Evan Dorkin

Biddi-biddi-boo, Or: The Eltingville Prescience – The Eltingville Club HC

Either Evan Dorkin’s got the Eltingville TV rights back or whoever has them is a complete numbskull because the book’s so relevant you could subtitle it “An Incel Fable” and it’d be totally appropriate, narratively speaking.

But it’d be somewhat intellectually dishonest, as Dorkin started The Eltingville Club long before the incels had a self-identity or community. Dorkin’s actually way too optimistic… or maybe anti-pessimistic in his predications for fandom.

This edition collects every Eltingville story, published over twenty-one years from 1994 to 2015. The last two stories are the two-issue closer Dorkin did, which I had read when they were published; I hadn’t read any of the shorter strips. I did watch the TV pilot, which is “included” in the trade in the pilot was an adaptation of one of the stories.

I actually won this book in a giveaway promotion Dorkin ran. It’s one of the few things I’ve won online. Awesome prize.

I had planned on reading through the collection (does anyone else want to call hardcover collections trades but then can’t because they aren’t?), but an Eltingville-read friend told me it might be better with some breaks. And, wow, is he right. Eltingville is exhausting.

Although Dorkin published the book over twenty-one years, besides the final “flash forward,” no one ages. The Club is frighteningly eternal, its four members not growing any older or any wiser over their adventures. Their adventures always involve some major pop culture—or, at least at the time, comic book culture details, which do change to reflect current events. So it’s a comic strip where the characters don’t age but react to current events.

I didn’t realize how long the two final issues ran and I expected to read the book in three sittings; first two sittings the shorter stories, last sitting the two-parter. But it turns out there actually isn’t a lot of shorter stuff, it’s sixty percent of the material sure, but it’s nine strips adding up to sixty percent.

It’s fine—it makes the first issue of the two-parter even more impressive to see how artfully Dorkin is able to scale to a longer narrative—but it did leave me focused on the finale more than the first twenty years of material.

Most of the stories involve the Club getting into either a fight or significant trouble (or illness) because leader Bill is a complete dick. Bill is the comics guy. Josh is the sci-fi guy. Pete is the horror guy. Jerry is the RPG guy. Bill’s the leader and finds himself constantly arguing with Josh, because—as it turns out as the series progresses—they’re alter egos. Sort of. Enough. Pete and Jerry are mostly just there, though Pete gets enough material over the stories it’s too bad when he becomes such a significant creep in the flash forward.

Dorkin doesn’t have any sympathy for the Club and doesn’t ask for any from the reader. They’re assholes. To each other, to their parents, to everyone. It’s incredible. And incredibly funny. Dorkin gets some crying laughing laughs into these stories. Sometimes you don’t even need to get the pop culture reference.

Reading the original, mid-nineties stories, Dorkin’s prescient about where fandom and the Internet is going. Eltingville never feels dated, even when they’re talking about Batman Forever. Dorkin was really good about anticipating burgeoning fandoms too. The older stories are also relevant as a documenting of the evolving fandom awfulness.

Dorkin’s epilogue is somewhat hopeful (realistically hopeful?) for things, though it’s from 2015 and 2015 was a time where measured hopefulness was still a thing.

Would Eltingville be as good if the world weren’t such a shit show? Yes, but there’d be different adjectives to use about Dorkin. The comic is just the right combination of hilarious and terrifying. Excellent art from Dorkin—it’s really cool to see how he’s developed, cartooning-wise, with the last two issues. Eltingville is a must.

