By Patrick Atangan (NBM/Comics/Lit)
Itâ€™s long been an aphorism – if not outright clichÃ© – that Gay (or more contemporarily LGBTQ) comics are the only place in the graphic narrative game where real romance still exists.
As far as I can see though itâ€™s actually true; an artefact, I suppose, of a society which seems determined to demarcate and separate sex and love as two utterly different – and even opposite – things.
Iâ€™d prefer to think that here in the 21st century – or at least in the more civilised bits which actually acknowledge and welcome that times have changed – weâ€™ve outgrown the juvenile, judgemental, bad old days and can simply appreciate powerful, moving, wistful, sad and/or funny comics about ordinary people without any kind of preconception, but that battleâ€™s still not completely won yet. Hopefully, thoughtful, inspirational memoirs such as this will aid that transitionâ€¦
Californian Patrick Atangan (Songs of Our Ancestors, Invincible Days) is a multi-talented Filipino-American creator with many strings to his creative bow: as deft and subtle in his computer-generated comic tales and retellings of Asian myths as with the tools he uses to craft high-end designer furniture.
Now heâ€™s added a wry, charming yet deeply moving collection of short intimate musings and recollections on his â€œromantic gaffes and failuresâ€ to his printed canon for youngsters and the results are enough to make the toughest cookie crumbleâ€¦
Posited as if â€œSex and the City had been created by a gay Charlie Brownâ€ these utterly compelling, seditiously humorous slices of a life lived a little too much inside oneâ€™s own head kick off with chronological logic with the still-closeted Patrick attending his â€˜Junior Promâ€™ as escort to obsessive beard Mildred, whose attention to detail and determination to make the event absolutely perfect cannot help but fail. At least the string of disasters the fervent Prom-zilla endures take the spotlight off his own failings, petty jealousies and perceived inadequaciesâ€¦
â€˜Secretsâ€™ skips ahead to the liberation of college as the introvert resolves to reinvent himself and begins an ongoing process of Outing which gradually encompasses friends, family and everybody new in his life. Sadly that in turn leads to a sort-of romance with Calvin who never really comes to terms with his own sexual identityâ€¦
On leaving academe, another character-building debacle involves â€˜Garyâ€™; someone our author considered far too lovely for a dweeb like him – and therefore something of a self-fulfilling prophecy – before eponymous vignette â€˜The Fires Above Hyperionâ€™ finds Patrick coolly contemplating the now-annual forest fires threatening Los Angeles whilst foolishly attempting to rekindle or reinvent the three-year relationship he has just ended with Rogerâ€¦
Eschewing his usual â€˜New Yearâ€™s Eveâ€™ ritual, the narrator attends a big party and suffers inebriation, gastric trauma and the humiliation of mistakenly putting the moves on a chain-smoking straight guy whilst â€˜APE Shitâ€™ reveals the sorry fallout of a trip to San Francisco to attend his first Alternative Press Expo in a decade: a concatenation of domestic disasters comprising old friends with new children, commuter congestion and a total change in the way Indy comics are sold. At least he connects with the gorgeous, seemingly ideal Bryan – before Fate and Patrickâ€™s own conscience play a few pranks to spoil what might have been a perfect momentâ€¦
More notionally self-inflicted grief comes out of ignoring the custom of a lifetime and attending a wedding as a â€˜Plus Oneâ€™. Naturally he didnâ€™t mind his â€œdateâ€ Julia going off with a guy, but when Patrick zeroes in on wonderful, apparently available Peter, events and the authorâ€™s own treacherous tuxedo conspire to make the soiree memorable for all the wrong reasons.
A heartbreakingly harsh assessment of Patrickâ€™s failings then lead him to the dire conclusion that he is â€˜Nobodyâ€™s Typeâ€™ before the excoriating romantic recriminations end with another ill-fated, self-sabotaged first date that founders because of too much introspection and an accumulation of â€˜Baggageâ€™â€¦
Insightful, penetrating, invitingly self-deprecating, guardedly hopeful and never afraid to be mistaken for morose when occasion demands, this collection of misjudged trysts and missed chances offers a charming glimpse at the eternally hopeful way most folks live their love-lives and the result is magical and unforgettable.
Atangan has stated that he is contemplating quitting comics, but after seeing this beguiling confection Iâ€™m sure a legion of fans hungry for more of his slick, stylish and earnest entertainments will be determined to change his mindâ€¦
Â© 2015 Patrick Atangan.