Heavy Issues with HAZED

One of my favorite genres of comics are those that are about people and their relationships. I’ve held a love for serialized dramas on television for years (i.e. Beverly Hills, 90210) and when I stumbled on books like Strangers In Paradise and Shades of Gray, I realized that many indie comics held the same allure, telling tales of boys, girls and their intermingling. For whatever reason, these types of books have become few and far between, (I chalk it up to the zombies craze) and I’ve been desperate for the next relationship book that I could sink my teeth into. So when I heard about Hazed from Image Comics, I got excited because it sounded right up my alley.

Hazed is an original graphic novel written by Mark Sable, with art by Robbi Rodriguez scheduled to be hitting shelves this Wednesday for $14.99. Set in the world of sororities and fraternities at a college in the southern US, Hazed certainly gives you a run for your money. The solicitation text compares the book to the films Heathers and Mean Girls, so there is an immediate frame of reference set. Usually I try to avoid those types of quick descriptions which unfortunately are needed in this world of glut on the market, but I do have to admit that it’s interesting to see Image describe the book this way, as I’m sure there are many reviewers damning that description for using that comparison before they could. But I do also have to admit that the Heathers/Mean Girls
comparison is scarily accurate.

The story is simple enough, in the beginning we are introduced to Ileana, a star student destined for the ivy league, or at least a very good liberal arts school in the Northeast. Somehow she is convinced to attend a school in the South steeped in the Greek life. It was within these first 3 pages that I knew that this story would be of the amusing type and that I really wouldn’t be able to take it all that seriously, because really, no star student like Ileana would accept this idea and actually risk her future. It’s unbelievable decisions/turns of the story that keep this book moving forward in a satirical manner. With the setting established we read on and are equally amused and horrified by the adventure that lays ahead for Ileana as she attempts to take the Sorority system down from the inside.

I’ll tell you right now, a lot of people are going to hate this graphic novel. And I mean a lot. Off the top of my head, I know about 5 people who would punch me after I gave them this to read. The events that Mark Sable weaves into the story hit on very sensitive subjects. Eating disorders, date rape, body image issues, insecurity, pretty much every possible issue a young woman could deal with while in college. As I turned each page, I could hear hundreds of proto-feminist voices of people I went college screaming out in horror. I seriously had to take pause before writing this, because I wasn’t sure if I could. The part of me that was introduced to social issues and political correctness was screaming that I should be offended. But then I went back and saw that Heathers/Mean Girls comparison and thought about. I thought about the issues presented and dealt with in those movies, and couldn’t but help to laugh. While the Heathers/Mean Girls comparison is indeed accurate, this book also reminded me very much of Revenge of the Nerds as well. As I observed from the first few pages, you can’t take this book as a serious drama of college life. No, it’s a comedic satire that is at times awful, uncomfortable and yet totally relatable.

The tone of the writing of the book is bolstered by the wonderful art of Robbi Rodriguez. His cartoony style is perfect for the various outrageous situations that emerge. Usually I don’t really go for this type of art, but there was a certain something to the art within Hazed that really made it shine. Rodriguez’s skill of facial expressions was key in making many of the characters relatable. As you felt the pain and envy, the love and hate with every twist and turn that followed each character, their faces told the story as much as the words did. Additionally, the grey tones by Nick Filardi took this black and white story and established a look and feel that transcended a simple black and white indie book. I am constantly impressed at what artists are able to do within comics in black and white with gray tones and I hold this book out as a fine example of some of the best black and white art I’ve seen in a while.

By all rights I should be condemning this graphic novel for being a tale of Sororities written by a man, and for not taking such heavy issues seriously, but I can’t, it was way too much fun to read. I remind myself to chill out and realize that this book is not meant to be taken seriously. While by no means do I think that eating disorders or date rape is funny, they’re not the target in this book, rather the people and societal pressures that are behind them are. Like Mean Girls and Heathers, absolutely ridiculous and unrealistic events happen in Hazed. And yet over the 160 pages, you find yourself not noticing, rooting for the protagonists and are given a wholly satisfying ending.  It’s hard to believe the roller coaster that you will ride while reading this book.  From laughing to repulsion, it runs the gamut and that’s definitely something worth noting.