Superman and Batman: World’s Funnest (November 2000)

Superman and Batman: World's FunnestDave Gibbons does the most art on World’s Funnest. It’s not exactly the standard Dave Gibbons art, either, it’s Dave Gibbons doing Silver Age and it’s awesome. What writer Evan Dorkin taps into with World’s Funnest is the experience of being a Batman and Superman fan in the late eighties and early nineties; it’s practically a companion piece for those Greatest [insert DC character here] Stories Ever Told. The hardcover ones with beautiful reprints of the old stories, which weren’t cool in any modern sense, but you had to do the work to appreciate them because you want to be a good fan. You want to understand. And Dorkin’s trip through the DC multiverse is all about understanding, both the multiverse and the way it presents to the reader. Even though the first eighteen or so pages are all set in the Silver Age, Dorkin’s observations about the tropes make it all very modern. It never feels wrong to the characters, but it’s rather self-aware, from injured villains to Robin’s constant need for approval; Dorkin could’ve stopped World’s Funnest with a Silver Age riff and done something awesome, but then he keeps going.

Mxy and Bat-Mite battle for Infinite Earths; art by Dave Gibbons.
Mxy and Bat-Mite battle for Infinite Earths; art by Dave Gibbons.
I didn’t know what to expect from World’s Funnest. I missed it when it first came out, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to open it to discover an impressive list of creators. Unfortunately, it’s an alphabetical list of creators. So I sorted them out in order of their contributions.

First up after Gibbons is Mike Allred, who also comes first alphabetically, so he’s a terrible example. Oh, wait, I probably need to at least acknowledge the premise of the comic, which I wasn’t familiar with either. Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite battle across the DC multiverse and its various time periods and dimensions within universes. Dorkin doesn’t get into the science, which is both awesome and surprising. I can’t believe they got away with some of this stuff.

Allred handles the Phantom Zone, but an Earth–2 Phantom Zone? Like pre-Crisis Earth–2 Phantom Zone. Or maybe just a Silver Age Phantom Zone. Again, Dorkin’s not interested in the locations for narrative purposes, just for homage. It’s a violent, pseudo-cynical homage, but it’s never mean-spirited. World’s Funnest is enamored with the comics it comments on. With the possible exception of some nineties references.

Mxy isn't sure what to make of the Marvel Family, art by Jaime Hernandez.
Mxy isn’t sure what to make of the Marvel Family, art by Jaime Hernandez.
Then Sheldon Moldoff handles the actual Earth-Two visit, Stuart Immomen and Joe Giella on Earth-Three. Frank Cho’s got some lovely art for the Quality Comics universe. Jaime Hernandez does Captain Marvel’s universe, which is a hilarious visit for the battling imps. Dorkin never directly contrasts the different universes, but lining them up and inspecting each does reveal a lot of amusing details. Scott Shaw gets Captain Carrot, Stephen DeStefano does some fumetti, then Jim Woodring gets to do the trip to the Fifth Dimension.

Now, it’s hard to imagine not being familiar with Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite as a DC Comics reader, but it gets more possible with each passing year and each rebranding and each reboot. Dorkin approaches the story with just the right mix of nostalgia and commentary; there isn’t time for introducing the various worlds though–which might actually make World’s Funnest a great primer for DC Comics history. There’s a familiarity curve to the comic book. A daunting one.

Not even Darkseid can keep a straight face during WORLD'S FUNNEST; art by David Mazzucchelli!
Not even Darkseid can keep a straight face during WORLD’S FUNNEST; art by David Mazzucchelli!
After Woodring, David Mazzucchelli does an amazing Jack Kirby trip to Apokolips. I didn’t think it was Mazzucchelli when I was reading it. I’m even more impressed now and I was rather impressed while reading it. Dorkin and Mazzucchelli match Kirby’s enthusiasm and outlandishness without letting it go absurd. Darkseid’s one of the best supporting players in the comic.

Jay Stephens does “Super Friends,” Glen Murakami and Bruce Timm do a storyboard for the animated series, then along comes Frank Miller to do a Dark Knight bit. It’s freaking amazing. And really good art from Frank too; I think the good art from Frank Miller in 2000 was what surprised me the most about it. Doug Mahnke and Norm Rapmund do the nineties flashback, which is the closest the comic gets towards being nasty about its reference points. Then Phil Jimenez does an awesome Crisis section, very Perez. Ty Templeton does a few pages of general universe transporting before the Alex Ross finale. It’s only a few pages, a few panels, but it’s awesome to see what a “Batman: The TV Show” Bat-Mite would’ve looked like (albeit in superior lighting to the show).

