Friday, February 06, 2015

Booknote: Maximum Minimum Wage

Bob Fingerman, Maximum Minimum Wage. Berkeley (CA): Image Comics, 2013. ISBN: 9781607066743.

Genre: Graphic novels and comics.
Subgenre: Humor, slice of life, urban stories.

This is definitely going to be listed among the best works I have read recently. The Minimum Wage comic ran in the 1990s, and it has enjoyed much critical praise. It counts folks like Margaret Cho, Robert Kirkman, Patton Oswalt, and Janeane Garofalo among its many fans. The comic presents the life of Rob, a cartoonist and artist trying to move up in his career, and his girlfriend Sylvia, who manages a beauty salon. They live in New York City. To make ends meet, Rob does freelance work for some porn and low level humor magazines, underground comics kind of work. In addition to Rob and Sylvia, we get to meet their friends, with all their idiosyncrasies, and other city denizens.

The strength of this comic is in its humor and in its quotidian humanity. The comic has very funny and humorous moments. For example, Rob's visit to the comic con to sell his work is quite amusing, and various hijinks by people around him ensue. Having recently attended a con, I could related, and that is something that Fingerman does well: depict situations and characters that we can relate to. In addition, the comic features some very moving and touching moments as well. Then there are the sex and other adult situations, but they are done well and are part of the story of folks in the city.

The art is very good. Fingerman does draw some very cute women, but his drawing also captures the essence of the city, warts and all. Overall, this is a slice of life comic at its best. I have seen suggestions that this comic could make a good television series. It probably would, but I would be afraid of how badly Hollywood would screw this up. Maybe we should hope the author brings us a second season, so to speak, in print and is not tempted to go onto television where they are notorious for fucking up good comics (I am looking at you The Walking Dead). 

Now, this Maximum edition is definitely a great way to read the comic, whether you are a first timer like me or a fan rediscovering this cult classic. It is an oversized book, which means that the comic can be read easily, nice and big. It is a bit heavy if you are reading it in bed, but that is a small issue given how much this book offers. In addition to the comic, you get:

  • A foreword by Robert Kirkman (yes, the author of The Walking Dead).
  • A preface by the author reflecting on his work and describing the book's contents. 
  • A guest artist gallery with new contributions, a set of classic covers, and various sketches. 
  • The first book in the series, which Fingerman sees as a pilot. Read this and then compare to the final version. You get to see how the comic changed and evolved. 
  • Other extras. 
I would say that for fans, this is a must-have. As the author says in his preface, this is his "Criterion Edition, and we all buy those not just for their impeccable prints of the movies but also for the bonus supplemental materials, even if we have a previous release of the same title. Criterion is always the upgrade." This is definitely a treasury in a nice, solid hardcover that even has its own cloth ribbon bookmark (a nice touch). I borrowed this from my public library. It would definitely be a good purchase for public libraries, and I would say a few academic libraries with recreational reading collections and/or pop culture collections should buy it as well. Though I borrowed it, this is one I would gladly add to my personal collection down the road.

Note: I tagged it for the blog with the "sex and adult" label. It is not because it is pornographic or erotica. But the comic is for adult readers as it depicts adult situations, including sex and sexual references. This is not for children. 

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