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The Eltingville Club #2

eltingvilleclubcoverSMALL2Evan Dorkin, writer & artist
Dark Horse

Reviewed by Jon A Adams

Yikes! If you are both a comic book fan and masochist, this book needs to be on the top of your reading list.

With art reminiscent of a cuddlier Robert Crumb, “The Eltingville Club” tells the story of four former friends who reunite by chance at a comic book convention. Each one symbolizes a facet of the worse side of fandom. Pete is the smarmy one who used comics and horror movies as his gateway drug to porn. Josh is the pedantic one who can and will pick at any little detail that doesn’t jibe with the way things have always been. Jerry… actually isn’t that bad; he’s the one who tries to get a life, but still incorporate fantasy fandom into it. But the lead character, Bill, is the darkest of them all – short-tempered, defensive, petty, dishonest, lazy… an angry man with much venom to misdirect at all targets.

This juvenile, misogynist crew is flabbergasted to learn Jerry has a girlfriend, Mandi, who is not only attractive, but into the con scene as well. Of course, they do what they can to tear her down. The unrelenting mean-spiritedness eventually leads Mandi to ask, “Were you guys ever actually friends?” I, myself, never had any friends who were into comic books or fantasy. (I never had any friends, period.) But I would jealously watch groups of what I would assume to be friends hanging together at a convention. Now I reconsider my envy.

Around the main character are ambient, random word balloons that capture a sampling of the comments one may over hear at a typical con. Mileage varies on the believability of these, based on one’s own experiences and observations. I’ve been to a few cons, and find them spot-on realistic. The funniest bits are the horrible things you recognize as being true, like when a disaster happens and the first utterance isn’t “Get help,” but rather, “Whip out a cell phone and film this for YouTube!”

A few scenes will drive you to “screen-talk” back at the comic. A vendor who is hawking a particularly gory pre-code comic claims, “This makes EC look like DC!” To which I thought, “So does today’s DC!” Due to the nature of this work, one should expect inside jokes. My favorite: a line of fans seeking to meet Jim Steranko are knocked over like dominos onto that creator. As the crowd panics to rescue him, one of the many voices in the background asks, “Why doesn’t he just escape?,” a reference to him being an escapologist in his youth. Well, I found it clever.

My verdict: Someone once wrote, “If you were to build a museum of horror and include a portrait of the greatest, most destructive threat one can ever face, if you were honest, that portrait would be a mirror, reflecting to each viewer his own worst adversary.” “The Eltingville Club” certainly drives home that point. This magazine walks a very obvious line between good-natured lampoon and outright ridicule of your stereotypical comic book convention and fans. To mis-quote Oscar Wilde, “It eviscerated me; how could I not love it?” Recommended for all comic book fans who are not too thin-skinned for a reality check.

September 13, 2015
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