I only really got into comics by Chester Brown, Joe Matt and Seth in the last couple of years, but it’s been a massively rewarding experience and I’m looking forward to new works by all three creators.
It just takes me a while to get around to these things, which may have been why it was so surprising to see that Palookaville kicked off with an autobiographical tale about getting beaten up in the big city.
It shouldn’t be that surprising, considering the company he was keeping. Him and Matt and Brown were all about keeping it real, and telling it like it is. It wouldn’t take Seth long to realise that he could do that, while still telling stories about the weight of history and all the lost things in the world.
There are signs of it already in the prologue and epilogue of Palookaville #1, where the artist happily points out that nobody would ever guess he was once wandering around with long white hair. He’s already got the look that people remember him for – the arch ironic attitude towards everything is already there.
It’s also surprising to see how his art sometimes looks like it was drawn by Richard Sala’s demented half-cousin. These aren't the crisp and rigid lines of Seth’s later architecture, it’s waving all over the show.
It’s still bloody entertaining, like many of these comics. Stories about how hard life is in the big city are always recognisable, and despite what movies tell you, getting beat up is a deeply traumatic experience that can’t be shaken off with a shrug. Young Seth’s helplessness and the sinking sensation that he thinks he deserved it are a universal experience, as well as the need to just get over it.
I’m desperately keen to read Chester Brown’s latest comic, and will buy everything Joe Matt ever does, but I’m always looking forward to Seth’s comics more than anybody else. Because he has that spirit of melancholy and old honour, presented in a gorgeous exactness.
They don’t look like anybody else’s comics any more.