April 20, 2006 5:35 PM   Subscribe

What are some good cartoons, graphic novels, essays, fiction that are about regular life, or a regular guy?

I’m thinking what would be today’s Homer Simpson or Hank Hill or Family Guy? Things that capture the life of the average guy today. Are there any really interesting artists/writers who capture the truth about married life for men and navigating that and world in all it’s complexity? Online stuff would be awesome. An answer to any of these questions would be helpful. Also, where's a great place in Los Angeles to get good graphic novels? The bookstore sucks.
posted by joaniemcchicken to Human Relations (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
American Splendor by Harvey Peckar.
posted by rdr at 5:42 PM on April 20, 2006

Mostly ordinary, really funny: Why I Hate Saturn, by Kyle Baker.
posted by Aknaton at 5:45 PM on April 20, 2006

Harvey Pekar's American Splendor is probably the classic of the genre as far as comics go. It's beyond amazing, for me it fundamentally redefined what comics could do. There's also an excellent documentary about it.
posted by The Bellman at 5:45 PM on April 20, 2006

You might like Love & Rockets. I haven't picked it up since somewhere around issue #50. But it got me through my teen years.

One caveat: It does have elements of the fantastic in it, but it's pretty much in the background.
posted by black8 at 5:47 PM on April 20, 2006

Optic Nerve has a particularly real-life feel, although its protagonists are younger/slackier and more likely to be female than your Homer-type.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:47 PM on April 20, 2006

Tom Beller's book of essays, Becoming a Man
Steve Almond's My Life in Heavy Metal
Tom Perrotta's early novels
posted by scratch at 5:52 PM on April 20, 2006

I like Joe Matt.
posted by mr.marx at 5:53 PM on April 20, 2006

A strong recommendation for Meltdown in LA (I've only been to the big store on Sunset but there are a couple of satellites as well); the staff is very smart and helpful, the atmosphere is friendly.
posted by sophieblue at 5:56 PM on April 20, 2006

Forgot to mention that these are all non-illustrated prose.

Also forgot to mention the novels and short stories of Larry Brown, if you want a Dixie fried angle. Actually Larry Brown's working-class characters often crash into the world and all its complexities rather painfully.

And how could I forget the novels of David Gates? By comparison to Brown, his male characters may seem like overeducated yuppies, but hey, we all suffer in our own way.
posted by scratch at 5:58 PM on April 20, 2006

ghost world isn't about married middle-aged men, but it does capture real-life everyday teenage ennui pretty well.

american splendor is a little bit dated if you ask me.

this site might help you.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 6:04 PM on April 20, 2006

What about Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth? I thought it was about some abysmally ordinary, ultimately disappointing lives. It's one of my favorite books.

It has its moments of humor, but it's not meant to be a humorous book. Or maybe I'm reading it all wrong.
posted by i8ny3x at 4:12 PM on April 20, 2006

Seth's It's a good life if you don't weaken from Drawn and Quarterly
posted by zadcat at 4:31 PM on April 20, 2006

I second the Meltdown recommendation for a comic book store in L.A.

And: take a look at James Kochalka's American Elf sketchbook diaries. He makes the mundane sweet. There is a print version available. (Amazon, but he may have it on available on his own site as well.) He is married and some of the daily diary entries chronicle little episodes in his life with his partner and child.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 4:39 PM on April 20, 2006

Cool. Lots of good stuff here. I'm clicking and reading like a monkey. Dranw and Quarterly was great. Ordered some stuff. Just to steer people a little, I'm more interested in married guys, family guys and not so much alienation as comfortable resignation.
posted by joaniemcchicken at 5:05 PM on April 20, 2006

Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson does a great job of capturing that 20-something malaise without, you know, making you malaise-packed yourself. I also just read the excellent Cry Yourself To Sleep (also from Top Shelf) and said thusly on my internet website:
While I would normally declare something like Jeremy Tinder's Cry Yourself To Sleep self-indulgent and simultaneously bloated and meager in its observations about the life of young people, he seems to realize it, too. That's why he's got a rabbit and a robot to portray two-thirds of the main cast and managed to create some bleak comedy that I really enjoyed.
These both avoid marriage, probably for good reason, as the drama/comedy of romance can be critical to a comic about dudes being dudes.

