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Why I Had to Chase Clerks

(This review originally appeared in the February 19-25, 1998, Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)

By Beth Hannan Rimmels


"Elf: The other white meat."

— a T-shirt worn by Parintachin in Poison Elves #30

I hate people — they always let you down. You would think one person who saw Chasing Amy would mention to your friendly, neighborhood comic book/movie freak that practically every character was a comic book writer or artist. Or that it had constant, blatant comic book references. Or that Jay and Silent Bob from Clerks end up in Chasing Amy as the inspiration for Bluntman and Chronic, one of the fictitious comic books in the movie? Noooo. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Instead, all anyone talks about is the lesbian controversy. Grumble, grumble. Have to do everything myself.

So, considering writer/director/producer Kevin Smith's comics obsession, the idea of turning Clerks into a comic book isn't quite as strange as it would first seem. Chasing Amy was a pretty much closed loop, so doing an ongoing series would be difficult. Clerks, however, is totally open-ended and gives Smith ample opportunity to continue his commentary on pop culture.

For instance, the first issue of Clerks (Oni Press, $2.95) ridicules today's obsession with collectibles, a world in which everything that comes down the commercial pike is hawked as a future gem, regardless of how illogical it is for something produced by the millions to become scarce enough to go up in value.

Smith skewers the craziness by playing both sides of one such obsession — Star Wars — through Randal, who insists that Star Wars is the only real institution the country has left, and Dante, who thinks it's all a bit weird. "Star Wars is the past!" Dante insists. "And there's something sad about how bankrupt our current culture is that a twenty-year-old movie makes over a hundred-million dollars theatrically...when people can watch it on video!!!"

As usual, Randal drags Dante into his plot to cash in on Star Wars figures. Smith's Star Wars figure variations are a howl: "Tickle Me Ackbar," "Tauntaun-Guts Covered Luke," the "Incestuous Luke and Leia" double pack and "Jabba-Had-Her Slave Leia."

The first page of Clerks also has a zillion comic-book in-jokes, mostly tied to Long Island's own Peter David. He's dubbed "Jack Jack," writer of The Atlantean [Aquaman], The Massive [The Incredible Hulk], Ultra-Chick [Supergirl] and the "Allow Me" ["But I Digress"] column for the Carl Barks Guide [a poke at Comic's Buyer's Guide].

Also out is the first issue of the Oni Double Feature (Oni Press, $2.95). The Smith-written half features Jay and Silent Bob in "Walt Flanagan's Dog" and is drawn by Matt Wagner (Mage, Grendel, Sandman Mystery Theater). Smith and Wagner became friends some time ago, which explains this team-up and their collaboration on a screenplay for Mage, which I hope Smith will direct. He's got the right sensibility as well as the passion to do it right. Plus, he'd obviously work with Wagner, not blow him off like most Hollywood types would.

Smith's story contains several more in-jokes, such as "Who edited Matt Wagner's Mage at Comico?" "Uhh, Bob Schreck." "Wrong! Diana Schutz!" Schreck is the cofounder of Oni Press and he did work at Comico, Mage's former publisher.

The other story, "Secret Broadcast" by Arnold and Jacob Pander, will be continued
in future issues. It also contains a soundtrack, if you bought the matching CD featuring Supersoul, California, Bucolic and others. Lastly, the issue contains a Milk and Cheese one-pager called "Dental Hi-Jinx." I love Evan Dorkin's stuff, but the allure of Milk and Cheese has always eluded me. In fact, Milk and Cheese was the only series the late writer/editor Kim Yale loved that I didn't, but I readily admit that it's probably my taste being weird here. If you love the sour-tempered dairy twosome, this story has them in rare form.


Jay and Silent Bob copyright View Askew Productions. Clerks copyright 1994 Miramax

Column 1998 Long Island Voice.