Everything is more interesting than we’re told it is. Take Greek Mythology, for instance. In school, we were taught the superpowers of each Olympian and maybe a few choice stories about people springing fully formed from the head of Zeus. In reality, our Greek Gods spent most of their time fighting and fornicating and generally being major dicks to one another. Turns out that Zeus and Hera have more in common with The Situation and Snooki than with Batman and Superman. Suddenly, the Ancient Greeks don’t seem as intellectual as we thought.
Socrates was probably his era’s Perez Hilton.
And here come Tom Pinchuk and Kate Glasheen to snatch Greek mythology from the clutches of bowdlerization (sort of) with Hybrid Bastards! the kind of comic you can never explain to a pretty girl at a coffee shop without sounding like an idiot: to punish his infidelity, Hera and Hypnos put a curse upon Zeus that makes him have sex with inanimate objects for an entire night. Eighteen years later, the offspring of this night of mailbox fornicating have grown up and start causing trouble.
I actually met Tom Pinchuk on a bus late one night at this year’s Comic-Con, and I forget how he explained the plot to me. I’m positive he neglected to mention the fact that Zeus has sex with a car. Pinchuk’s script is fairly funny and wacky, but it could have been more subversive and anarchic–especially for a book in which the impetus for the story is Zeus having sex with inanimate objects.
The plot itself is somewhat slight, and it ends with a climactic courtroom scene, which you don’t see very much in comics outside of, like, Daredevil–and those are just there at the beginning of the story to remind you that Daredevil has a job. However, I like the characterization (particularly Corey, the depressed apple hybrid) and the antics in Hybrid Bastards! enough to take some of the disappointment in stride.
The art helps the book’s case a lot. Kate Glasheen’s work meshes well with the book’s general attitude–an indie book that does subversive things with stuff we learned in school. Glasheen’s art has the look of someone railing against both her fine arts background and traditional comics. Her page layouts are often wild as she avoids traditional panel structure in favor of images that overlap or cut out of panels.
Her DIY cartoony renditions are all about thin, imperfect lines accentuated by watercolors that give the glossy pages a handmade feel. She also has a flair for character designs. In particular, I’m a big fan of Walter, who is essentially a brick wall with pants. By contrast, the Greek Gods are rendered in a fairly normal fashion, which offsets the wild designs of the bastards.
Not to pigeonhole the comic as a humor book (whatever that means to you), but we could use more irreverent, subversive books like Hybrid Bastards! Most of the funny “funny books” I can think of are mired in naval-gazing indie cartooning, so it’s refreshing to read a more imaginative, high-concept dose of insanity.
Faint praise aside, Hybrid Bastards! is appreciated.