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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/15/2006 Archived Entry: "Rocky Vol. 1: The Big Payback"

Rocky, Vol. 1: The Big Payback
by Martin Kellerman
Fantagraphics Books

Review by Tom Good

"Graphic novels are the new thing, baby, the slower and less eventful the better. Humor strips are so five years ago. These days funny-book readers want tedium, and lots of it." -- A publisher explaining why he does not want Rocky's cartoons.

Rocky, a young slacker and struggling cartoonist, makes ends meet by drawing comics for adult magazines. His relationships with women and interactions with his friends create a variety of funny domestic situations. This basic structure also formed the core of Beg the Question by Bob Fingerman. Both are semi-autobiographical tales, but unlike Beg the Question, Rocky takes place in Stockholm and features cute animal characters. Actually, the characters are more like humans with cute animal heads, because they do not have tails or claws, and they wear human clothing. This comic has been a huge success in Sweden and was even made into a play.

Rocky uses four-panel strips like many newspaper comics. In fact, it feels like a slacker version of Dilbert, with couches and cafes instead of cubicles. Though the characters may be based on real people, they come across as abstractions, and I think this was why I started to lose interest after a while. If I had not already read Beg the Question and a lot of Jeffrey Brown's comics, I might have liked Rocky better. But Brown and Fingerman both created characters who seemed very real, expressive, and vulnerable, where Kellerman's characters never develop into much more than cynical slacker stereotypes. Dilbert also uses archetypes instead of realistic characters, and I may enjoy Dilbert more because I really do work in a cubicle; if my lifestyle were more like Rocky's I might prefer this comic. Rocky is well drawn, and some of the strips are pretty amusing, but the book was not a page-turner for me. An online sample of the comic is available for download, so you can judge for yourself.

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