Comics Time: Water Baby

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Water Baby

Ross Campbell, writer/artist

DC/Minx, July 2008

176 pages

$9.99

Buy it from Amazon.com

Ross Campbell is the cartoonist laureate of skanks. For real, when one of the characters in his latest saga of kinda hot, kinda sexy, kinda goth, kinda punk, kinda slow, kinda gross young people uses that term to refer to another, it was a real eureka moment for me. At last, the proper term to describe these beautiful, languid losers! Campbell doesn’t judge them for it, neither do I and neither should you.

The central skank (you’re unlikely to hear her referred to as such in the marketing materials!) here is Brody, a surfer girl whose leg is bitten off in a shark attack. Plagued by recurring nightmares in which shark-creatures consume her, she spends a lazy summer with her best friend and her slutty ex-boyfriend, until she gets fed up enough with the latter to drive him from her Florida home back to his mom’s place in upstate New York. Along the way they pick up a sexy-’rexy hitchhiker girl and eventually receive a good-samaritan ride from Mario Van Peebles (not kidding)…and that’s basically it. For what it’s worth, the only real difference in tone or style between this project for mighty DC’s young-adult-female imprint Minx and Campbell’s indie series Wet Moon and Tokyopop zombie OEL The Abandoned, both of which are very good, is a lack of bare nipples, as far as I can remember. (BTW the horror material here, as in The Abandoned, is very gory and very effective.)

Mostly, what I take away is a sort of dazed awe over what a demimonde it is that Campbell has chosen to chronicle and the way he’s chosen to chronicle it. From the dawn of my self-identification with fringe culture, I’ve never had what it takes, be it gumption or a near-total lack thereof, to simply drift–to go for weeks without showering, to not for a second worry whether my rattiest most offensive t-shirt is appropriate grocery store attire, to wake up in a vomit-soaked apartment and immediately go on an overnight road trip with no planning and without telling anyone, simply coasting on the waves provided by sketchy friends, horror films, metal, lust, and junk food. That Campbell lets his characters go there is impressive to me. That he does so in such an almost anti-plot fashion–no multi-act structures, no real character arcs, no big climaxes–is the kind of thing that no one would pay any mind to were his art style more firmly in the altcomix tradition as we know it, but drawing in a beautiful, mainstream-accessible, hotsy-totsy style as he does, with each character drawn for maximum realistic sexiness and trashiness, it’s almost a revelation. Like, people really live this way. I really liked living with them.

4 Responses to Comics Time: Water Baby

  1. ross says:

    this is Ross Campbell himself, stopping by to thank you for the great review!!!! i really appreciate it. :) the book’s been getting some horrific reviews so when somebody alerts me of a positive one, it really means something! thanks!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Ross! And it was really my pleasure. I think your work is really strong, lovely, and unique.

  3. Nick Marino says:

    Ross and I knew a lot of the same kids growing up and most of them were (believe it or not) the type to “go for weeks without showering, to not for a second worry whether my rattiest most offensive t-shirt is appropriate grocery store attire, to wake up in a vomit-soaked apartment and immediately go on an overnight road trip with no planning and without telling anyone, simply coasting on the waves provided by sketchy friends, horror films, metal, lust, and junk food.” so much so, in fact, that Water Baby was filled with a cast of my weirdest friends from high school doing the character voices.

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