Disquietville Vol. 2
by Daniel Spottswood
Daniel Spottswood‘s chunky mini-comic Disquietville is a love letter to wage-enslaved 20-somethings who haven’t stopped believing in a better life.
All anybody in Disquietville wants is everything; their chance to live the American Dream. Unfortunately, social and personal problems keep blocking the way. Through its characters, Spottswood’s mini-comic probes many of middle-class America’s current hot button issues: the glut of big business, career girls’ aversion to marriage, school bullies, alcohol abuse, self-obsession, self-loathing, and debt (to name a few). Sounds depressing, and it is when you’ve been there. Sigh.
While Disquietville empathizes with these problems, it also makes light of them, and it’s oh-so entertaining to be shown a portrait of yourself by someone who really understands the material. I, for one, really liked the comic. Disquietville offers a pretty real example of life in a mid-sized middle-class town in the Midwest. That is, it would, if every normal person’s day really led to a punchline.
To offset the gravity of the subject matter, there is the comedy, but there is also the artwork, which is simple and minimalistic and even kind of cute. The people in Spottwood’s comic were almost definitely modeled on classic Fisher Price Little People toys. Glen, the character obsessed with toy collecting, may know that Little People (as present-day adults remember them) are no longer in production. Just another feature of our culture sadly lost to plastic, production and modernism. One might even ask, who’s toying with the citizens of Disquietville? Or not. I guess not everything has to be a metaphor.
Something nice about the characters is how clearly they are defined by their desires and obstacles. It makes them funny little caricatures, just exaggerated slices of people you know, and it makes the gags work. Milo is always imposing himself on other people to talk about how great an artist he is, totally undaunted by their disinterest, and that’s entertaining. It’s a sitcom-type of comic and it’s done well. It’s certainly being written as a serial that could go on for a long time. If it does, I’m invested in it.
The comic is broken up by vignettes that just feature one or a few main characters at a time, but not even one small story requires a page turn. It’s actually a little confusing. Some vignettes take up half a page, but there’s not enough defining it from the rest of the material. You need to retrain your eye just to make something of it. Others – gasp! – span across the staple line. It’s nice that the comic is full-color, which sometimes helps distinguish one bit from the next, but that’s not always the case. It takes too much work and it breaks the reader’s concentration. I think if the book became twice as fat, took on a new size, and added more page turns it could work, but as it stands you just have to get used to it and get over it to get to the end.
There were a few technical problems as well. Problems often arise at print time, but when you’re going to print a full-color book you might as well take the time to get things straightened out ahead of time. For instance, one of the vignettes was repeated a few pages later. Once a table changed colors mid-conversation, and once a word balloon was assigned to the wrong character. It’s a good book and a fun read, but these issues along with the structure of the page are really irritating.
Disquietville Vol. 2 must have been preceded by a Vol. 1. I don’t know where you can get them, but I know Vol. 2 will cost $6. It’s about 52 pages.
- Sarah Morean