It's Bat-Mite by Alex Ross. Really.
It’s Bat-Mite by Alex Ross. Really.

And it’s funny. All of it’s really funny and really smart about how it’s being funny. Dorkin doesn’t have one joke not connect, even the handful I might not have fully appreciated. It’s a lovely tribute to a lot of comics and a lot of comic creators. I’m embarrassed not to have read it until now.

CREDITS

Last Imp Standing!; writer, Evan Dorkin; artists, Dave Gibbons, Mike Allred, Sheldon Moldoff, Frank Cho, Jaime Hernandez, Scott Shaw, Stephen DeStefano, Jim Woodring, David Mazzucchelli, Jay Stephens, Frank Miller, Phil Jimenez, Ty Templeton and Alex Ross; pencillers, Stuart Immomen, Glen Murakami and Doug Mahnke; inkers, Joe Giella, Bruce Timm and Norm Rapmund; colorist, Chris Chuckry and Mazzucchelli; letterer, Tom Orzechowski; editor, Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Welcome to Eltingville (2002, Chuck Sheetz)

“Welcome to Eltingville.” You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You must be cautious. I suppose the first thing to say about “Eltingville” is it has a very, very limited audience. It’s a spoof of fan culture from the inside. It’s knowingly spoofing the absurd.

It’s not just spoofing the idea of obnoxious fan culture, it’s spoofing the idea of spoofing that culture. Writer Evan Dorkin (the pilot is based on his long-running comic book series) has to limbo through all the references and who gets to say them. It’s a really sharp, really tight script. The time flies by, but “Eltingville” still has time to make distinct impressions.

Excellent voice acting from Jason Harris and Troy Metcalf in the leads. In the supporting parts, Corey Brill and Larc Spies aren’t anywhere near as impression. It’s partially because of Dorkin’s script, partially because Brill has nothing to do and a lot because Spies isn’t giving a performance, he’s doing an accent. But they’re fine enough. They’re still funny when they need to be funny.

“Eltingville” is an awesome twenty minutes. Though I can see why it didn’t get picked up to series. There’s just too small an audience for a show.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Sheetz; written by Evan Dorkin; music by Denis M. Hannigan; aired by Adult Swim.

Starring Jason Harris (Bill Dickey), Troy Metcalf (Josh Levy), Larc Spies (Pete DiNunzio), Corey Brill (Jerry Stokes) and Tara Sands (Jane Dickey).


The Eltingville Club 2 (August 2015)

The Eltingville Club #2Is there something better than this issue of The Eltingville Club? Probably. It’s only my second issue of the book and it’s the last one ever. Supposedly.

Hopefully not.

Because this comic, which comes so long after the first I forgot Dorkin was doing another, is worth the wait. Dorkin puts a lot of work into the art. He puts a lot of work into the writing. His visual pacing of the jokes is phenomenal. The only problem with this comic is choking from all the laughter. It might have even hurt at one point, I was laughing so hard.

The issue takes place ten years after the previous one. The club members have all grown up, all developing further into comic fandom thanks to the Internet and life decisions. Questionable ones, usually.

Dorkin does a great job finishing Club. It’s great in whole, in scenes, art, dialogue; it’s awesome.

CREDITS

Lo, There Shall Be an Epilogue!; writer and artist, Evan Dorkin; colorist, Sarah Dyer; editors, Daniel Chabon and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Eltingville Club 1 (April 2014)

The Eltingville Club #1Evan Dorkin’s sense of humor on The Eltingville Club is nowhere near as peculiar as his plotting on the comic. There’s some peculiarities to it since Dorkin mocks every single character to some degree or another and his protagonist is one of the more reprehensible characters in there comic.

