Automatic For the Demos (#1-5)

(Soundtrack: Sleater-Kinney — Dig Me Out)

First off–these 5 issues could be yours for the price of one good ode to your own oddity, courtesy of Shane Bailey + fellow comix Robin Hoodlums AiT/Planet Lar (the publisher with a heart!), Ken Lowery, Rick Geerling, Johnny Bacardi, Kevin Melrose, and Digital Webbing.

Get the details from Shane here.

Why bother?

‘Cause they’re great is why!

I can’t wait to read the rest of this series–it passes the shiftless shift-worker test with flying colours!

Not familiar with that one?

Oh. Well. I’m a lazy guy, see? I’ll go out there and compete for food and rent money, but once that’s taken care of, I’m all about free time, you know? We’ve got a cable connection because Christine likes Larry King. This computer’s a loaner. But I’ll tell ya–the next time one of my co-workers is hung-over, instead of pretending I didn’t get my boss’ message, I will rush into that breach in the scheduel! And I’ll apply the proceeds of that sacrifice to the purchase of Demo #6-12.

By now I’m sure you’ve all read Sean Collins’ take on Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s examination of pure subjectivity. As both Sean and Mike Sterling rightly point out, the superpowers in these stories serve one function, and one function only–to demarcate the borders of the self.

I’ve always read superhero stories this way, so, in a sense, Demo is not new to me–but I’ll admit that it is refreshing not to have to filter a bunch of pointless fight scenes out of my reading experience (Rose Curtin & I have discussed the tediousness of this process on several occasions). If nothing else, it leaves more room for the good stuff that Stan Lee used to apologize for (but you know it’s what he cared about more than anything)–the melodrama of consciousness! Superheroes have never been about good n’ evil…

Okay, now for some particulars. These are, technically, “one-shots”, but I don’t read them that way at all. I’d be far less impressed with them if I did. I got very excited when I reached issue #5’s invocation of Lynch’s Lost Highway–a film in which existentially “twinned” protagonists sub for one another. This is how I had been reading the stories all along.

Sean takes issue with the simplistic anti-bourgeois/”the structure”/suburbia/”society” tenor of the early issues:

Along the way you get the kind of rote suburbia-bashing you’d expect out of Good Charlotte fans–in issue three, for example, our heroine runs down a list of reasons she hates her hometown: “Sun. Manicured lawns. Golf courses. Automobiles. White people.” Um, okay, kid–just don’t be late for study hall. And while this shallow life-sux sentiment would be perfectly acceptable for the narrator to adopt, seeing how she is, of course, fictional, I’m not really convinced that Wood & Cloonan’s outlook on American life is any more complex: Both tend to end each issue with a list of all the awesome punkrawk music they’ve been listening to, and Wood’s politics, as expressed in his Channel Zero books, are somewhat infamously nuance-free. (I’m certainly dreading his examination of a soldier’s life in Demo #7.)

I felt the same way–at first. In issue #1 we meet a young woman raised on pills by a mother who just wants her to be “normal”. She breaks out of this rut by revealing her “true self” to her boyfriend and running off to the big alternative City. In issue two we get another teen in a bad situation who must run away.

Two strikes, I thought to myself. I can’t stand stories that just end with a protagonist “escaping”. That’s not an “open-ended” conclusion. That’s a cop-out. It’s like saying: “Here’s my character. She’s just been born. The End…Thanks for coming out folks!” How many people reading this ditched a fucked-up home life as teens? I’m betting something like 50% of you. I know I did. Did you feel like you’d really accomplished something? After the adrenaline rush subsided, I mean? Of course not. The escape into pure desire is a dead-end–like in Chopin’s The Awakening, or Thelma & Louise. That’s not a fit conclusion to a story, it’s a necessary precondition for one. A good story is about the return from that state!

And then it occured to me–as I flipped the pages of Demo #3–that that’s exactly what Wood & Cloonan are building toward!

Quoth Sleater-Kinney (from one of their greatest songs): “It’s not what you want–it’s everything.”

The gears really shift in Demo #5 (“Girl You Want”)–as a “misunderstood” protagonist becomes an uncomprehending reifier in turn–and I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

Good Day Friends!



  1. Dave


    Very quickly because I’m at work, are there ways to do an open-ended story like the kind you don’t like but still make it good? I’m thinking of my own Blithedale Romance, I Capture the Castle, which I don’t think you’ve read, even though it’s not a perfect example. I think if you can manage to have a very well-realized character and then leave the character at a moment of pivotal realization with everything up in the air, that can still be quite satisfying since you trust the character to move on into the afterstory. But like I said, this isn’t an “escape” story, and those can be pretty silly. I only like them when they end with the character alone at a bus station or in a new town and totally miserable and utterly alone.

    Ok, I might be lying because I don’t know if that’s actually what I believe at all, but it seems plausible at the moment. Back to work, alas.


  2. Do linebreaks work now? Apparently coding paragraphs doesn’t really. Sorry about the wackiness.


  3. Rose,

    I agree with you completely on this:

    I think if you can manage to have a very well-realized character and then leave the character at a moment of pivotal realization with everything up in the air, that can still be quite satisfying since you trust the character to move on into the afterstory.

    My ire is reserved for the kind of story that gives us nothing but obstacles to a character’s quest for perfect freedom, and then ends with that “Calgon moment”, where they rise above it all…

    Ghost World, for example, is my idea of a “good” story that ends with nothing resolved… We understand, and Enid understands. that her problems lie within herself, not the world she’s decided to leave behind…

    You know what I mean?


  4. Ken,

    I’m happy to do it. These are good books. And you’re a very good man to bring them to the world’s attention.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s