Tag Archives: Pat N Lewis

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Review: Box Office Poison Color #2

boxofficepoisonBox Office Poison Color #2 is all about the retail blues as Alex Robinson narrates a day in the life of our bookstore clerking hero, Sherman. There are a couple pages of most inane customer questions in which Robinson flexes his caricature (and homage) muscles as the main story centers around Sherman hating his job, but not having the guts to quit it and find something that is connected to his sadly useless English degree. The backup story is even better as Robinson tells the backstory of Jane Pekar, Sherman’s cartoonist housemate, and how she fell in love with her boyfriend Stephen, who is a history professor that resembles a sexier Alan Moore.

Robinson chooses to make his protagonist, Sherman, cut a less than a heroic figure from the opening pages featuring his sad dream about his ex, lying on his bed skinny and naked, and clocking into work. He is a man who has chosen to be controlled by his circumstances and just goes with the ebb and flow of his clerk job at Boiling Frog. Like last issue, Box Office Poison Color #2 unfolds at a natural pace showing several customer interactions , some co-worker gossip, and introducing Sherman’s manager “the dragon”, who is just a blonde bobbed middle aged woman. Robinson gets the questions from real customers he had while working at Barnes and Noble, and their fixation on book cover colors is too painful to watch. But, honestly, the part that gave me the worst flashback was the string of inane co-worker gossip strung out by Sherman’s breakroom mate. His disinterested face was me every time a co-worker tried to talk about their boring romantic relationship when all I wanted to do was to read a comic, watch a football game, or play dumb game on my phone in peace.

shermanquit

Robinson uses thought bubbles and frenetically inked panels to show the difference between Sherman’s id and superego in regards to his job. The thought bubbles have every snarky one-liner he wants to direct at a customer, who wants to see a manager even though she knows next to nothing about the book she’s looking for. But Sherman is a consummate professional and doesn’t act on these impulses unlike his buddy James who cusses out their manager and quits in a nine panel grey scale sequence. The interplay of dialogue and speech bubbles are relatable to anyone who has had to put on a special “face” for the general public as Robinson draws Sherman as a monster before he shrinks away and submits to his manager giving him double work for the same pay because James quit. He’s kind of a doormat, but hey, the bills have to be paid somehow.

The second story in Box Office Poison #2 is an unconventional love story featuring Jane and Stephen. Robinson does a good job of showing Jane’s different looks over the year as well as what initially attracted her to Stephen. He throws the romantic comedy tropes in the trashcan and goes full awkward with their first date, which is filled with awkward silences. However, they stick it out as Stephen is super honest about not being great at dating after really only being in one relationship for his whole life, and a bond is forged with Pat Lewis using soft pinks during the more romantic scenes. Jane gets super vulnerable in the story and talks about how she love Stephen, but marriage seems too “adult” for her even though she’s in early 30s. I definitely understand that feeling, which is why I’m entirely skeptical of people in their early 20s getting married while their frontal lobe is still developing. The key to Jane and Stephen’s relationship are that they’re both passionate about their interests, which are comics and history respectively and challenge each other to pursue them. It’s pretty awesome actually.

Alex Robinson continues to round his cast of characters in Box Office Poison #2 showcasing Sherman’s bookstore purgatory along with the kind of amazing relationship between Jane and Stephen. His characters continue to not look like the ideal human form, which fits a story about terrible jobs and falling in love in a less than Garry Marshall way.

Story and Art: Alex Robinson Colors: Pat N. Lewis
Story: 8  Art:8  Overall:8  Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing/Top Shelf provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Box Office Poison Color Comics #1

boxofficeAlex Robinson‘s 2001 and 2002 Eisner and Harvey Award nominated graphic novel Box Office Poison returns in colored form as Box Office Poison Color Comics #1. Plus there’s annotations and commentary at the end of every issue as Robinson looks back on the comic that he started creating in the early 90s. The concept of the book is pretty simple: it’s about young people in Brooklyn in 1994 (When rent was $250 a month!!) trying to make ends meet and possibly doing something creative or falling in love along the way. This issue introduces the main character Sherman, a wannabe writer/bookstore clerk; his roommate and best friend Ed, a cartoonist/hardware store worker who are moving into an apartment with Stephen, a history professor and his cartoonist girlfriend Jane. Interspersed with this main plot is flashbacks to Sherman’s last year of college, which is basically boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, drama happens, and boy breaks up with girl.

And Pat N. Lewis’ sepia color palette really adds to wistful quality of the Sherman flashback scenes with “The Bohemian Girl” (A reference to an old Laurel and Hardy movie.) Robinson’s dialogue gives them an easy chemistry as they talk about old movies, masturbation, and all that jazz while the perforated gutters make the flashbacks seem like pictures in an old scrapbook or diary. He goes silent during their breakup using gestures and faces to convey the feeling of heartbreak that overwrought dialogue could never do. Robinson also doesn’t paint Sherman’s ex as the villain as he is the one who snaps at her and says that she lives off her parents instead of toiling away at a minimum wage bookshop of him. He feels guilty that they are paying for their trip to Europe and decides to react that way instead of talking it out. But this is why he is little out of it when Box Office Poison starts.

There isn’t really much plot in present day sequences apart from introducing the characters and some okay slapstick gags about moving, like Ed trying to walk up stairs and playing with his rotund belly instead of helping Sherman unpack his thousands of books. (I can definitely relate to how heavy those damn book boxes are and also being distracted by reading instead of unpacking.) The introduction to Stephen is pretty funny too as he has a scowl across his face, and Ed and Sherman have a thought bubble about him being an axe murderer. However, he happens to be a nice, polite, if slightly workaholic who takes Jane and the guys out to Chinese towards the end of the issue and empathizes with Sherman’s retail life. The main cast kind of feels like an American version of Spaced, but a little less kooky with no raves or tank theft so far.

Box Office Poison #1 is more tragedy than comedy, like Woody Allen’s middle period after his early, funny ones. Robinson’s dark crosshatching on Sherman sitting alone with his boxes of his books is pretty pathetic and kind of made me want to give him a hug. Except he switches over to a cleaner art style when Jane comes in and invites him to watch a Laurel and Hardy movie. Sometimes a little human company can get you through those sad, lonely days. Also, kudos to Robinson for keeping Jane and Sherman’s relationship platonic instead of resorting to Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotypes.

For the most part, the cast of Box Office Poison Color Comics #1 is a pleasant, if slightly self-loathing group. The exception is Ed, who comes across as an obnoxious, sexist man child, who objectifies women and makes snide comments about their weight. In this first issue, he belongs in The Big Bang Theory instead of a well-drawn, passionate independent comic that is still a good read almost two decades after it first came out turning into a 90s period piece along the way.

Story and Art: Alex Robinson Colors: Pat N. Lewis
Story: 7.2 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.6 Recommendation: Read

IDW Publishing/Top Shelf provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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