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S Steven Struble
Size: 30 pages
Spike: You know you can kiss me, right?
Li’l Depressed Boy: Oh.
And that, ladies and gentlemen and fellow iFanbase members, is how you get me to adore your comic book. In a world of comics where, if you ask me, there isn’t enough romance and relationship comics, The Li’l Depressed Boy is the shining star of my stack every time it comes out. Blending the world of romance and relationship comics, with just a touch of music and mid-twenties slacker culture, The Li’l Depressed Boy has kept me enthralled with the emo-tastic drama from issue to issue.
As I embarked on my chosen life a comic book readin’ kid, the first five years of collecting were filled with the usual super-hero fare. First with Marvel and then to Image and eventually DC Comics, I soaked in the capes and tights and savored every minute of it. Given my propensity for melodrama, it should come as no surprise that of all the characters, I was attracted to the X-Men, where Chris Claremont mixed melodrama and relationships perfectly with fights and costumes and aliens and the insanity that came with the super hero lifestyle. If you grabbed me from the timestream at 16, I don’t think I would ever copped to or warmed up to getting a comic ABOUT romance or relationships. But as time worn on and I entered college a couple of things developed. First, I’m a hopeless romantic. I have no shame in admitting that. I am. It’s gotten me into more trouble than I’d prefer, but as a wise golden droid once said, “It’s our lot in life.” In addition to being a hopeless romantic, by the time I hit 20, I was neck deep in the underground culture and found myself basking in independent music and desperately looking for something that was different from the mainstream culture that I saw around me. Ironically, I think it was an issue of Wizard Magazine that opened the door for me to independent comics about relationships in the form of Strangers In Paradise by the modern master Terry Moore. Not only was this book a bastion of the independent comics movement, but it was dripping in melodrama and relationships and feelings. I savored every page and it was a love affair that went on for years until Moore brought Strangers In Paradise to a natural end. Since then, I’ve been chasing the dream of another book that could give me the same thrill of drama and emotions in comics.
Enter The Li’l Depressed Boy. When I first came across the creation of writer S. Steven Struble, The Li’l Depressed Boy was in the process of transitioning from web comic to full issue format with art by Sina Grace. I was immediately taken by the sheer sincerity and honesty of The Li’l Depressed Boy. I wasn’t even distracted or deterred by the fact that our main character and protagonist appears to be a living rag doll. I just went with it and became caught up in his world of trying to find that right girl, going to see beloved bands play live and the monotony of life that we all learn to deal with as we become adults. The past year of The Li’l Depressed Boy has been an absolute delight for me.
So, just what makes this issue so special? Well dear readers, The Li’l Depressed Boy #13 marks a key moment in any young person’s life. The moment where they’ve moved on from past broken hearts and went out into the world on that most special and nerve-wracking of nights, a first date with a new love interest. It’s a simple concept, but at the same time, so painfully complicated. Struble and Grace set the stage beautifully in this issue with 3 page dream sequence/flashback/recap of Lil’ Depressed Boy’s past failures with women. A minefield of missed opportunities, regrets and rejection that anyone reading can relate to. After coming face to face with past failures, we watch as The Li’l Depressed Boy gathers the courage to go on his first date with his new co-worker, Spike. You can feel the awkwardness and nervousness as he opens the door for her and they partake in that overly polite dinner conversation filled with attempts at humor leading towards shared experiences and honest connection building. Reading these 4 pages of the date were like re-living numerous experiences of my own, giving that relatable experience that I’ve been savoring in my comics this year that I just love.
Now I hate to spoil it, but I have to highlight the climax of the date, which takes us back to the quote at the beginning of this review. The night winds down, and they head owards her home and the tension just oozes off the page. Sina Grace is able to handle the pacing excellently, giving us stolen moments, like where their hands almost come together and you simply want to scream. A well placed full panel of silence followed by the exhale of disappointment as Li’l Depressed Boy chickens out and instead of kissing her, says good night. Luckily this gal isn’t having that and serves up the green light and we get a beautiful double page spread of them kissing. If you’re like me, and I think many of you are, you know this moment. You’ve lived this moment and you know how stressful and at the same time, wonderful this moment can be. This sequence was done so well, it literally gave me butterflies. The double page spread was so beautiful that if I was back in college, I would have blown these 2 pages up on the color copier at Kinko’s and put it on my dorm room wall.
The great thing about The Li’l Depressed Boy is that they don’t leave it at that. No, the whole theme is the depressing reality and challenge of life and they remind us of that when, after the high point of a great date, Li’l Depressed Boy is greeted with the harsh reality that while Spike is his co-worker at the movie theater he works at, she’s technically his boss and fraternization amongst employees is frowned upon by their bosses. So while Spike is into it, it has to be a secret. Nothing is ever easy for Li’l Depressed Boy and that’s why we love him.
With The Li’l Depressed Boy, Struble and Grace are giving me my emo, melodramatic, relationship book fix in it’s own unique and personal way. It’s unlike any other comic on the stands and I adore it because of that. Maybe it’s the dumb hopeless romantic in me that likes to listen to punk songs about girls, but clearly I’m not alone. The lack of a solid book of this genre followed by how much fun The Li’l Depressed Boy is just shows me how important this genre is and I hope that I get to read the adventures of this lovable rag doll and root for him in his hopeless pursuit of love and happiness, because at the end of the day, that’s really what’s most important, right?