The constant comedic assault both kills the momentum and gives the book a significant reading time. Since Dorkin’s mocking his characters once every couple panels, and he’s got the situational comedy and sight gags, the issue is always on. If you don’t like one joke, there’s another one in just a moment.

Until the ending. Dorkin goes a somewhat unexpected route, turning a workplace situational into gently absurdist. It reminds a little of “The Simpsons”, just for how the cause and effect work. I guess it’s hard to plot for unlikable characters.

Still, Dorkin builds anticipation for the next one.

B 

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Evan Dorkin; colorist, Sarah Dyer; editors, Daniel Chabon and Scott Allie; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 120 (April 1997)

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The Gully story from Schultz and Williamson doesn’t have much of a script; with Williamson’s art, who cares about the writing? It’s some otherworldly sci-fi Western thing. Lovely to look at.

White and Snejbjerg’s The Lords of Misrule is a little confusing, but decent. Snejbjerg does a great job with the tone and the art is excellent… he just doesn’t take the time to design it to fit the layers of White’s script. Still, creepy and solid.

Trout’s becoming a new favorite, even though this installment shows Nixey has some peculiar problems with perspective. Lot of charm to it though, very nice characterizations.

Hectic Planet goes on forever here. Dorkin has a bunch of silly sci-fi elements in what should be a human story. It gets tiring after the first page then goes on forever.

Schreck, Rich and Jones have a one page closer. Great art from Jones.

CREDITS

One Last Job; story by Mark Schultz; art by Al Williamson; lettered by Denise Powell. The Lords of Misrule, Part One; story by Steve White; art by Peter Snejbjerg; lettering by Annie Parkhouse; edited by Ian R. Stude. Trout, Nicky Nicky Nine Doors, Part Two; story and art by Troy Nixey. Hectic Planet, Part Three; story and art by Evan Dorkin. Gather Ye Rosebuds; story by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich; pencils by Casey Jones; inks by Monty Sheldon; lettering by Sean Konot. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 119 (March 1997)

194829.jpgI’m not sure what Nixey’s Trout is about or if it’s going to be about the events of this installment (in some fantasy land, an elf brings a living nightmare back from his sleep… or something along those lines). Since the writing’s so tied to the confusing plot, it’s mostly about Nixey’s art. He combines a fantasy setting with some disturbing ideas (more than imagery) and creates something quite nice.

Dorkin’s Hectic Planet is about a girl’s mysterious new boyfriend. Some good art, totally fine writing… it’s like “Friends” for nineties hipsters.

Adams’s Monkeyman and O’Brien this time features a giant monster (who’s more detailed than anything else, art-wise) and absolutely no excitement, of course. His script’s plotting is exceptionally anticlimactic from the start.

Finally, Predator from Barr and Kolins. Kolins’s work is very rough here (weak perspective). It’s a pointless story, just Presents giving a licensed property pages.

CREDITS

Trout, Nicky Nicky Nine Doors, Part One; story and art by Troy Nixey. Hectic Planet, Part Two, Shot on Goal; story and art by Evan Dorkin. Monkeyman & O’Brien, Gorehemoth – The Garbage Heap That Walks Like A Man, Part Two; story and art by Art Adams; lettering by Lois Buhalis. Predator, No Beast So Fierce…; story by Mike W. Barr; pencils by Scott Kolins; inks by Dan Schaefer; lettering by Sean Konot. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 118 (February 1997)

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I thought the other Monkeyman & O’Brien stories were bad. Here, Adams seems to forget how to draw with perspective and scale. It makes the story a hideous curiosity, but not much else. The script’s incomplete at best.

