Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fat Boy and Harvey #1

Fat Boy and Harvey #1, July 2005, Axiom
writer/inker: Howard M. Shum
penciller: E.W. Clayton

Blogger's note: Entry for Monday, January 14, 2008.

Well, Britney missed another court date. Oh, she made it to the courthouse, but like a boy with a "Do you like me?" note circling his crush's locker, she seemed unsure, timid, as if actually going in meant the end of her solo parade of unaccountability. Like many others, I fear for her safety, but I don't know why; I don't know her personally, and if I did, I think I'd ignore her calls. You don't need Billy Bush to tell you that the greater American public is fascinated with celebrity, much like the ancient Romans were fascinated by gladiators, I'm sure. They have bodies we envy and have achieved a potential we can only imagine, but we build them up only to experience the more fulfilling joy of watching them fall. Thinking about it, our fascination isn't "just like" the Romans'; with American Gladiators back on the air, it is the Romans', perhaps reimagined through some Jungian loop of acceptable masochism . . .

What does this have to with Fat Boy and Harvey #1? Not much, actually, other than to emphasize that writer Howard M. Shum understands the capacity of celebrity-oriented disgrace and uses it cleverly as a tongue-in-cheek story. When Harvey, a wanna-be animator, picks up his sizable cousin from the airport, the two find themselves in a streetside tussle, during which "Fat Boy" exhibits enough kung fu prowess to attract one of Fred Durst's handlers and score them a security job at a Limp Biskit concert. Of course, Harvey couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag and relies heavily on Fat Boy's skill, but his foreign cousin's honor and naivete are often more of a hindrance than a help. What follows is a peculiar tale of social satire, laced with Sunday funnies-paced humor really not suitable for an all-ages audience.

E. W. Clayton's pencils, with Shum's heavy black inks, pop right off the page, and his characters are as animated as the script calls for them to be -- perhaps even more so, emphasizing those hard punchlines and site gags with just enough "oomph." Writing humor comics is undoubtedly difficult, but by tethering their characters to a context everyone can understand, namely Fred Durst's latent homosexuality, Shum and Clayton instantly share an inside joke with their knowing audience. Sure, Harvey and Fat Boy are at best exaggerated projections of the creators themselves, who probably haven't worked a Limp Biskit concert in this capacity, but the way they tell it, anyone really could end up walking in on Durst tasting the hot dog flavored water . . . and we'd react the same way.

I picked up Fat Boy at the West Hollywood Book Fair last year, and Shum was kind enough to sign my issue for me. The cover by Sean "Cheeks" Galloway is a striking piece of character design, and perhaps even more coveted now that Cheeks has designed some characters for the forthcoming Spider-man animated series. Also of note, this issue's back-up feature, written conversely by Clayton, stars a ranting superhero that may or may not be satirising the Republican party. After reading this two-page diatribe, you might consider smiting your enemies, which was coincidentally one of my new year's resolutions . . .

If only Britney had such drive. While we hate to love to hate these celebrities, we also love to hate to love them. Most of us deal with this torrid romance by watching The Insider or visiting Perez Hilton's website a dozen times a day; Howard Shum turns it into a comic book. I'm glad something has come from those laps around the courthouse.

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