Typically, I’ve been reading my comics through the Comixology app, which I get a lot of shit for. It’s similar to how audiophiles felt when people started buying cassettes and CDs and they remained loyal (and snobby) to vinyl. I had no qualms about moving on from the actual physical comic book to having them beamed to my device digitally. I’m fascinated by technology, what can I say? Many of my comic book readin’ friends still worship the actual book. Not sure if they are trying to be hipsters or counter-culture or whatever, but I’ve moved on. This time though, Mike mentioned that I could find Unbearable at Little Shop of Comics in Scotch Plains, NJ. So I went retro.
I’ve been to Little Shop a bunch of times so I stopped there after work one day. The woman working there directed me right to Unbearable which was highlighted by a small sign attesting to the fact that this is a local book by an indie company. While I was there I picked up a couple of other DC issues that caught my eye and went on my merry way.
Reading Unbearable was definitely not akin to it’s title, although some parts hit close to home (pun intended). The story centers around an aimless, out of work dude named Ben who is living in his girlfriend’s place in New Brunswick, NJ. Ben and his friends chill, play video games, drink beers, and get high, all while he’s NOT looking for employment opportunities – something that royally pisses off his girl Liz.
On a larger scale, whether intentionally or not, writers J.C Luz and Cliff Galbraith bring to life a group of guys who are notoriously “Jersey.” For all the ambitious celebrities and rock stars from New Jersey that I discuss here at The Sexy Armpit, there’s hundreds of unmotivated slackers in this state who talk a lot of shit, but never actually do anything. Kevin Smith wasn’t joking around when he showed us similar characters in Clerks and Mallrats. That wasn’t an exaggeration. It’s not like we’re in the mid-west where a kid with dreams of going to L.A or New York would have to save enough money for a plane ticket before setting out on their quest. We’re merely miles away from the greatest city in the world and we still manage to breed so many slackers. But, that’s not to say we don’t have a high concentration of go-getters, it just makes me wonder why staring at that New York skyline in the distance isn’t igniting even more creative fires. In Luz and Galbraith’s case it wasn’t New York City, but New Brunswick, NJ that set their minds in motion.
There were aspects of the book that reminded me of people who I once knew and some who I still know today. The first issue, while mostly serving as set-up, features our main character in an uncomfortable situation. The dude can’t keep his shit together so I went from rooting for him all the way to thinking “Dude! How could you forget your girlfriend’s BIRTHDAY?” Ben is certainly frustrating, but there’s room for improvement. I doubt he should even entertain trying to win Liz back though, she’s clearly not right for him.
I haven’t read Galbraith’s Rat Bastard, so I can’t compare, but the art in Unbearable shows hints of The Simpsons and even the short lived late ’90s animated sitcom Mission Hill. At the end of this issue Galbraith reveals that Unbearable was originally planned as a possible TV show for UPN, and it certainly has that TV-type quality to it. The art was fun and the book was not hard to follow. My favorite panel is when, in horror, Ben sees that he has 47 messages from Liz on his phone. We’ve all been there.
So, a directionless crew of bros who drink, smoke pot, and play video games sums up about 45% of New Jersey – guys and girls. It’s sad that not much has changed since the early ’90s, but this is precisely why Unbearable works – it’s familiar. A lack of direction has actually simultaneously opened up a world of possibilities for Ben and his friends. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.
**The New Jersey references were a bonus for me since I obviously love NJ crap. There were references to The Misfits, a knockoff version of The Court Tavern (The Cork Tavern), and the Englishtown Flea Market.