Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"David Chelsea In Love" by David Chelsea (1993/2003)

I stumbled upon this autobiographical graphic novel at Half Price Books, being liquidated for $2.00, with an original retail of $16.95. I've paid full price for far worse, but I'd recommend taking a dig for it at two bucks all the same. These are hard times, after all.

Anyhow, this was originally published in the early '90s by Eclipse Books, but mine was by Reed Graphica from 2003. The story begins in 1980, as the young artist is struggling to make a living in New York as a magazine illustrator. He frequently returns to his native Portland for extended family visits to "spawn" with less materialistic women. His sister introduces him to her gawky, deeply neurotic actress friend Minnie, whom David has a painfully complicated courtship with for nearly 192 pages. Anyone remember "Dream On," an HBO sitcom set apart from network fare by mildly explicit language and an obligatory nude scene or two per episode? It starred Brian Benben, whose lead character was a fairly well adjusted book editor who screws a new woman every few episodes? Marry "Dream On" to mid-career Woody Allen pictures like "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan." That's what this is.

The book is dialogue-driven, mostly revolving around Chelsea's decidedly horny, somewhat romantic, and hopelessly self-centered everyman. There are occasional side trips into darker territory, as Minnie plainly has serious emotional problems, but that area is only grazed in favor of Chelsea's cutesy obsessions and escapades. The story itself is rather episodic and repetitive, but its chugs along pleasantly enough, and is cathartic in that the reader is satisfied after all the travails with a decisive conclusion. The basic art style is very inviting, and the subject matter makes it ideal as a gateway loan for new readers, especially those with no interests in genre material. It's especially well executed when compared to modern amateur navel gazers, seeing as the art alone is strong enough to rate a look, and the dialogue lends itself well to potential adaptation.

My only caveat is that there is a great deal of intricately rendered copulation in this novel. You can spot these sequences a mile off, as they typical take up a full page, are produced in a different style than the narrative pages, and are drenched in inky backgrounds. There is nudity, and these sequences pop up routinely, but the diversions are neither coarse nor essential reading for those inclined to skip them. I would imagine that anyone willing to spend time with David's libido and deal with some of the more controversial turns in the book should have no problems with the sex, though. I found the book well worth the investment of my time, which with the sheer quantity of dialogue was considerable, and look forward to revisiting it in the future.

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