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Lout Rampage. By Daniel Clowes with others. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 1996. 95p. $14.95. ISBN 1-56097-070-7.

General fiction, humor

Adults, teens; nudity, profanity, drug use, etc. etc.

This is a collection of short Clowes pieces that appeared in several years' worth of Eightball, a comic beloved by many. There's no overarching theme (except maybe misery), and the pieces range from one to eight pages in length. Sample stories include:

  • "I Hate You Deeply," starring Lloyd Llewellyn, who lists and describes things he hates, including musclemen, urban attention-seekers, British musicians, and amateur psychiatrists.
  • "A Preview of the Coming Apocalypse," which Clowes apparently adapted from a religious tract by the "Bible Believer's Evangelistic Association" (and which has a website, so I guess it's real).
  • "The Laffin' Spittin' Man," another LL LL tale, in which our hapless hero suffers the revenge of a traveling novelty salesman.
  • "Devil Doll," a parody of a Jack Chick comic: a teenager is sucked into Satanism but is miraculously saved when she reads a Christian pamphet. Apparently, this piece was a previously "anonymous" pamphlet stuck into Jello Biafra's spoken-word album Beyond the Valley of the Gift Police. Someone scanned in the pamphlet pages at
  • "Life in These United States," or what really goes on in the minds of two couples who get together for dinner (written by Peter Bagge).
  • "The Show of Violence," a fragment of a book by Fredric Wertham about "the workings of the criminal mind," and a fragment of "Seduction of the Innocent," both adapted for comics by Clowes (which almost seems like an oxymoron, but there you go).
  • "I Love You Tenderly," a reaction to reader reaction to "I Hate You Deeply," which ends up being an "I Hate..." piece anyway.
  • "The Future," some predictions about what we'll be like pretty soon. Some of the predictions are a little closer to reality than one might expect, such as the one that says, "Nothing new will be created. Old ideas will simply be perpetually rehashed, recycled, and recombined" (does that sound like last summer's movie season?); or the trend of "Expensive restaurants with intentionally bad food and terrible service" (anyone been to a Hard Rock Cafe lately?); or anticipating the Internet in that "[N]o one will be alone in his or her interests no matter how esoteric...." (Interests like graphic novels, perhaps?)
  • "Frankie and Johnnie," a rather... salty ballad sung on the streets of Harlem around the turn of the century (the previous one), adapted by Clowes.

I've liked Clowes's work for a long time (though if you read my book you know I hated Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron). When he isn't being annoyingly hip and pointless, he can be damned funny, as he is in these pages. His art, famous for that fifties-retro tinge, is grotesque in a clean-lined way; no one draws sweat better than him, or lumpish people (i.e., louts), or people who stare straight into the camera. The way he adapts his various serious sources (Wertham, religious tracts, etc.) turns them into complete self-parodies. He strips from them their hypocritical "educational" or "spiritual" value and gets right down to the meat of the matter: their appeal to prurient interests. On the other hand, his "Frankie and Johnnie," using a far more raunchy version of the song than is generally heard, is just pure dirty fun. Whoring, coke-snorting, boozing, murder, naked women--this ain't your grandma's "old standard"!

I enjoyed most of the pieces, angst- and sarcasm-ridden as they were. One of my favorites was "The Stroll," Clowes's thoughts as he meanders through town. I'm sure we've all had similar thoughts about the people we pass. Another favorite was "Life in These United States," with its huge gulf between the civilized (and square) behavior of the two couples and their vicious thoughts about themselves and each other. Lloyd Llewellyn's idle vision of Charlie Brown's Lucy with huge naked breasts (in "I Love You Tenderly") was hilarious! However, a few of the pieces did fall flat for me, such as the various "polls" taken of disreputable/stupid-looking people (written by David Greenberger), asking questions like "Why do people spit?" Endless nonsequitur answers grow old quickly.

Overall, this book is a good example of adult humor and off-the-wall cartooning. Adults and teens should enjoy it, though it could be too controversial for some readers, between its general raunchiness and its rather... skewed take on religion. Not for children!


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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