Schmuck is wonderful. In it, writer Seth Kushner takes a fictional autobiographical look at his single life as he tries to find “the one.” You’re probably wondering what “fictional autobiographical” means, well it means that Kushner took real stories from his life and crafted a narrative out of them rather than leaving them as is. By doing this he’s able to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end that ultimately feels rewarding whereas a lot of biographical comics… don’t. Real life rarely has a strong third act, in fact that’s usually when your life is winding down. It’s great because it all feels real, but we’re left wondering what was actually plucked from his life and what was added to fit the narrative. The opening sets the stage perfectly for establishing the character of Adam Kessler. He likes comics. He likes comics the way anyone reading this likes comics, in that he goes to a comic book shop and buys comics every week and has been doing so for far too many years of his life. He also cheated on his bar mitzvah which he implies means that his manhood didn’t take.
From there we pick up with Adam as he’s single for the first time. Previously he was one of those guys that’s always in a relationship and as soon as one is done he’s on to the next one. Now, after suddenly being dumped for the first time, he finds himself in the dating pool and isn’t having any luck. The story is basically spent going through Adam’s life looking for love and figuring out how to talk to women.
You can compare Schmuck to just about any story that tackles dating, but it would be a shitty comparison. It really stands on its own as something special because of the fictional autobiographical element. It really reads as an autobiographical story and so you get lost in Adam’s world. Kushner gives you so many details that if real, would be terribly embarrassing to say out loud.
The character of Adam is a little like Jerry Seinfeld’s fictional character in that he dates a lot of women, but unlike Seinfeld, Adam is the one that’s rejected over and over. There’s also an American Splendor vibe to the story which is the highest compliment that I can pay the book. There’s even a mention of American Splendor in the story which was great because by the time it hits you’re already thinking about it yourself. It just shows that Kushner knows comics and it shines through in moments like that.
You’re probably wondering who the hell drew this thing. Well, there’s too many artists to list. Each chapter/piece of the overall story is done by a different illustrator. Meaning that every chapter has a different artist. This ranges from up and coming artists like Skuds McKinley to bigger names like Dean Haspiel. It would take me a long as time to list them all and give you reasons for why their art did and didn’t work with the story so I’m not going to do that.
What’s very impressive about the art is that each artist really makes the story their own. No one is trying to mime anyone else’s style. All they needed to do was capture Adam’s likeness and they do that. You can spot Adam instantly and that’s all you need. Otherwise, there’s a huge range of styles from photo-realistic, cartoony, to other styles that fit the look of what a lot of people think comic books should look like. There’s for sure a style that you’ll like and I definitely found a few new creators to keep an eye out for. That and I don’t think there was even one artist who had a style that didn’t work with the story.
This is a hell of a book. It could have easily been called “Nice Guys Date Last” or some shit, I don’t do titles fake or otherwise. What’s particularly great about it is that you forget that it’s not all true. In fact, I have no idea how much of it is even remotely true, but that’s why it’s so great. It feels real. The details are real and even if they’re piecemeal from other people’s lives and from Kushner’s imagination, they still suck you in as if a friend were telling you a story. This is an amazing book that has countless collaborators coming together to a rewarding story about dating. One that I suspect a lot of men, particularly comic readers, can relate to.
Schmuck Writer: Seth Kushner Artists: Various… and many Publisher: Hang Dai Editions/Alternative Comics Price: $19.95 Release Date: 9/23/15 Format: TPB; Print