Today, Ryan D. and Taylor are discussing Glitterbomb 1, originally released September 7th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan D: Being an actor is a very peculiar job. Though it may seem like a pretty sweet gig — getting paid to pretend you are someone else — the difficult part of the profession is seldom the actual acting. Yes, it can be extremely taxing, assuming the quirks and burdens of another person on yourself, on top of your own idiosyncrasies and insecurities, but that’s the easy part. The aspect of acting which differentiates it from other walks of life is that a professional actor, unless they are very successful, spends a very small portion of their life actually doing their trade. If you’re an electrician or an accountant, you do those things throughout your day; however, most of an actor’s life is occupied with the process of finding work to do whilst maintaining one’s skills and often fragile sense of self. The stress can be maddening and hell on one’s ego, so it is a very good thing that actors do not have some sort of internal mechanism for murder.
Meet Farrah Durante, a (seemingly) single mother and “middle-aged” actor who had some success in the past, but is now struggling to get parts and, thus, support her family. We see her in the opening panels meeting with her agent — one of the many roles which, like a NASCAR pit crew, are often required to maintain a professional career, especially in modern LA. Within the first two pages, the main hook of the series is set:
This caught me completely by surprise, eliciting from me a very guttural “Wuuuuuuuuuut!” The content indeed came across as shocking, but I was also taken aback by newcomer artist Djbril Morissette-Phan. His pencils here and throughout the issue are lush and evocative, using some really nice, rough shading to add depth and personality to characters, especially their faces; however, the most striking part of this death is the angle through which it’s shown. This bird’s-eye viewpoint makes the reader feel like a fly on the wall, overseeing something private and privileged. It also allows for the weird tentacle-stinger to bisect the page as it gains height from Farrah’s mouth to the agent’s, giving the alien appendage a real sense of power. I find myself just as surprised as anyone that this title is Djbril’s first outing with a major comic. Also deserving of kudos is colorist K. Michael Russell, who wisely chooses here to keep anything in the office not related to the kill in a drab monochrome, highlighting the abnormal as the focus in the scene. Russell, in the letter column, says that his goal with coloring this title is to “avoid any ‘beautiful’ scenes,” and thus far, he is delivering spectacularly.
The writing really shines through some very realistic, character-driven dialogue. I do not know what kind of first-hand experience writer Jim Zub has in the performing arts, but he nails the general ambiance of a cattle-call audition, which takes place six hours before the in medias res agent scene:
I found it happily painful to read the awkward chat full of people trying to prove how much they know, the tense moments of silence, and the surreal recognition of the fact that Farrah is competing against others who all look virtually the same. At this audition, Farrah also meets her foil: Brooke Vixy. Brooke reads as a younger, prettier, and less jaded version of Farrah, and while Brooke may come across as a bit of a stereotype, those stereotypes exist for a reason. One of the first lessons my class learned at drama school is that audiences — especially casting directors — can smell desperation a mile away, so it is no wonder why Brooke got the call-back and Farrah did not. I am very interested in how the dynamic between these two can maintain as they continue competing for parts in the future, especially now that Farrah possesses this dark gift of murder.
To be honest, this title had me hooked by the third page. It comes across to me as a very well-drawn, smartly written book with a very strong sense of self and holding some really intriguing narrative potential. Will Farrah be held accountable for the two people she’s killed? How can she raise her son, Marty, with this evil inside of her? Can she function as an actor if there’s the constant threat of her killing someone if she loses her cool? Heck, what happens to her scene partner if she’s filming a particularly intense moment? I look forward to seeing her navigate life in a world which ranges from bland to dirty to dangerous, rife with an impending sense of hopelessness. But that’s not fiction, it’s just an accurate LA.
Taylor! Is my predilection towards acting getting the better of me, or do you enjoy this #1 as much as I do? Also, what do you glean out of Farrah’s possible suicide attempt and ultimate abduction at the hands of the creature? Are you sniffing something Cthulian out of this, or is that just all of the Kot, Moore, and Brubaker I’ve been reading lately? And, if you still have space, how do you see Kaydon impacting the series in the future?
Taylor: I don’t think you have to be an actor or particularly familiar with the acting world to appreciate this issue. Plenty of comics and tv shows revolve around actors and some, such as Party Down, are excellent. But my appreciation for this issue doesn’t stem from the glimpse it gives me of the auditioning process. Rather, I like it for pointing out the inherent bullshit that is behind much of what runs Hollywood. As you noted, Ryan, the main grease that keeps the movie industry running is youth and beauty, both of which are personified by Brooke in this issue. And though she might embody what makes the entertainment industry run, Zub is quick to point out that she’s basically an empty vessel spouting nonsense.
All of the self-help phrases Brooke quotes are the type of stuff one hears from popular, but ultimately useless, self-help books like The Secret. It’s wonderfully cathartic to see Farrah call Brooke on her bullshit because it effectively echos all of the same sentiments those us who are less starry-eyed think of when confronted with unhinged optimism face to face. This ultimately exposes Brooke for her shallowness and because she also gets a callback, also exposes the shallowness of Hollywood. No one wants an older but experienced actor. They just want that young grease.
Coming to terms with the shallowness of Hollywood takes its toll on Farrah and she stops by the beach on her way to contemplate her life…and perhaps end it. It’s hard to tell if Farrah actually plans on committing suicide or not. Zub smartly leaves this ambiguous. I have no idea at what point the evil thing in the water took over Farrah’s body and compelled her into the water and when she was acting with her own volition. I could make arguments going both ways on this and for now I think it’s too soon to guess exactly what is happening in this scene.
That being said, the pencils and colors of Morissette-Phan and Russell perhaps lend some insight into what’s going on here. After not being asked back for a second audition, Farrah drives to a nearby beach. The panels depicting this action are quite beautiful despite Russell’s apparent desire to make them anything but.
There’s something evocative about the crisp lines drawn here as they intermix with the subdued colors. It reminds me of weird logos from the 90s advertising California in video games, t-shirts, and other sundry items. These colors have always promised a pretty sunset and a warm beach and we get just that in these panels. Despite that, I can see how Russell is going for a muted tone here. There’s no denying the colors are washed out and muted, perhaps reflecting the mood Farrah finds herself in after her rejection. With that being the case, the hypothesis of her trying to kill herself seems all the more likely. In this way, the artwork, despite its genuine appeal, perhaps foretells a dark series of events.
When thinking of this darkness I don’t think it’s by any means a stretch to see the connections to Cthulu. After all, we are dealing with a tentacled monster from the deep.
But to strictly confine Farrah’s dark passenger to a Lovecraftian influence doesn’t do the power of tentacles justice. The sea has always represented the unknown to humans and among its many creatures the squid and octopus, with their eight arms, beaks, and suction cups, are the perfect symbol of man’s inability to comprehend the ocean. That’s a perfect analogy here for whatever it is that has implanted itself in Farrah because it is mysterious, dark, and perhaps ultimately unknowable. I’m excited to see how this series explores these issues and how it relates to Farrah’s ability to perhaps not truly understand herself. It doesn’t seem like that far of a reach to suppose that Kaydon will become Farrah’s confidant in this affair. In many ways it seems likely that she could become an unwilling sidekick at the least or perhaps a moral compass at the best.
Whatever the case may be, this issue is a confident and surprising first issue. Coming from such a young team of artists this is surprising but like the evil that infects Farrah, it’s exciting because the future is unknown.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?