And now for something completely different: an indie comic book!
It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about a comic book from outside the Big Two. No real reason why I haven’t aside from relying on the familiar. (It’s my comfort zone. Sue me.) Enter Electric Century, a brand-new graphic novel from the collective minds of Mikey Way, Shaun Simon, and Toby Cypress.
Wait, Mikey Way? You mean the bassist from My Chemical Romance?
Yes, that Mikey Way!
You didn’t think he just shreds on bass for an alt-rock band, did you?
He’s also a bona fide comic book writer, previously working with Shaun Simon on Collapser for DC’s Young Animal imprint.
So, Electric Century...
Like I said, I don’t usually pick up a grand amount of books outside of Marvel or DC but when I do, I pick some pretty flipping good comics. This was one of those.
The story here follows alcoholic former sitcom star Johnny Ashford as he continues to spiral down into his self-destructive lifestyle. He crashes a car into a storefront, gets arrested, bailed out by his girlfriend, and subsequently loses said girlfriend when he won’t try to self-improve. Down and out on his luck, an old friend re-enters his life and gives him the number of a hypnotherapist that can help him through his issues. He does so by giving him hypnotic trips to Atlantic City circa the 1980’s. It’s a happy place where Johnny can relieve his past, turn himself around and entertain crowds at the Electric Century Casino but things are definitely not what they seem (hypno-trips rarely are). He’s traded one vice for another and ignores the aspects of life that should be important to him to go on adventures in dreamland. Johnny quickly finds out that everything has a cost and when confronted with that notion, it becomes a fight or flight decision as to if he should stay in this fake world or escape to the real world, where his ex-girlfriend is searching for him.
Johnny’s story is a genuine and fun take on the washed-up celebrity trope which goes to some interesting places in how he tries to cope with not being famous anymore. It’s grounded in reality but takes off into fantasy when Johnny moves from alcoholism to hypno-addiction. The character feels and acts like a real person in an addictive situation while he simultaneously relapses but truly does care about his girlfriend and wants to get better for her. His need to find purpose in his post-acting career, his attitude towards life and others, and how the story changes him from beginning to end all makes for a really compelling read. Mikey and Shaun do a great job crafting and doing their own take on a familiar story, but it’s a story I’ve not read in comics quite like this. Their mesh of neo-noir with addiction and psychedelics comes together into a beautiful neon nightmare that’s impossible to look away from.
Speaking of psychedelics, Toby Cypress’ art is phenomenal, bringing out bright neon colors in the hypno-trips and warm yellows, greens, reds, and purples in the noir reality. It’s appropriately trippy when necessary, and gorgeously so, but committed to this book’s version of reality. After seeing his work here, I hope he gets more mainstream work in the coming years. I need more Toby Cypress art!