Avoid, at all costs, Stylish Vittles unless you feel like carving bad poetry into your arm.

Good comic store in Los Angeles that focuses on graphic novels? Why, I believe Secret Headquarters may be right up your alley.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:11 PM on April 20, 2006

OMG Secret Headquarters. I salivated and my nipples got hard. I am going tonight. What a great find.
posted by joaniemcchicken at 5:14 PM on April 20, 2006

I live to serve.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:22 PM on April 20, 2006

Blankets, by Craig Thompson. Fucking amazing.
posted by schroedinger at 5:24 PM on April 20, 2006

Maybe not exactly what you're looking for, but Questionable Content is a cool web comic about the life of a pretty normal indie rock kid.
posted by TurkishGolds at 5:24 PM on April 20, 2006

I just have to say, that ALL of your suggestions have led me into a world of amazing fiction and art that gives me butterflies. So, even though some of it isn't exactly what I need for the research I am doing, I feel incredibly lucky - like I have been given a map to a very special secret world.
posted by joaniemcchicken at 5:31 PM on April 20, 2006

Give Blankets by Craig Thompson, or Summer Blonde by Adriene Tomine, a try. Neither deals with the archetypical "everyman," but they're both excellent graphic-novels about everyday people in the vein of Ghost World. I actually read the latter, along with Ghost World and Jimmy Corrigan, in a college course on graphic novels and visual culture -- one of the more interesting off-topic asides in my academic career.

As far as novels and essays go, I can't help -- Peter Griffin is who I'd suggest as the logical heir to Homer Simpson's role as the Everyman on TV, but you're obviously already aware of that.
posted by Alterscape at 5:40 PM on April 20, 2006

Oooh. I got it!

I read Jay's cartoon strip journal and it's about the hopes and fears of a Canadian everyman stuck in a dead-end job, wanting to do cartoons and hanging out with his kid and wife.

He has comic books available as well.

It's all extremely personal and biographical, so it has less of a cohesive story line, but what initially feels a little neurotic and mundane starts to become extremely sweet and addictive as you read on.
posted by Gucky at 6:11 PM on April 20, 2006

I suppose The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, or truthfully, many of Murakami's books could fit the bill--relatively normal guy who gets caught up in some shit. Some of it a tad surreal, but he responds to it in a way I imagine a level-headed 'regular guy' would.

Wait--by regular guy, do you mean, derogatory (slightly a la Harvey Peckar) or do you just mean "a guy who's all-around 'normal' in most areas."
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 6:21 PM on April 20, 2006

Nobody's mentioned Hate by Peter Bagge yet? Time to fix that.
posted by furiousthought at 6:22 PM on April 20, 2006

lockeownzj00 - I mean a guy who's all-around normal in most areas.
posted by joaniemcchicken at 6:31 PM on April 20, 2006

I highly recommend The Norm by Michael Jantze. Funny and it follows along with my life pretty well. Here are some of his own personal faves, some of which show the marriage side of the comic, rather than the geek side and an area of the site it usually takes me awhile to find.
posted by Moondoggie at 6:40 PM on April 20, 2006

And how much more normal can you get than a strip called The Norm, right? Right?
posted by Moondoggie at 6:40 PM on April 20, 2006

Are we talking about middle-class American guys dealing with adulthood? If you feel like reading some novels, Updike's Rabbit Angstrom series and Richard Ford's The Sportswriter come to mind. Maybe some short stories by John Cheever or Raymond Carver. I particularly liked Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
I know, these writers are all very New Yorker.
posted by horsewithnoname at 8:21 PM on April 20, 2006

I always loved how realistic Rocko from the cartoon Rocko's Modern Life is. He has a job, he does laundry, he has troubles with money.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:18 PM on April 20, 2006

Read "American Elf: The Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka." That features a couple that eventually get married and have a kid, with lots of cute references and ... just cuteness in general. It's good stuff.

