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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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10/25/2005 Archived Entry: "Graphic novel review: Beg the Question"

Beg the Question
by Bob Fingerman
Fantagraphics Books

Review by Tom Good

Like an X-Rated Seinfeld, this story pits some young New Yorkers against the absurdities of life, and gives them free reign to amuse us by talking in circles about nothing. Rob, the semi-autobiographical main character, is a comic artist who pays the bills by drawing pornographic comics but dreams of doing more with his art. When he's not drawing sex, fantasizing about sex, or talking to his friends about sex, he's having sex with his girlfriend Sylvia. This is shown in a fairly explicit way, but it does not exactly come across as erotic because of the matter-of-fact way it is presented. Unlike the smut comics Rob draws, this seems more like a documentary that happens to include all aspects of the characters' lives, their sexuality as well as their insecurities.

Rob and his friends are the type of hipsters who compulsively drop quotes from movies and TV shows into their conversations, then berate themselves for doing it, then congratulate themselves that at least they quote suitably obscure material and have not yet stooped to quoting Monty Python or Woody Allen. In one of the funniest chapters, "Conventional Behavior," Rob tries to promote his latest comic at a convention, but cannot even show it to most of the attendees because they are under-age. His friend Matt goes along to take part in a subculture of ultra-competitive, backstabbing Godzilla fans, who vie with each other for access to the rarest collectibles. The chapter also spoofs other types of convention-goers, from Trekkies to Furries.

Fingerman's art uses grey tones and white highlights that make everything look rounded and shiny. The characters are stylized, but their dialogue and offbeat appearance makes them seem more like real people than most comic book characters. The wild, funny dialogue reminded me of the movie Clerks. Like that movie, it was plenty entertaining while it lasted, but I did not spend much time thinking about it afterwards. Still, Beg the Question skillfully combines humor with a more serious undertone about the struggle involved in human relationships, and that makes it a worthwhile read.

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