Sometimes there is too much pressure in this world (specifically the world of comics) to deliver a deeper meaning and take a stand when delivering a piece of work that is labeled “indie” or “not capes and tights”.   Sable and Rodriguez remind us that in same way that ridiculousness exists in movies, it can exist in comics and we’re allowed to have fun while reading them. So, if you’re looking for a new original graphic novel that you can relate to and laugh at while reading, and you’re not too far up on the moral high ground, then I suggest you pick up Hazed.


Hazed – $14.99 – Image Comics

Comments

  1. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    Somehow she is convinced to attend a school in the South steeped in the Greek life. It was within these first 3 pages that I knew that this story would be of the amusing type and that I really wouldn’t be able to take it all that seriously, because really, no star student like Ileana would accept this idea and actually risk her future –

    You know, there are some really good schools in the South that this description would apply to, and even the mediocre ones have their share of academeic stars.  (And, see, you thought you’d get fussed at for sexism first, not regional bias!)

     

  2. Leprechaun Leprechaun says:

    I agree with ohcaroline about schools in the South.  There are some great schools in the South and the greek tradition is very important.  I went to a university in the "South" and was in a greek house.  My university had more Rhodes and Truman scholars than Harvard.  (At least that is what the brochure said)  Either way I did know people that came from the Northeast to go to the school, because they thought it was the best thing for his/her future.  

    The book sounds interesting and I will have to talk to my LCS guy about it. 

  3. mistersizzle mistersizzle says:

    I picked this up after hearing an interview with the creators one of those other podcasts.  I was excited about this because of the Heathers comparison, but ended up hating it cause it just wasn’t that satirical or funny.  I would still recommend this because I support almost any OGN that tests the bounderies of what comics can be and this certainly does that. 

  4. SteveM SteveM says:

    Hey Ron, my alma mater, Auburn University, after the service academies (West Point, etc) has had more graduates go into space than any other University–so easy on the whole, Ivy League/NE university superiority thing.

    Having said that, from your review and the pics you include (and I would like to get a hold of this soon), I’m not so sure how ‘over the top’ this book is.  It may be more realistic than people would want to believe.  I was a part of the greek system at both Auburn and the University of Alabama (a long, ugly time ago in what seems like a galaxy far away) and the kind of physical and emotional hazing that went on defies the imagination.  The greek house at colleges like this (Also, Ole Miss, U. Of SC, Tenn, etc) but also at other places outside the South (I have worked at both U. of Maryland and Texas A & M) have pledges lined up and forced to drink shots until the puke, girls getting their fat circled, instructed in the use of laxatives as a weight loss plan, told what guys or girls to date from what houes, outrageous institutionalized racism–the list could go on and on.

    "OK, Bitches, inspection."–that kind of thing really goes on.

     

     

  5. JonSamuelson JonSamuelson says:

    I can’t remember what podcast it was on, CGS I think, but I heard an interview with this guy and he attended one of those "steeped in the Greek tradition" Southern schools, and most of the stuff that he put into this book were things that he heard from girls he knew/dated that were in sororities.  So I think SteveM is probably correct in that the contents of this comic are probably disturbingly accurate.

  6. Andrew Andrew says:

    Texas Tech: Harvard on the Plains! Ivy League of the South!

  7. JGG JGG says:

    This looks like somethig that I would be interested in.  Thanks for the write up Ron, though you are going to have to watch that regional bias thing you’ve got there becuase this seems to have united all of the Southerners on the site, including me.

  8. Paradiddle Paradiddle says:

    I picked this up from Mark and Robbi at their table at WonderCon b/c it looked like an interesting book and I was happy to support them (what a coupla nice guys!). I’ve only read the first chapter but Ron’s review is spot-on. Can’t wait to read the rest!

  9. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    A couple of points.

