3 out of 5
Dennis Worden would tell you he’s something of an optimist; in Stickboy #8’s recap – printed some fifteen years after the first SB issue dropped on Fantagraphics, post the character initially appearing in onea’ them classic comix mags like Weirdo – Worden takes the opportunity to explain that Stickboy’s unrepentant nihilism (or the outright negativity of Blockhead, who seems to get more panel-time than Stickboy) was actually a vehicle for expressing the need to overcome cyclical, ruinous, and trap-forming feelings. Indeed, the “Fuck The World” banner that carpets the first issue’s cover is replaced by “Love The World” on issue two – sarcastically, sure, but a step in Stickboy’s eventual recovery – as Worden kicked his series across four publishers, different formats (a video magazine?) and let issues 5 and 6 become anthologies of related material instead of actual Stickboy books – until we recognize that, by books 7 and 8, SB is more contemplative than angry, Blockhead having fully taken the complainy reigns some time back.
As you can perhaps tell by that winding mini-history, arriving at a “point” for Worden – and Stickboy – is a long process. In the back of the issues, we get these cut and paste underground comix letters pages that have conspiracy-wacko collated newspaper clippings on various extremist subjects that make it hard to tell how serious any of this is. Is Worden really a militant vegetarian who hate cancer research and banks? Yes, and here’s some out of context one-sided data to explain why, but then back in the comic, he’s readily self-deprecating and philosophizing about how all of these states of minds are just reflections of how we relate to the world; of a search for meaning. At points, this combines into a genius piece of indie comic work, with Woodring-esque creepazoids and symbolism mashed up with notebook-scribbled madness, all churned through the mind of a guy who seems split between living in the “real world” and one the borders of which are defined by his design. The compromise would seem to have been Stickboy.
It’s an uneven mess, but a driven one; you roll your eyes as much as you laugh your ass off, and then in between you’re just sort of aghast, wondering at the personality that produces this mix.
In recent years, Worden has been reproducing his comics via, I believe, a print-on-demand service. I had to read a couple SB books through that format. #4 I ended up with both; the original 4 is produced in standard comic book size; issues #1 – 3 were magazine format, and the reprint of 4 follows suit. I have to believe this was the original dimension of the book, as the Revolutionary Comics version of #4 does like shrunken down to standard size. But it’s also in color… and has some extra text stuff at the end… That being said, the color is maybe distracting; Worden’s pencils look great in black and white, and the color actually makes the text pages hard to read. (4 was, I think, the only color issue, though.) Otherwise, the reprints have some minor panel rearrangements and text changes, better paper stock, and glossier covers. If you’re not a purist who wants to read the originals, the reprints are definitely more durable. I am curious to get all versions of both issues, though, just to compare.
I sat on my various SB issues for years, waiting to collect them all to read them. I don’t think I ever expected something mind blowing, but the odd breed of intelligently dumb humor and life criticism that Worden employs is a unique and worthwhile experience – with many chuckles along the way – and I’m super happy he’s been able to reproduce the material in the modern age so I could get caught up.