Neverland by Dave Kiersh

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Neverland
by Dave Kiersh
Bodega

The artwork of Dave Kiersh is so distinctive, it would be an embarrassment for anyone else to try and mimic his style.

Just don’t judge a book by its cover. What you’ll find inside is more blackened, cross-hatched, smudged and labyrinthine than its cover would portend. Neverland is a complicated maze of shapes and ideas. A sort of poetry in comics that is set to run in this book on the “I’ll never grow up” theme made memorable by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

Neverland is the first-person narrative of a guy who never got past second base or living in his parents’ basement. He’s not interested in the trappings of adulthood like getting a respectable job, owning a home, or settling down. He’d rather fly and dream and take his time falling in love. A sweet sentiment, but kind of a stunted and pitiful existence from the perspective of curmudgeony old settled people everywhere.

The comic heavily relies on Peter Pan references to get across the perfect image of youth being trapped in a magical place where time stops and responsibility doesn’t exist. However, it glorifies the Neverland lifestyle as a safe bubble, when really it was a pretty dangerous and adventurous place. It’s got as much goodness to offer as it has danger, but the boy in the man only sees pie-eyed reflections of youthful imagination and doesn’t dare to dream that the most exciting part of Peter Pan’s story might have been when he let Wendy grow old.

Sometimes I question the current culture of never growing old unconsciously supported by young artists. DIY cartoonists probably aren’t having superficial procedures to look younger or tanner or thinner, but aren’t there equivalent cultural vices we embrace that are also desperate attempts to hang onto our youth? Each time we drink ourselves into stupors (like we don’t know better), ride bikes, make comics, rent greasy apartments and meet more friends on the internet than in person, are those really steps forward? Because to me, they’re reminiscent of being in Junior High. And really, what was so damn great about that?

Maybe we all just want to make amends for a childhood that really wasn’t so great, taking pains to relive it with cool maturity this time in a cocoon of like-minded rejects. But is it really acceptable that so many young people are choosing to take crappy jobs that free up more time for comics-making or mastering the latest Nintendo incarnation, rather than aggressively finding ways to use their overpriced college degrees? When did keeping a youthful, open and curious mind mean foregoing challenges? Adventure is the heart of the Neverland lifestyle, not romance, so in this respect Neverland really misses the mark.

Kiersh might not have meant to make a social commentary, but his book certainly got me thinking. If most of us aren’t go-getters in the sense that we strive to become productive members of society, indie cartoonists are certainly go-getters in the sense that they’re going to be heard, create, and connect with people. By whatever means necessary. In whatever vein possible. And that’s very Neverland indeed.

Neverland is available for $6 + free shipping through Bodega Distribution. It is 32 pages long and perfect bound with a glossy cover. Inside, the black and white art is embedded on pale yellow pages and accented with yellow, as if Kiersh used a highlighter to color the project.

– Sarah Morean

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