    1. "Regional Bias" – This is taken directly from the book, the main character doesn’t want to go to a southern greek school, she wants to go to an Ivy.  The main character thinks she is throwing away her future by not going to an Ivy.  Also, I’m sorry to say but it’s completely accurate – no one from the northeast who is intent on going to an Ivy is going to happily go to the school in the south.  An Ivy is an Ivy is an Ivy and there are none in the south. 

    2. This book contains many elements that I’m sure are true to life but it is also about five steps over the top and satirical.  Ron didn’t reveal those things because that would be ruining the story.  It’s a mix of realism and over-the-topness. 

  10. Ryan Haupt Haupt (@haupt) says:

    I just received an e-mail informing me that it is in fact "National Eating Disorder Awareness Week". Kinda stepping on the toes of Black history month but I guess there are only  52 choices when you have to pick an awareness week. Kind of cool that the book came out when it did. Anyone know if the creators planned that or is it merely serendipitous?

     

    So I guess this is also the school pride thread now?  Go Slugs! Near enough to Berkeley and Standford to be considered of no real importance!

  11. TehDave TehDave says:

    yeah, the school pride business gets out of hand quickly. everybody loves their alma mater, and thus assumes that it, and the colleges around it, are the best…but of course this can’t be true everywhere.

    (just in the big 10.) 

  12. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    Just to be clear, my original "regional bias" comment was a bit tongue in cheek.  I trust the point about this specific book — that it’s not believable that this character would make this choice, and the author is just using it to get a fish out of water story (there’s no way "Legally Blonde" would have gotten into Harvard Law either).   But that’s not the same as saying that  no high-achieving student from the North would choose to attend a Greek-centric Southern school; I went to two of those schools and I promise we get them.  

  13. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    And I swear this is my last comment on the topic, but I googled Mark Sable and he went to Duke.  Duke is packed with Yankees — which might make the comic book’s portrayal more accurate, but also certainly doesn’t merit a regional groundswell of defense. 

  14. AndrewAL AndrewAL says:

    This sounds so good! I live in the south and I have always despised Greek life, especially the sorority girls. I am a happily married law student, so this isn’t some sick pleasure at seeing the girls who have rejected me wind up in misery. I just hate the robotic, overly perky way most of these girls act. The one panel that shows all the lined-up girls with the same creepy smile plastered on their face, is enough to sell me on this book alone.

  15. marksable marksable says:

    Hey everyone, this is Mark Sable, the writer of the book in question.  First, thanks to Ron for writing such a great review.  Although I never thought I’d be thanking someone for a great review that wrote: "I’ll tell you right now, a lot of people are going to hate this graphic novel. And I mean a lot. Off the top of my head, I know about 5 people who would punch me after I gave them this to read."  :) But I agree, this book is bound to polarize.  If I didn’t take the risks I did this would be an after-school special.

    To address a couple points, yes, as Ohcaroline pointed out I went to Duke.  Duke is a school that is both Southern and Greek yet academically on part with the Ivies (if U.S. News and World Report is to be believed).  I think it is believable that someone from the northeast might pass up an ivy to go there…because I did.  I worked my ass off in high school and wanted a school that was not only top tier academically but, well, fun as well.  Little did I realize what that "fun" would entail the Greek system which I satirize in HAZED.

    As for whether or not this book is an accurate depiction or sorority life or a purposeful exaggeration…it’s a little of both.  Without spoiling anything, I based some things on things I observed or heard from reliable sources within sororities.  I also took urban legends and exaggerated them.  However, some things that I used artistic license to take into the realm of absurdity when I started writing this (as a play) over a decade ago…I sadly had confirmed by former sorority sisters at number of schools.

    That said, I still managed to push things to past the point of realism (and some might say good taste), particularly towards the end.

    So, thanks again to Ron for the review, and all of you for your comments.  I hope you’ll try the book when it hits the shelves (next week?) and let me know what you think (I’ve got a Mark Sable message board on the Image boards and a blog that should be up soon).

    -Mark 

  16. nickmaynard says:

    awesome review ron. when i emailed you about it, i knew you’d dig it.

    i’ve only read the preview and i LOVED what i saw. can’t wait to get it.