Each week the iFanStaff passes along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail (or beer, or wine, or booze) and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.
For one reason or another, I’ve been reading a lot of all-ages and middle grade comics and graphic novels lately. As someone whose favorite books tend to be in the mature end of the indie publishing world, it can be an exercise in shutting off one part of my brain and turning on another. Now, I’m not saying that books aimed at kids shouldn’t also appeal to adults. Publishers like Boom! and Amulet (and studios in other media like Pixar) are masters at making jokes and stories that speak to adults and children on different levels.
However, I’ll admit that aiming a book at younger ages lets writers get away with a few things that adult readers won’t cotton to. Dialogue can be more simplistic, for example, and exposition can be more transparent. Moral lessons are often driven home with a sledgehammer rather than a soft touch. While there’s room to discuss what exactly the moral of a book for adults was, there’s not as much wiggle room in kid’s books – not only is the moral easy to figure out, but sometimes it’s spelled out for you on the last page.
Sometimes, you just need a simple story with an uplifting message. That was what I needed this week. Howard Shapiro and Joe Pekar’s book The Stereotypical Freaks fit the bill with a punk rock flourish.
The Stereotypical Freaks
The Stereotypical Freaks, out this week from Animal Media, is a coming-of-age story aimed right at middle and high schoolers. The cast is straight out of the Hughes-ian mold, made up of a Mark the jock, Tom the geek, Dan the social outcast and Jacoby the exchange student. Thanks to their roles in the high school caste system, each feels like they are unfairly stereotyped. Each brings their baggage to the band they form for the battle of the bands, the eponymous Freaks, to prove to their schoolmates they’re more than just stereotypes. Yes, yes, it’s all very “After School Special.” But Shapiro pulls off the story with a surprising amount of charm, and the end is heartwarming if cliche.
One befuddling move on the part of the author was the choice of music for The Stereotypical Freaks. Music comes across both in the chapter intros (each chapter’s title page includes “recommended listening”) and the songs discussed by Tom, Dan, Mark, and Jacoby. There’s a smattering of classic rockers like Dylan and The Beatles, and some newer stuff from the 2000s, but the majority of the music is squarely planted in the late 80s and early 90s. I’ll be the first to defend the punk rock of the era – Urge Overkill, Rancid and The Afghan Whigs put out some classic albums – but the idea that teenagers are obsessed with 90s music rings a bit false to me. Then again, I know plenty of kids were stuck firmly in prog-rock era when I was growing up, so maybe audiophiles operate on a different timeline than a square like me.
I enjoyed Shapiro’s quick, workmanlike story in The Stereotypical Freaks, but the real standout for me was Joe Pekar’s art. I had only a passing familiarity with Pekar’s prior work, based mostly on his covers for Boom! Studios and Zenescope. In a full-length OGN, he really gets to show off and stretch his storytelling muscles. The art is rendered in a fairly simplistic black-and-white grid, and Pekar drafts characters and scenes with just a handful of lines. Darwyn Cooke it ain’t, but the cartooning is kinetic and expressive. The scenes of the band with their instruments are particularly impressive. The instruments all look like they should (a weird bit of praise, I know, but surprisingly hard to find in comics), and the staves of music weave between the panels create a “flow” during performance scenes.
BrewDog Punk IPA
I couldn’t imagine a better beer to pair with the punk ethos of The Stereotypical Freaks than the Punk IPA from Scotland’s BrewDog brewing company. A bombastic set of brewers guilty of both great beer and outrageous stunts, BrewDog is punk in both name and practice.
The brewery’s description of the Punk IPA doesn’t say a whole hell of a lot about the beer, but gives you a sense of the guys behind it. Now their flagship ale, the “post modern classic pale ale” is a hybrid of American and British pale ale styles.
Welcome to a post Punk apocalyptic mother fu*ker of a pale ale. A beer that spent its formative years Blitzkrieg bopping around India and the sub continent. Quintessential Empire with an anarchic twist. God save the Queen and all who sail in her. Raising a Stiff Little Finger to IPAs that have come before and those it is yet to meet. Turn up the volume Pay the man. Embrace the punked up, f*cked up outlaw elite. Never Mind the Bollocks this is the real sh*t.
The India Pale pours a pale amber, and settles with a thin white head and an explosion of mango and pineapple aromas. The taste is mostly the biscuity malt and herbal hops of an English pale, but some juicy citrus comes through thanks to the international hop bill. Despite the aggressive bluster from the brewery, this beer is quite easy-drinking. Complex enough for a beer geek but mild enough for a newbie, Punk might be the perfect gateway beer.
Josh Christie knew it was called “Baba O’Riley” and not “Teenage Wasteland” even before that episode of Freaks and Geeks. Follow him on Twitter for plenty of talk about beer, books, bookselling, and even comics.
Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy the comics that make you happy and spread the love.