Collection of comics examines the gay male experience
by Donald Miller
Robert Kirby (above), worked with
several noted cartoonists to create ‘The Book of Boy Trouble.’
Fans of queer comics and readers of Q-Notes will no doubt be familiar with the work of Robert Kirby — we’ve consistently carried his comic “Curbside” for the past several years.
“Curbside” is the story of two young men, Drew, an aspiring writer, and Nathan, an aspiring musician, who meet and eventually form a tumultuous relationship. The comic is funny and at times dark as it examines the ups and downs in the worlds of the two young men.
Kirby’s first venture into producing comics was his zine “Strange Looking Exile,” which also featured work by Diane DiMassa and Alison Bechdel (Q-Notes also carries Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For”). In 1994 Kirby began producing “Boy Trouble” with co-editor David Kelly. Initially it started out as a comic anthology that was published from issues one to four as a zine, with number five being released in the form of a book in 2004. This year an anthology of the best of “Boy Trouble” was released, entitled “The Book of Boy Trouble.”
This latest installation, from Green Candy Press, is a collection of comic strips from Kirby and Kelly, as well as a number of other contributors, among them Justin Hall, Michael Fahy, Craig Bostick and Jamie Cortez.
The glossy-covered, oversize paperback contains work from the 1990s up to 2005. Some of it is rough and minimalist scratch art, while others are richly detailed portraits. They all have one thing in common: a look at the gay male experience.
In “Instruction” Kirby travails the first time experience of a young gay man in an adult bookstore. For anyone who’s ever wandered into one — Kirby hits the first time right on the nail.
He combines efforts with a writer named Rhino for the piece “Curious Behavior,” which was originally released in 1996. It’s a scene reminiscent of the period: clubbing, partying, playing and not recalling much of it later.
There’s a smattering of Philly gay cartoonist Michael Fahy’s work spread throughout the book — and all of it is quick to illicit a laugh: in “Fuzz Butt Frenzy” he extols the virtues of men with the obvious attribute mentioned in the title. In “Dumb Ass” he bemoans the lack of intellect he finds in the unattainably gorgeous.
Single offerings come from Craig Bostick as he revisits teenage love and trouble in “By Accident” while Jamie Cortez offers a starkly illustrated, somewhat surreal retelling of an experience he witnessed at a nightclub between an older man and a much younger one.
Award-winning cartoonist Justin Hall’s “Pink Dolphins” is more than just a comic strip — it’s a beautifully illustrated recounting of an experience shared between a handsome 30-something traveler and a cute 20-something Latin man so desperate for love he’s willing to sacrifice anything.
Kelly’s work has always been good for a chuckle — as he often combines his appreciation for the oddities of pop culture of the ’70s and ’80s mixed in with a distinctly gay storyline. “Juicy Boys” and “Boys on the Beach” stick to that formula — silly tales of goofy guys in juice bars or on the beach comically lusting after other twinky types.
In fact, a quirky, upbeat theme runs throughout the book — there’s not really any bitterness or anything ugly (at least not from the queer characters) to be found here. It’s pure fun from front to back.
info:“The Book of Boy Trouble”
Green Candy Press, $15.95