MIGRAINE BOY - Mania.com

Comic Book Review

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Small suburban children interact in innocence with the eponymous protagonist, who hates them all. Is it the migraine?

By Mike Whybark     October 27, 2001

© 2001 Slave Labor Graphics
Unremittingly cynical and cleanly, clinically drawn, Fiering's four-panels have been widely syndicated in the urban hipster press, and their incredibly strict rules of construction appear to be of primary importance to the cartoonist. In this book, the minimalist alternative weekly four-panel expands to longer stories while the cartoonist experiments with one panel shorts as well. Each episode takes place in what is apparently the same suburban back yard, as another child repeatedly approaches the protagonist, Migraine Boy.

Migraine Boy is always on the left side of the frame, lines of pain radiating from his head, a grimace on his face. In the syndicated versions of the strip, the story is usually told in the traditional four panels; here, multi-page stories take the format and run with it, as far as such a thing is possible. The approaching child generally interacts with Migraine Boy, usually in a spirit of innocent childlike fun, and inevitably angers the tightly-wound headache sufferer, who exhibits no hint of human compassion. In at least two of the stories, his inaction leads directly to the death of the other child.

As the book progresses, the theme of western religious tradition is broached, first in a story in which Migraine Boy, reading the Bible, concludes that if God can create woman from Adam's rib, he can create girl from his own rib. Naturally, she has a headache. When she scratches her rib, he laughs, the only exhibition of emotion other than anguish or rage that we are privileged to witness from our hero.

The cartoonist further assures limited distribution of the comic in areas of a high churchgoing demographic by introducing a one-panel feature called "Matthew", which is subtitled "Christian cartoons to warm the heart and soul." It comes as no surprise that they do neither. Adhering to an even stricter formal vocabulary than the Migraine Boy pieces, Fiering largely adopts Bill (FAMILY CIRCUS) Keane's circular one-panel format with caption below. The drawing is always of two children on the steps of a suburban house, occasionally joined by a third on the left of the composition (with one or two exceptions). The captions generally challenge the validity of middle-American Christian belief structures while at the same time using the structure of the one-liner as employed by Keane or Tom Wilson in ZIGGY.

The formal discipline present in the drawings is interesting on its own merit, as it is in the work of Keane, Ernie Bushmiller (NANCY), or even Wilson. However, the negativist approach to gag construction can't succeed if the audience does not share the cartoonist's core assumptions about culture and the world. The use of gag-oriented structure in the work undermines it, draining humor from the work even when it directly aspires to be the source of old-fashioned yuks.

However, I'm not certain that this is not the actual aesthetic objective of the work. FAMILY CIRCUS and NANCY, for example, are always subject to the criticism that they lack humor; yet these works employ the same gag timing and assumptions that Fiering employs here. Those who appreciate the formal qualities of these works may well appreciate MIGRAINE BOY. Those who aren't ready to have their faith and human interaction in general - viciously mocked might do well to look elsewhere. On the other hand, I've always subscribed to the notion that belief, when challenged, benefits, so perhaps we all should purchase this for our churchgoing aunties. You first.


Grade: C+

Issue: No. 1

Author(s): Greg Fiering

Publisher:  Slave Labor Graphics

Price: $2.95



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