another fictionalized version of him (this time played by Jason Schwartzman) avoids detection in an identical fashion. Man, I miss that show…
Finally, The Alcoholic is fascinating in its realistic portrayal of addiction and recovery. I’m far from an expert in the subject but I’ve had friends that have chosen to get sober and it’s not an easy road from what i’ve seen. For some it’s been as simple as saying, “never again” and for others it’s the hardest task they’ve ever undertaken. That last point is what makes the last page of the book seem like a gut punch of a cliffhanger rather than an ending.
The Devil’s Kale, the ol’ giggle root, jazz cabbage, Mary Jane Watson-Parker. I’m talking about marijuana! You know, the stuff that sold thousands of copies of both The Dark Side of the Moon AND The Wizard of Oz? Well, weed is back and THIS time you can see aliens with it! Or at least that’s how it works in Burnouts from Image Comics which is out this week.
During school I may have been among the 1% that Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign worked on. The near constant bombardment of “very special episodes” had me convinced reefer was the fast track that would turn me into a murdering satanist. I managed to resist the peer pressure when presented with a MARIJUANA CIGARETTE my freshman year of college…
“You want a hit?”
“No thanks… I’m cool.”
“I know you’re cool…do you want a hit?”
“I had not anticipated this line of questioning so I must bid you good evening, sir.”
And off I slunk to a less hazy area of whatever gathering I had attended, no doubt to strike up a conversation about The X-Files or something equally as safe.
So, with that little vignette behind us, this book has all of that and more! You’ve got your peer pressure, you’ve got your drugs, and you’ve got your aliens! Yes, a group of stoners (and one nerd) discover their town is being invaded by aliens that only they can see while totally blazed.
If this book sounds like it’s for you, or your cousin who is suspiciously into Jam Bands, it… probably is. It’s even fun to read if you’re a total square! How can you NOT love a book being described as “Stranger Things meets They Live”? You can’t not love it that’s what.