A superhero comic and what it signifies to a writer who can’t draw becomes the meditative center of this graphic novel.
This unusual work consists of three parts. The first is notes for a comic book roughly indicated on blank forms with spaces for publisher (“HEX”), title, issue, and page number, beginning with two unnumbered pages filled with the word “black” and synonyms (blackness, dark, darkness, inky), along with the word “CORY.” Numbered pages 1 to 20 contain few drawings except for a superhero silhouette, mostly consisting of captions, dialogue, and instructions for the artist on what to draw. For example, “a chance comet shields Doby from the blast” or “still supposed to look like half a skull.” Four more pages, still presented as if on the blank forms, provide a full-color, dialogue-free sequence that bears a tangential relationship to the foregoing. In the last section, titled “My Hero” and no longer using the form backdrop, the author provides autobiographical details about the conception of this story and his growth as a writer, giving thanks to those who contributed. It’s hard to figure out what’s going on in this puzzling offering from Jones (Mapping the Interior, 2017, etc.). Readers gather that Lance and Kenneth, two high school friends, are the creators of a comic book called Dr. Never, “foiler of dastardly deeds,” featuring Stardillo, Korga, and Rexo. They’ve succeeded enough to have a merchandising deal and action figures. This is mixed up with memories and present-day reflections in a baffling manner, with elliptical statements that leave out information (who is Cory, mentioned early on?) or make the reader hunt for it. (The best guidance is the book’s back cover blurb, which explains that Jones and his best friend, who once dreamed of collaborating on superhero comics, now have children of their own who play together, as they once did, and with action figures based on the author’s own comic book.) In addition, the emphasis on how unusual it is to write but not draw a comic seems odd, given the enormous success of Harvey Pekar.
Intriguing ideas, but teasing out meaning from this confusing presentation becomes a challenge.