The Lady Gaga comic book

June 28, 2010

If ever there's an artist predestined to inspire a comic book, Lady Gaga is the one.

Recently published by Bluewater Comics, I'll confess that I first became intrigued by Fame: Lady Gaga when I read that the story of the provocative pop diva's rise was told in comics form from the point of view of the late, great rock critic Lester Bangs. (As his biographer, I remain obsessed with all things Lester.) But many reviewers have missed the boat when reporting that fact. Witness this "Geek Chic" blog entry by George Gustines in the New York Times:

"The story is told from the perspective of Lester Bangs, an homage to the rock critic depicted in "Almost Famous.' Bangs becomes a fan of Lady Gaga after a chance viewing of one of her videos on MTV and quickly evolves into a fanatic (a la Robert De Niro in "The Fan' or Jennifer Jason Leigh in "Single White Female'). Bangs goes from seeing himself as the male lead in the "Paparazzi' video to being Gaga herself. In another scene, he dons a wig and performs "Poker Face.' The blonde locks do not do the dark-haired, chubby schmo any favors."

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This bit of misinformation is based on a misreading of the panel above, which depicts the dark-haired, chubby schmo channel-surfing and grousing about the state of the music world—not unlike Bangs might, if he hadn’t died on April 30, 1982, or as the dark-haired, chubby schmo you’re reading at the moment often does. His wife is cracking wise by invoking Lester’s name to deride her hubby’s activities. Here is the comic’s author, Dan Rafter, posting on the Comics Alliance forum:

“The Lester Bangs reference is an example of his wife being sarcastic… It’s like calling someone ‘Einstein’ when that person’s not so smart. I didn’t give the main character an actual name.”

That issue out of the way, let me note that Rafter, who said he “didn’t want to write a straight biography,” did something much more interesting, creative, and true to the postmodern spirit of Gaga herself: He uses the book to ruminate about pop-culture obsessions, sexual and otherwise, and their relation to gender roles, our sense of identity and self-worth, and our lemmings-to-the-sea attraction to fame, sometimes with disastrous, destructive results.

These themes, by the way, were absolute favorites of the real Bangs, who examined them via artists great and minor, from Iggy Pop and the Clash to Blondie, ABBA, and Olivia Newton-John (disposable pop acts he loved). In the end, when the comic schmo in Fame: Lady Gaga transforms himself into an ersatz Gag—who is of course an ersatz Madonna herself—the notion that we can, all of us, be our own “stars,” and that pursuing that goal is a much worthier endeavor than blindly worshiping the pretty packages that Big Media pushes on us, well, that’s about as punk/Bangsian a notion as I’ve ever encountered, in a comic book or anywhere else. Highly recommended.

 

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