For nearly 4 decades Fantagraphics Books has done us all a great service by bringing many talented artists and writers out of the underground comics world and into the spotlight of the mainstream. Megahex is another addition to the company’s library which, in true Fantagraphics style, subverts all expectations. It won critical acclaim from established underground creators such as James Kochalka and Peter Bagge. On October 4th, 2014 it came in at number 8 on the New York Times Bestseller list of top hardcover graphic novels. Looking at it you wouldn’t expect what looks like a stoner-comedy-romp to take the reader into such heavy material. To read Megahex is to get into the mind and past of the book’s fascinating author, Tasmania born creator Simon Hanselmann. In a 2014 interview for film and pop culture website A. V. Club, Hanselmann explained how his own difficult upbringing worked its was into his work. Depression, drug addiction, dysfunctional shenanigans – all of this was poured and puréed into the surprisingly well rounded cast of Megahex.
The characters of Hanselmann’s creation waver uncertainly between funny and disturbing. Megg is an awkward, snappish witch who self medicates with a constant diet of booze and weed. Her kinky, stoner familiar, Mogg, accompanies Megg throughout their adventures harassing security guards and pranking their roommate, Owl. As expected, Megahex initially begins as a series of short stories about Megg, Mogg, and Owl smoking weed and hanging around on their own or with their close-nit group of friends. And then the book quickly impresses on the reader that there is an abusive edge to the group’s dynamics. In true Jackass style Owl, the straight man of the group, is the victim of several extensive and malicious jokes. It’s not all good times for Megg either, who we learn is suffering from a perpetual depression that can overtake her for days. Mogg, it turns out, has boundary issues with Megg. Werewolf Jones, on the other hand, will risk life and limb to be the center of the party. There’s a desperation about everyone in Meg and Mogg’s circle that has them constantly looking for approval in all the wrong places. Hillary Brown, in her review of Megahex for Paste Magazine, aptly summed up the book as a, “stoner tragedy”1.
Megahex is not a book that leaves a striking impression on the first read. But give it time and that nagging disquiet which hangs around after finishing the book will force the reader to go back and read it again. It’s not a world in which everything is made alright with drugs, sex or alcohol. It’s only made bearable.
1Brown, Hillary. “Megahex by Simon Hanselmann.” Rev. of Megahex, aut. Simon Hanselmann. Paste Magazine 4 Sept. 2014. Online. http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/09/megahex-by-simon-hanselmann-review.html