Then Trypto finishes up and it’s probably be Leialoha’s best installment as an artist… and Mumy and Ferrer’s worst script. Trypto apparently isn’t from space. No, he’s an inter-dimensional ghost dog out to do something. Get back with his original family. How he got the new family in this story is never explained. There’s also a talking raccoon. It’s a very strange finish for the series, which started so strong.

As for Dorkin’s Hectic Planet? I liked the art a lot. The story’s about Dorkin making fun of this character, both in plot with supporting cast mocking him. It’s exceptionally mean-spirited and not aware of it. Still, it was compelling enough.

CREDITS

Monkeyman & O’Brien, Gorehemoth – The Garbage Heap That Walks Like A Man, Part One; story and art by Art Adams; lettering by Lois Buhalis. Trypto the Acid Dog, Wheel of the Broken Voice, Part Six; story by Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer; art by Steve Leialoha. Hectic Planet, Part One, 5 Years Ago and Counting; story and art by Evan Dorkin. Dr. Spin, Part Four, Doc Spin: Agent Of A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.; story by Gordon Rennie; art by Roger Langridge. Edited by Bob Schreck and Jamie S. Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 100 5 (August 1995)

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Only in Dark Horse Presents can you open with Art Adams and close with Paul Pope.

The Adams Monkeyman and O’Brien story appears to be some kind of homage to Plan 9 from Outer Space. So maybe Adams’s terrible dialogue is in line with that approach. Regardless, it’s fairly awful.

Then Hernandez has an utterly fantastic story about a bunch of carnies reunited. It opens with one thing, moves somewhere else. It’s just great. Second story in and they’ve already made up for Adams and set the issue apart in terms of quality.

Hedden’s Frankenstein, P.I. is well-drawn and mildly amusing.

Oh, then there’s a Milk and Cheese from Dorkin mocking alcoholism. If these strips were only a page, they might be a little less putrid.

Pope (with Smith) closes with a THB. It’s beautiful looking, but even more–Pope finds a profound moment in his action. Just great.

CREDITS

Monkeyman & O’Brien, I Was the Alien; story and art by Art Adams; lettering by Lois Buhalis. Los Malcriados; story and art by Mario Hernandez. Frankenstein, P.I., Butcher’s Night Out!; story by Rich Hedden; art by Hedden and Mike McPhillips. Milk and Cheese, Alcoholics Unanimous!; story and art by Evan Dorkin. Panfried Girl; story and art by Paul Pope and Jeff Smith; lettering by Lorie Witte. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.

Dark Horse Presents 100 1 (August 1995)

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Where to start….

Miller opens the issue with sort of a “ha ha, you can’t say it’s misogynistic because it’s intentional” Lance Blastoff! story. Killing dinosaurs, eating meat, those are the things women really need whether they know it or not. The writing’s crap—no shock—but Miller at least draws the dinosaurs.

Bennett and Guinan’s Heartbreakers returns after fifty issues and is no less boring. Sometimes it veers towards interesting territory, but it’s setup for more adventures. Bennett and Guinan avoid the human factor in the new ground situation. Art’s decent.

Pekar and Sacco’s thing is, besides being pointless, fine.

French’s Ninth Gland is really weird. It might be something good, it might not. Too soon to tell.

Lewis has a cute, foul-mouthed animal cartoon strip. Until the Dorkin piece, it’s the most annoying thing in the comic.

As for Dorkin’s Milk and Cheese? I don’t get it.

CREDITS

Lance Blastoff!; story and art by Frank Miller. Heartbreakers, Destination: Earth; story by Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan; art by Guinan and Todd Herman; lettering by Willie Schubert. Peeling and Eating a Tangerine (and Disposing of the Seeds); story by Harvey Pekar; art and lettering by Joe Sacco. The Ninth Gland, Part One; story and art by Renée French. Aboard the Drinking Leviathan; story and art by Jon Lewis. Milk and Cheese, The Devil Made Them Do It!; story, art and lettering by Evan Dorkin. Edited by Bob Schreck and Scott Allie.

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