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Fame, Anxiety & Comfort Lead To Nostalgia

Writer: Scott Hoffman
Artist: Danijel Žeželj
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Steve Wands
Designer: Rian Hughes
Editors: Greg Lockard & Will Dennis

Apprehension. Isolation. Subjugation. Loss. Loneliness. When you’re experiencing all those things, what else can you turn to for comfort, except possibly nostalgia?

Scott Hoffman (aka Babydaddy of Scissor Sisters fame), Daniel Žeželj, Lee Loughridge and Steve Wand come together to explore these ideas through Craig Mancini, musician and artist, in a new dystopian tale.

(Full Disclaimer: I’m a HUGE Scissor Sisters fan and a fan of Hoffman’s work with other artists like Kylie Minogue. When I like an artist, I’m always curious about whatever they decide to tackle and what it brings out of them creatively. [Also: If they ever get back together, see Scissor Sisters live – they are sublime performers!] Okay, now that is out of the way…)

The story opens by setting up our main character Craig Mancini, the eponymously-named legendary music performer, in Nostalgia #1, as someone seemingly “living” in the past and whose “life” is merely existing in the present. Hoffman at once shows us the connection Craig felt to his art and his fans, and the beauty of the planet itself, at the height of his popularity, which is then completely rebuffed by his current existence: a man locked in a physical and emotional tower, both of his own making.

That’s not to say that Craig doesn’t have some good reasons to do so (and other good reasons hinted at.) The dystopian future Hoffman and Žeželj develop here feels immediately familiar and eerily plausible. COVID, income inequality, information integrity, technological advancements, climate crises and other concepts all flashed through my head as I read the abundant in-story newsfeeds and we were given a tour of the city. (The irony of scarlet-colored skies being a color component of this storytelling and the Canadian wildfires turning New York City’s skyline red this week.)

A cacophony of these issues and the state of the world seem to plague Craig’s mind and it’s no wonder he’s locked himself away for protection in his now, cutting himself off both physically and emotionally from even those he once called friend. In his isolation, we’re introduced to a couple of people who are about as close to Craig as he’s going to let someone get. Lexi, Craig’s one time roadie, whom he laments “Shame, I took the roadie off the road.” A brief introduction, but Lexi is seemingly one of the only characters Craig lets physically close to him, yet there’s definitely some emotional distance going on. The hints of their stilted, uncomfortable relationship flow through – considering the times and experiences a front man and roadie would experience together. Fran, from Craig’s label, Dead Sky, makes an appearance via video (that Zoom life, am I right?), to not only tell Craig that Dead Sky is a conglomeration of all media now, but to also tell him “his algorithms are up” in an attempt to encourage him to release new music. Craig describes Fran as his only friend, so I’m intrigued to see how Fran will factor into the rest of the series. Through each of these exchanges we learn that Craig seems content with a static life.

Things change for Craig and the plot gets rolling with the arrival of a package with the design of a nautilus on it and a special note – piquing Craig’s curiosity and some reminiscences of his childhood and when he was just starting out as a musician and performer. Cue the mystery of how the provider knew where Craig lived from the safety of his data-scrubbed isolation and some cephalopod symbolism (e.g. infinity, rising and falling between strata and worlds, nature’s constructs versus technological ones, etc.) This act starts Craig’s adventure out of his “tower” to descend into the world he’s shut himself off from – and eventually intercept some surprises. All the while still protected by the character I found the most interesting, Elena. A sort of taser-firing, levitating Roomba donut-shaped drone, that seems particularly good at monitoring Craig. (An enigmatic droid will get me everytime.)

The set up for this story is compelling, especially given Hoffman’s experiences in the music industry and undoubtedly his connection with music, performance, fans and fame. Plenty of layers to explore “connection” through this unique lens and how we are more connected than ever before via technology, but less connected as human beings and the planet we call home. This dissonance attracts me to the story as well as Žeželj’s art and Loughridge’s colors. Žeželj’s pencils provide an epicness to the story. There’s an immensity here in the backdrop to the city and background of the story. His portrayal of the characters and their expressions give me a haunting feeling as we delve into this world of inequity, control, ambivalence and lost spirit. Loughridge’s reds, blues, greens, yellows and oranges are vibrant – not something typically seen in dystopian storytelling – and almost neon in their intensity that eventually diffuses out to black in the panels. As a clubgoer of the 2000s and 2010s, that intensity reminds me of nights out, fun and frivolity, and perceptions of light and space from the dance floor, a welcome juxtaposition to consider with the themes being explored here.

In our current culture and some people’s obsession with a past that’s somehow pristine, unimpeachable and better than today, it’s a great time to read and delve into Nostalgia.

Nostalgia #1 is available digitally on Tuesday, June 13 and kicks off a five week Comixology event.

Scott Lyon (he/him/his) has been an out and proud superhero and comics fan from the very first time he saw Lynda Carter spin into Wonder Woman in the 1970s. A mild mannered media consumer by day and a pop culture crimefighter by night, Scott has a particular interest in the intersections of LGBTQIA2S+, BIPOC and women’s identities in storytelling and the pop culture and speculative fiction media we create and consume. You can find him at @wonderscott on Instagram.

June 13, 2023
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