Punk Rock and Trailer Parks
Slave Labor Graphics
There are some exceptions, to be sure—Gary Panter, Jamie Helwitt, and Ben Snakepit come immediately to mind—but on a whole, the lack of prominent punk comics seems a bit surprising given the similar and oft-overlapping nature of the two counter-cultures. Punk has surely had a large impact on the comics world, both in terms of aesthetic and the DIY ethos that has inspired the parallel worlds of the fanzine and mini-comic, but an outright embrace of the culture in the sequential medium has rarely been quite so forthright as one might expect.
For the record, Punk Rock and Trailer Parks is not likely to usher in some sea change on this matter—nor is destined to be celebrated as the definitive chronicle of a cultural movement. Such grand ambitions, however, seem to be the furthest thing from Derf’s mind. The artist has seemingly no desire to pen the graphic novel equivalent to Suburbia or Rude Boy, and while the plot is ostensibly that of a coming-of-age story played out with the backdrop of punk’s first wave, Derf’s book lacks the manner of earnest drama and self-pity of the aforementioned examples. It’s this refusal to take itself too seriously that ultimately proves Punk Rock and Trailer Parks’ biggest selling point.
On some surface level, the story here is painfully familiar. Derf’s protagonist—the self-nicknamed “The Baron”—is a nerdy high school student living with a relative in a trailer park who eventually finds an identity and ultimately some manner of redemption in the world of punk rock.The Baron, however, like Derf himself, refuses to take life too seriously, and while, as an awkward band geek, he oft finds himself the source of ridicule at the hands of his peers, from the outset he’s a self-style outspoken character, the sort of slightly-cartoony, free-thinking individual that is, more often than not, relegated to the role of a best friend in these sorts of stories. At times Punk Rock and Trailer Parks feels like a punk rock John Hughes movie with the nerdy Anthony Michael Hall or John Cusack sidekick run amok.
The Baron finds himself in the punk rock equivalent to Forrest Gump scenarios, bowling with Lester Bangs, eating hamburgers with the Ramones, buying shaving cream to obscure Wendy O. Williams’ breasts—quirky anecdotes that seem to, at least in part, be steeped in real-life events. However, these events are not the result of passively succumbing to fate. The Baron is a force on-par with some of the aforementioned characters that left their own indelible marks on the culture.
Derf’s work in Punk Rock and Trailer Parks is reminiscent of Peter Bagge, both in terms of its unrepentantly cartoonish aesthetic and its stubborn refusal to take anything too seriously. The artist’s constant references to the music and characters of the period, meanwhile, are a virtual love letter to punk rock and new wave. The combination of these two complimentary forces makes for an incredibly likeable book.