Original Misspent Youth
Sometimes we experience a moment when pop culture has infused our thoughts and we look at something and expect something entirely different. That was my experience each time I ran across The Originals graphic novel at my local library. What ran through my mind was a cross over from the CW show of the same name. I had no desire to dig into something that would essentially be a new adult angst story with vampires (not that there is anything wrong with that). I hadn’t even paid any attention to the creator’s name in all the times I saw it there.
But here’s the thing, I wanted something a bit different to check out recently and finally gave in to the thoughts that it couldn’t be all bad. That’s when I noticed that this came from Dave Gibbons (if you don’t recognize the name he is one of the creators of The Watchmen as well as work on a huge slew of other comics). I sit here now and want to proclaim that different is exactly what I found.
The story played out with nary a supernatural beast nor a super hero to be found anywhere. There is an interplay within the weaving of this story that touches pop culture in a way we don’t at first expect. Although it was sci fi in that it took place in a nebulous future (hey look at that, I am using big words). This is a cross genre romp through a coming of age story that is a mish mash of things we recognize in a way that makes them different and strange. If you can catch what that sentence actually said, you are a much better person than me.
Let me see if I can spin this out in a way that makes a smattering of sense. The gist of the story is the two kids/ young adults that are trying to be cool and accepted by the blokes that fit with their outlook on life. You know what I mean right, the kids that want to fit in with the cool crowd and do the things the cool kids do. This is a classic storyline that will continue to play out in not only the stories we read or watch but the kids that follow us will be experiencing till our sun goes super nova. When you add in things like hover bikes and strange locations you change the time frame of when this could all be taking place (though that isn’t nearly as important to the story as the characters and their drama).
The lingo used by the characters aside, I could easily see the way the story played out as something that would have happened within stories like The Outsiders, or Rebel without a Cause. You can call the two rival factions what you want but to me they will always be the socials and the greasers, the ones with style and money (the in crowd) and the outcasts (the rejected ones). Stylistically in the comic, I originally thought the “dirt” were referred to by that name because they weren’t riding hover bikes. But in later pictures of their bikes that wasn’t the case, though they did bear a striking resemblance to motorcycles, sans wheels. The originals were riding something akin to a hover moped (yes I would say something about how geeky that really is but these were the main characters so they were still viewed as cool on their “mopeds”).
After the character factions we have the stylistic choice of a black and white color scheme. For me this gives a noir-like feel to the story. It is fitting for the gang rivalry that runs at the heart of the story. Like I said, nebulous future, but it is centered in the past. The way we experience the story ties to roots we have already experienced. This in turn draws us into the lives of the characters and we get the feeling that we have lived something of their lives by the time we reach the end of the story. They are a part of our history even as they are a possible future we could be moving toward.
You may have noticed I made a brief mention of the lingo used within the story (a bit in passing). The dialect choice is an important part of the setting of this story. It is very British (though I won’t be so bold as to say a regional setting). Through the different generations US culture has followed similar patterns to British culture and vice versa. Through the times that greasers and socials were a thing in the US, Britain had the Mods (wore suits and were clean cut) and the Rockers (motorcycles and pompadours). The comic itself was a take on the Battle of Hastings, a street fight between the different factions during their heyday.
I think one of the parts I loved about this comic is how it tied together each of those different social histories. It told its own story while at the same time giving a sense of a shared experience that the reader would already be familiar with.
In the end, I enjoyed this story and think it is a good one to pick up if you run across it. Personally, I would probably end up as a “Dirt” instead of an “Original.” I prefer the classic look of the bikes over the mopeds. Although, I don’t know that a pompadour would look good on me…
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