Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” I’m sorry to make this sound like the beginning of a personal statement or some dry valedictorian’s speech but this was the best way that I could think of to start things off. That is because I am covering two works that will be interesting to readers based off of their nostalgia for the topics being covered.
Ticket Stub by Tim Hensley and published by Yam Books is a snapshot of several moments in films that were being close-captioned by the author. Reading more like stream of conscious poetry accompanied by illustrations than a traditional comic book, the works covered trend from the obscure (No Sale) to the delightfully popcorn (Final Destination) and even the trashy (Big Momma’s House) that will rely on the reader’s nostalgia for the properties being represent for enjoyment. The other book is Incredible Change-Bots: Two Point Something Something, the third installment in the series by Jeffrey Brown and published by Top Shelf, which takes aim at a certain franchise that claims to be more than meets the eye.
Maybe it’s because of some leftover nostalgia that I had for the material but I found it much easier for myself to connect with Incredible Change-Bots than I was able to with Ticket Stub. It’s not the reaction I would have expected when I opened up the envelope I’d gotten in the mail to find both books waiting for me. Ticket Stub has the benefit of a really cool design choice, being a die-cut book meant to evoke the appearance of an old-school ticket stub that is bound to be a kick for anyone that fondly remembers those days. Being only nineteen years old, I am unfortunately not old enough to fondly remember anything but I did make a note of the presentation being a cute touch before I dug in.
Context is everything and I’d argue that Ticket Stub provides readers with more context while what Incredible Change-Bots provides proves to be more meaningful. The back cover of Ticket Stub tells readers this:
“At the turn of the century, when a torrent was mere inclemency and no one cared about phones, a rogue close captioning clerk drew one frame of time code from the shift’s allotment and stapled (remember staples?) fleeting musings into a ‘zine, now collected herein.”
This tells you exactly what the book is: the work of someone that probably didn’t enjoy his work all that much. You have a “who” and you have a “what” now as you go in to read the book but there’s something missing. There’s no real “why” that can be discerned. Why did Hensley choose these films/television programs to chronicle with his mostly blank verse? What was he getting out of it? And what are we as readers supposed to get out of it other than the admittedly strange musings on films we may or may not recognize. In my reading, it felt as if nothing I had read demanded to be heard and I’d like to attribute that to the lack of context that an introduction or an afterword could have provided. A reader’s enjoyment of this book is going to be almost entirely reliant on the knowledge of the films covered that they bring in with them to provide a context for the work as well as the nostalgia they have for them.
With Incredible Change-Bots there is no escaping the context because the work is so informed by it. From the cover depicting two vehicles turned robots in action movie poses, it becomes clear that this has been informed by the Transformers franchise. It’s an affectionate parody from someone that probably grew up with the franchise and spent a little more time than warranted thinking about it until he found the source of comedy he was looking for. There’s something humorous about seeing the mundane aspects of life translated into the world of warring robots in disguise as they ponder question of life and love while also battling evil robots.
And while the humor of Incredible Change-Bots is aided by the knowledge readers may bring in to their reading experience, I’d argue that it isn’t entirely necessary. The often crude drawings of the characters captures the feeling of a child (albeit a fantastic draftsman of a child) trying to put the characters of his or her favorite show on paper that is most likely going to be folded over and then stapled. The art then immediately clashes with the tone and the content of the stories being told. One of the earlier stories in this anthology – also comprised of early designs, toy mock-ups, and fan-art – is called Young Rust and it’s all about the adult insecurities of entering into and maintaining a relationship while still featuring a cast of talking cars. The juxtaposition is enough to provide a novice reader with the context: this is something made for children being thought-out by adults.
I really enjoyed Incredible Change-Bots overall thanks to its use of childish conventions with adult themes and a practiced self-awareness. It’s a book that knows exactly what it wants to do and goes about doing the job quite well. The presentation isn’t as fancy as Ticket Stub and I’d argue that the best way to read this would be as a series stapled together pieces of printer paper for the optimal effect. The anthology nature of the book gives it a light, breezy feel that makes picking it up and flipping to a random page every now and then more enticing then simply sitting down to read it all in one sitting. Ticket Stub is more of the kind of book that is better absorbed in a single sitting and twice for good measure if possible. And the comic sequence at the end that only builds up to be stranger and stranger? That’s at least three sittings right there.
So here we have two books: one created from nostalgia (Incredible Change-Bots: Two Point Something Something) and one that is near dependent on it for entertainment (Ticket Stub). I certainly liked the former more but if your tastes lie more in poetry/poetic commentary than it’d be a crime for me to dissuade you from pursuing the latter for your entertainment.