How many times in the past year have people told me to read Minimum Wage? A whole bunch. I came close to buying it a couple of times, but it was one of those things that I never had the money for. Now that I’ve read the first book… I’m an idiot. So the collected book has the second half AND 40 new pages? OK, before I get started, if you missed this one completely like I did… go get the collected edition. I’m guessing, I suppose the second half could fall apart or something, but this first book was incredible. It’s basically the story of Rob, an artist who makes a living drawing cartoons for porn magazines, Sylvia, his girlfriend who seems to be more than a little bit crazy, and Jack, Rob’s roommate who seems to have a few issues with the idea of Rob and Sylvia moving in together. Before you dismiss this as a soap opera, there’s a whole lot more to it than that. Bob explores making a living doing something at least slightly degrading, going to clubs when there’s no reason to be out, public sex, private sex, public urination in open wounds… There’s all kinds of stuff in here, and some of it is probably going to be pretty disgusting to you. The fact is that the man has an unbelievable ear for dialogue and I can always appreciate someone who packs his panels with as much stuff as he does. Damn it, I can’t afford to buy a collected book when I’m moving in a few days. Anyway, buy this, read it, and love it.
Yes, I’m finally getting around to reviewing a Big Book. It only took me about 3 years after I put the page up, but it turns out that there are a lot of mini comics coming out on a regular basis, and that’s what the page is all about, after all. This is just in case there’s anybody out there who still doesn’t know about this marvelous series. What they do is take a subject (scroll around for more of the titles) and examine it from every angle, using a variety of some of the best comics illustrators out there. Here’s a partial list, leaving aside the fact that the whole thing is put together by Gahan Wilson, and shame on you if you don’t know who he is: Bob Fingerman, Hunt Emerson, Renee French, Ivan Brunetti, Rick Geary, and Glenn Barr, along with about 40 others that you’ll probably recognize at least a little bit but be unaware where you recognize them from, if you’re anything like me. Anyway, obviously, this one is all about freaks throughout the ages. Yes, they deal with the politically correct way you’re supposed to say “freaks”. In here you have ancient legends about giants and other oddities, freaks of nature like Chang and Eng (the first Siamese twins, and the reason that they’ve all been called “Siamese” since) and the Elephant Man, P.T. Barnum and his business dealings, flea circuses, snake charmers and “geeks”, bearded women and tattooed men, faked freaks, and personal lives of freaks such as Zip, Baby Ruth, Lobster Boy, and the gentle giant of Alton, Illinois. Whew! There are pieces, here and there, where you wish for a bit more personal detail, but there’s not going to be a lot of personal detail with a lot of these stories because it’s ancient history in a lot of cases and their real stories were usually closely guarded, so as to avoid people finding out the truth. That’s the only minor complaint I have with this book, however. If you’re curious about anything above what’s in here, there’s an extensive bibliography in the back. I love the fact that it’s a different artist for every story, as it gives a lot of incredibly talented people a chance to give their interpretations of many, many odd people. I remember this as being one of my favorites of the bunch, and I’ll probably put up a few more reviews before three more years pass, but I have to point out again how wonderful these books are. Anybody, comics fan or not, can pick one of these up, read it for a few hours, and come away knowing somewhere between a lot and a little more than they started with. There were a few things I picked up this time that I hadn’t before, and I’ve read this thing probably three times. A fantastic, indispensable book, and cheap enough at $14.95 that it’s hard to resist. If you haven’t seen any of these before, and you don’t have a weak stomach, I’d say start with this one.