Hüsker Dü lurks within Charles Forsman's Celebrated Summer comic

Categories: Cartoons/Comics
Charles Forsman

Celebrated Summer, the latest comic book from Massachusetts-based cartoonist Charles Forsman, throws a nod to Hüsker Dü early. Etched into the background of its first page, sagging right below a poster stuck to a bedroom wall, the band name exists as this crusty ink stamp made in ether. It's like a wink of the author's eye.

For Forsman the band was key to setting a mood for what was named A.V. Club's best graphic novel or comic of 2013. "I sort of did that with myself when drawing it," he says. "I'd just blast their records and chug through it. It put me at this point that I wanted to be at when making the book."

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This "point" is a mental state where drudging up teenage angst and the fear of aging is easy. "I think we should drop two each," the book's first line reads. Mike and Wolf, the stars of this teenage dystopia, hash out their coming acid afternoon in this instance, and that bit of dialogue lands laced with the coming high and inevitable drop from a ball-breaking burst of reality. "Cue us up," it should say, rather. Because this story unfolds only one way.

Apart from the title, there's a case to be made for Celebrated Summer's aesthetic relation to the 1985 Hüskers song found on New Day Rising. The book shouldn't be confused for an adaptation or homage, nor does it strive to be such a thing. Like any piece of good work, it draws upon proceeding examples and pursues discourse with an elder.

The End of the Fucking World, Forsman's previous book, established his ability to display two things at once. The purposeful influence of Peanuts creator Charles Schultz in those drawings lent an inherent innocence to sinister subject matter like satanic cults, abuse and oblivion. For both the amusement and disturbance of the reader, those stray elements were allowed to flirt visibly on the page for result of unsettling juxtaposition and hints of inward trauma.

That technique is on display in Celebrated Summer -- which was produced before TEOTFW, but released after -- but toned down a notch. The connection to the song in question still remains.

There's a hectic shift in "Celebrated Summer" from blistering power chords to acoustic plucks right when the bridge arrives. A lag is present, but it's not without a seamless sense of disarray supporting the moment. That fucking flick of a storm in those seconds reveals what the song is after, and Bob Mould's penchant for adventure in the face of concrete fact lay before us in a question. "Was this your celebrated summer?"

Forsman's Celebrated Summer captures this audacity on the page, but it doesn't take full shape without the reader's judgement. When Mike and Wolf hit the beach midway way through the book, no matter what grand illusion the acid may cause them to see, there's little wonder or magic from the reader's perspective.

Wolf insists that "Shit, this is so awesome." And Mike responds with a complimentary "Yeah," but it's hard to ignore the storm-like conditions in the background. Forsman cross-hatches the sky closed with a pound or two of black smudge. It's not a beach scene set with sun, and we're never shown the horizon wafting out past the shoreline. Instead, Mike and Wolf's plain, pretending reactions conquer the panels, and the focus aims inward on these characters rather than externalize in some hyper-active set of images.

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