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A Waste Of Time

Rick Worley
Northwest Press
$19.99 136 pages

Review by Joe Palmer

“Foul mouthed, sex obsessed, and misanthropic, Rick is no ordinary cartoon rabbit” reads a line in the promo material neatly tucked in with a copy of A Waste of Time, the latest publication from Northwest Press, from the talented hands of Rick Worley.

Truth be told — and why not if Worley himself is so transparent? — the first time I started to read A Waste of Time I didn’t get more than a few pages before putting the book down. Internally I could feel lovely psychic walls being rapidly thrown up in response, if only because his “lay it out there” attitude is in direct contrast to my diplomacy-as-survival-skill ingrained in me thanks to my screwed up family. But who doesn’t have a history of familial dysfunction? But then I remembered I love Dan Savage for his ability to cut through all the crap like he does. So what was going on? Oh, yeah. The same reaction happened early on when I read Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan years and years ago. God, Spider Jerusalem was such a dick, I thought, until I realized that Jerusalem was really a deep down idealist/ romantic and all his bluster and anger was to cover the disillusionment. Well, that was my take on the character and it helped me to understand the character that way to  read and, well, not exactly enjoy, but experience the series. With that in mind I finished the rest of AWoT in one setting. Not that Worley is a Warren Ellis or Dan Savage. And  that’s okay because while he cites the auto bio comics work of R Crumb and Jeffrey Brown for thematic inspiration, Worley has his own voice. Oh dear, the die hard spandex crowd just had a collective wide-eyed stare at those names. Don’t you worry! You can enjoy this book without danger of your superhero lover card being revoked.

What set Worley upon this path of acerbic, unflinching, unapologetic, and hilarious public self-examination? Relationship hell with a man who couldn’t appreciate the simple gifts of a single rose on a pair of occasions over the $300 jeans he wore and couldn’t understand the thrill Worley experienced after receiving a handmade Jeffrey Brown zine. (Granted, you might not have either, but you learn how to give and fake it well in a relationship.)

The cast comprises Rick, a horny cartoon rabbit, and stand in for Worley, with an obsession for twinks; a tiny robot named Rickets; a fox who goes by the nickname Truckstop, and Prester, a cute bear with fundamentalist tendencies. Rick the rabbit pursues one relationship after another with a series of twinks, giving Worley the opportunity to show us a look at gay culture filtered through his sensibilities. As oversexed as Truckstop is, we only hear about it after the deed is done. If you’re wondering about the nickname, he explains he got it after writing a date on a rest stop wall and going back later to have an orgy with 15 guys. You know you’ve wanted to do something like and here’s this cute little cartoon fox on paper who’s beaten you to it! As twisted as Prester and Rickets think Truckstop is, and they do think he is, Prester is just as much if not more. Prester has a thing for man on man on man sex, well, man on robot because it’s with Rickets, but only while drinking and doing enough cocaine “to stun Lindsay Lohan.” The depiction is totally absurd as they drunkenly fumble during sex yet a little hopeful and sad to learn that Rickets is ambivalent in his concern and denial of his own feelings the next moment. And Rickets? To me he seems to be the type of person who just really wants so much to belong with someone in a relationship that it almost doesn’t matter who it is. As unaware of their own choices and feelings as each of the characters can be (isn’t that just like real life?), each of the characters can be surprisingly insightful and supportive of the others.

One of the first strips is titled “My Life in a Pie Chart”. Rick shows Rickets a pie chart that he’s drawn up to figure out how he spends his time. Not surprisingly, a crappy bookstore job takes up the majority, followed by other stuff taking up everything else except for the smallest sliver for making his art. It hit a little too close to home for me. Not that I’m going to share with you the things that would be on my pie chart. My distractions are boring as hell and anyway, this is supposed to be a review. The wordless “Marching to the City” is a charming and bittersweet look at Rickets life telling the story of his relationship with another robot from beginning to end. A scene in which Rickets tries to give his boyfriend a single flower suggests the story reflects elements of Worley’s failed relationship that led to making the strip.

Now about Worley’s use of cute little animals as stand-ins for people. If you’re like me then you pretty much despise cute little animals in pop culture. My evil heart desires to stomp on and mutilate Hello Kitty whether it’s in a store window or adorning a little girl’s back pack as she crosses my path. The only ones I’ve liked till now are Bucky Katt and Satchel. But Worley using these cutesy avatars is a smart idea. It catches the reader unprepared, a bit of cognitive dissonance, like when raunchy and unvarnished truths come spilling out of their mouths.The other reason involves an idea that Scott McCloud put forth in his “Understanding Comics”. In a nutshell, McCloud theorized that the more cartoonish a face is, the easier it is for individual readers to project themselves onto the character and into the comic. A copy of McCloud’s visualization is here , but feel free to read a wordy essay here if you’re so inclined. You’ll want to Google “neotenic” first though. Basically, cartoon animals work like cartoonish faces to let (or maybe trick?) readers into identifying with the characters on a deeper level. Whereas if Worley drew himself in the strip the stories would fully remain his with an additional layer separating the readers. That Worley draws the objects of his lustful eye as real guys and not cartoon animals strangely makes it all the more compelling.

A dozen pages feature figure drawings of partially or completely naked men that Worley had relationships with. The circumstances behind the drawings become integral parts of Rick’s quest for love or at least a damned good fuck. There’s a nice assortment of nudes in the “fine art” sense where they’re simply objects to be looked upon and others that look out to engage the viewer in their little fantasy. They’re quite beautiful, done in a realistic style, and I’d love to see more work like this too. Plus, I love that Worley was able to work in talk about Michelangelo and Caravaggio into his strip. Who am I kidding? I love that he knows Caravaggio, a painter thought to be a bit of a twink-loving bad boy back in Renaissance days when you could be thrown in prison or worse for sodomy.

You lucky Apple addicts can find an iTunes preview. You could read it online at Worley’s website but that would make you a cheap, non-supportive douche, no matter how hot and tempting to Rick Worley your twink ass may be.

Long live debaucherous twinks!

March 7, 2015
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