In 2006 I was at the MoCCA’s, She Draws Comics: 100 Years of American Women Cartoonist show where I found a hidden gem. After circling the show at the end of the gallery was a box of .50-cent comics (I always welcome an opportunity for comics on sale) I found the free comic book day issue of Hopeless Savages. I bought it, I read it, and I wanted more. I looked but for whatever reason I could not find a second issue or evidence of the story’s continuation anywhere. It became my white whale. Intrigued and connected to the story that was presented to me, my ineptitude at finding the sucker was frustrating as I was only granted a taste of the new and allusive comic. My loss was rectified years later when I found the complete edition; Hopeless Savages the Greatest Hits 2000-2010 at a local comic book shop. It was originally published as a mini-series by Oni-Press, but was now in a sole volume. The comic spans the years of (the newest volume to be released in August 2015) one writer, twelve artists, and a family of seven.
Hopeless Savages is a family unit made up of rockers Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Savage and their four kids Rat, Arsenal, Twitch, and Zero. The example of individualism, they live life and deal with everything that comes with unique character, stressing the importance of family without compromising their personal values. Their eclectic point of view is what I love about this comic book, as it coincides with no preemptive or set ideology as they move from the rock ‘n roll lifestyle to the suburbs. From addiction to rehabilitation to the break of the family and reunion, their experiences forge themselves. Creating characters that question their choice, their mistakes, and the social world around them. These characters are exemplar for not letting their environment define them as they let their experience create breathing room for second chances and understanding. The story has the ability to be brutally honest, combining moments of cliché naivety, yet still establishing hope. Something I found to be, oddly enough, refreshing. A great example is Twitch’s experiences with his boyfriend, a relationship that depicts both strain and compassion.
Skank Zero Hopeless Savage, is known by Zero as the master of ceremonies, as she is utilizing her family’s story as a character piece for her film college application. Zero is a teenager in every right; without abandonment she is fiercely protective, sensitive, passionate, aggressive, strong, kind, and slightly angered. Her complexity (along with the rest of her family) is illustrated very quickly in the first part. Zero identifies with her rocker parents as she has formed her own punk band. However her parents, in their infinite wisdom (as Zero seems to take after her strong willed mother), believe she would benefit by learning a trade and attending university like art or film school (the normal go to parental advice about college.) Practicing on the eve of a gig, Dirk and Nikki are kidnapped without Zero even noticing. She quickly enlists her sister Arsenal and brother Twitch. However the trio knows they need the help of a strategist, their elder brother Rat, who left home almost eight years ago when a former girlfriend’s interest revealed to be more for his parents connection rather then any affection for Rat himself. Rat made himself over with a new outlook and aesthetic and currently works at a corporate job. Zero still fells completely betrayed by this and wants no part in recruiting her wayward brother. But with their parents captured and with a lack of resources the Hopeless Savages don’t stay hit for long.
The greatest hits do a good job establishing a sequence to read the comic in as it transitions from storyline to focused character to change in art style. Although I do not favor all of the art styles showcased, each style does well to represent the mood and events in their particular story arc. The comic is set up as Zero narrates the going-ons and back-stories of her family. The transition in story and change in illustration is utilized best in the flashbacks that continue to breakup the narrative as Zero leads you through her story. The flashbacks act as exposition as the reader is given more information about each character. Exposition is usually a loaded bullet in storytelling but works well as the structure progress through the characters’ evolutions. The flashback context creates continuity and many of the consistencies come from comic book writer Jen Van Meter.
I hope you find the time for the Hopeless-Savages, a family of punk, mod, indie, artists, musicians, and marital artists that don’t seem to take life at face value.