A Review By: Amelia
I’m a fan of comics. I prefer mainstream DC comics the most but I sometimes veer into independent comics like Bumperhead. Now, when I had first heard about Bumperhead I was told it was a story about a punk kid living a lonely life. I was intrigued. When I read it I unfortunately didn’t get anything that I thought the story was about and, while this can sometimes be a surprising twist, it wasn’t here. Needless to say, this isn’t going to be a flattering review by me because I did not enjoy this gloomy tale in the least... Well, let’s get going so I can explain why.
Bumperhead is a story about a kid named Bobby, a young slacker who narrates his life as it happens but offers very little reflection on the events that transpire. He comes of age in the 1970s, making a rapid progression through that era’s different subcultures as he drifts in and out of relationships with friends. Life zooms past him. And... that’s it. The whole story is just about Bobby’s rather depressing and completely dull life.
Gilbert Hernández’s is a prominent comic author. In Hernández’s own words, he was “born into a world with comic books in the house” and his childhood enthusiasm for the medium was equaled only by his appetite for punk rock. Initiated by older brother Mario and bankrolled by younger brother Ismael, Gilbert created Love and Rockets #1 with his brother Jaime in 1981. Over 30 years later, the series is regarded as a modern classic and the Hernandez brothers continue to create comics.
Now then, back to the issue at hand: Bumperhead and, more specifically, its characters. The main one being Bobby. Bobby is an everyman character and the book follows the stages of his dreary life from middle school to middle age. He weaves from one trend to another, be it glam rock or punk or drugs or relationships, and he messes it all up at every turn. He lacks any direction in his life and it just gets worse and worse. Although it’s not that tragedies befall him, it’s just that he’s completely wasting his life! He’s a sad character, but because he’s got just so little going on, he’s not intriguingly sad. He’s flat even though he’s supposed to be this character full of adolescent rage and rawness–God, he’s just so goddamn boring! Is that the point of the story? Quite possibly. But who cares when you can’t get behind the character in any way, shape, or form?
The art style of the piece is a simple, black and white line art style. There’s little detail in backgrounds and even less detail in the characters. It works for this particular comic although I’m not a fan of it personally. I’m always drawn more to full colour and insane amounts of tiny details. It’s just yet another aspect of this comic that I couldn’t get behind or care about in any way!
This comic is unabashedly one that’s trying to be deep. And hell, maybe it was deep and intriguing and original for 99% of the readers that picked it up, but it wasn’t for me. The themes or regret and loss and even a little PTSD and trust issues are prominent but with a main character doing so little to deal with it all, it all becomes muddled. These heavy themes are suddenly meaningless and empty. It’s depressing: and not in the way I think the author was going for.
When it comes down to it, I think that Bumperhead, much like Ghost World, is a comic I just didn’t get and that’s why I didn’t enjoy it. I think there’s supposed to be something deeper that I just didn’t pick up on because it just didn’t personally speak or appeal to me!
My final thoughts on Bumperhead are that it definitely isn’t anything I’ll ever re-read. I doubt I’d ever read any other of Hernández’s work either if they’re all approached like Bumperhead was. Give it a shot if you enjoyed Ghost World but avoid otherwise.