And I would not recommend Updike's Rabbit novels or John Cheever—those don't really speak to present life and times like many of the other suggestions do, and are rather depressing reads, to boot.
posted by limeonaire at 9:26 PM on April 20, 2006

So if you've seen the Drawn and Quarterly site, you've noticed that they've started to reprint Gasoline Alley. Not modern, and yes, Rachel is drawn as a stereotype--though it's made clear that it is by her choice that she is called by her first name--but Walt is a loving, (mostly) capable parent.
posted by brujita at 10:33 PM on April 20, 2006

I second the recommendation for Box Office Poison, which is about very ordinary people (and less annoying ones than the slack navel-gazers of Tomine, I think, though I like him). Alex Robinson has a newer book out as well (Tricked), which is worth a look if you like the first one..
posted by whir at 11:51 PM on April 20, 2006

I second Harvey Pekar, Kyle Baker, Adriane Tomine, Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt, Seth, James Kolchalka and Graig Thompson.

I add Real Stuff by Dennis P. Eichhorn, A Complete Lowlife by Ed Brubaker, I Never Liked You & The Playboy by Chester Brown and Innocent Bystander by Gary Sassaman.

There is one graphic novel that really stands out, it is Steven T. Seagle's "Superman: It's a Bird." Even though it is supposed to be a DC Vertigo Superman comic this writer turns it into a fascinating semi-autobiographical work concerning Huntingdon's disease.
posted by plokent at 1:15 AM on April 21, 2006

Here are a few lesser-known but deserving graphic novels that may fit the bill:

Bob Fingerman's Beg The Question really nails down the daily life of a fictional cartoonist in New York. I highly recommend it.

Paul Hornschemeier's book Mother, Come Home -- "the quietly stunning tale of a father and son struggling, by varying degrees of escapism and fantasy, to come to terms with the death of the family's mother."

I really love Derek Kirk Kim's Same Difference. Same Difference is a note-perfect story about a young SF Bay Area Asian man. It's online and free (but please consider buying the book); his site also has a current serialized strip in a similar vein, "Healing Hands."

Andi Watson's Dumped is a great short British dating/relationship comic. For a longer relationship piece by Watson, try Breakfast After Noon about a working class British couple on the verge of marriage. Both are excellent at capturing that everyday flavor you are looking for. Five-page previews of both are on the Oni site.

Trashed by the cartoonist Derf is a great autobigraphical story about his young adult career as a garbageman. It's set in the late 70's, but its concepts and themes feel timeless.
posted by JDC8 at 8:48 AM on April 21, 2006

One of the best reasons for a Sunday NYT subscription is The Funny Pages in the Magazine. Chris Ware has just completed the Building Stories series and the pages are being passed along to Jaime Hernandez. If you can get through the supscription wall, the first of J.H. series is up online, and it looks like Maggie is going to be back in contact with Rena Titanon!
posted by Sara Anne at 9:31 AM on April 21, 2006

I always loved "Jim's Journal", by Scott Dikkers, one of the co-founders of The Onion. I don't think it ever made it beyond a few college papers, but the strips were published in five separate collections:

--"I Went to College (and it was okay)"
--"I Got a Job (and it wasn't that bad)"
--"I Made Some Brownies (and they were pretty good)"
--"I Got Married (if you can believe that)"
--"I Feel Like a Grownup Now".

I can't find any strips online, but a bound treasury of all five collections is available at Amazon.
posted by beautifulstuff at 10:20 AM on April 21, 2006

JDC8 Just reminded me with his unholy-good suggestions: Andi Watson's Little Star just came out in paperback and it's just plain brilliant. Fatherhood is the central subject of this story and he nails so much of what I've seen my friends go through.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 7:23 PM on April 21, 2006

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