Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mitch Clem - 'Nothing Nice to Say Volume 2'

My dearest Mitch Clem,

I suppose I should start this ego stroke of a letter by mentioning that the only other cartoonist I’ve ever written was Bill Watterson, when I was around nine years old. I asked him if he ever thought about launching a Calvin and Hobbes animated cartoon, because I totally thought there was a market for that sort of thing. Then I read The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book and learned that not only had Watterson heard about this idea nigh constantly for a decade, but that he was firmly opposed on account of the whole “integrity of his art” thing. I think this might actually be the first time I ever experienced DIY guilt.

So, uh, ever thought about doing a Nothing Nice to Say animated Saturday morning program? No? Just me?

In all seriousness, I was writing to congratulate you on the publication of your new book, Nothing Nice to Say Volume 2 through Dark Horse Comics. I’ve been a big fan since I was introduced to your strip back in high school, and your Web comic introduced me to some fairly awesome bands, such as The Mountain Goats, Jawbreaker, and Discount, for which I am agro-terra-ultra grateful. It’s cool to see you “making it” as an artist, Watterson-style, and putting the book out on your own terms, Watterson-style 2x.

At 125 pages, the book offers a good amount of punk rock strips for readers old and new. The introduction to the characters in the beginning felt a little rushed, though, so I can see some folks getting confused if they aren’t familiar with your site. The jokes about selling out by relaunching the strip will also go completely over the heads of those who are just now learning about Nothing Nice. That being said, it’s not like readers need too much origin info going in anyway; the strips are easy to follow, and funny to boot.

Older fans can benefit from this book too. Besides the obvious fact that they get to support art (do it fuckers!), peeps get commentary on some of the work, as well as guest strips for other titles. It’s also interesting to go back and reread your previous work – your evolution as an artist doesn’t seem too apparent from strip to strip, but when I step back and look at Nothing Nice year by year, there’s a clear upwards arc. Having put on a few more years since I read these strips online in 2005-06, I find I appreciate the depth of your humor more. Sure, everyone should get your witty takes on Bad Religion, NOFX, and Raffi (“Ring! Ring! Ring! Bananarchy!”), but I didn’t truly get the They Live joke on p. 47 until like this year, when I, ya know… saw They Live. God bless “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

I also love the pro-women strips in the book. Not to get all white knight-y, but I find myself astounded by the rampant sexism in punk, emo, metal, and hardcore (Have you seen the comments for the Heather Gabel interview on Gross!). So, it means a lot to hear you talk about the issue in a humorous story arc on p. 72-73, covering the objectification of women in modern emo, the cruel stereotypes about feminists, and the hilarity of punching d-bags in the face. Of course, you also keep it balanced by taking a crack at overly serious feminists on p. 54 by having Fletcher replace “Don’t assume I can cook” on a Womyn’s Council Meeting flyer with “Don’t assume I can spell.” It’s a welcome balance.

Overall, I gotta say, I’m pretty stoked on the black-and-white glory that is volume two of Nothing Nice to Say, not to mention the sweet button four-pack that came with my pre-order. My only real complaint is that it’s not long enough. If you could make your next publication a 1,000 page hardcover, that would be neat-o.


Joe Pelone

P.S. – Way to sell out to the patriarchal bullshit system. Or, congrats on your engagement.

P.P.S. – I sent this letter to as a review. Glee!

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