Two interesting (and short) Mormon comics out in the last little while (or midsized while, if you consider their original appearances online). Scott’s book just dropped. Noah’s arrived last July. Noah’s is about a Mormon kid whose connection to that aspect of his identity has largely lost its definition. Scott’s is the ultimate in insider humor.
MY HOT DATE by Noah Van Sciver
I was pretty much the perfect Mormon teen, I suppose. I didn’t swear, I showed up on time to Church, I went to seminary. Because I was a teenager, I imagined that was because I did these things myself. Of course, that’s nonsense. What if I had been thrust into young Noah’s circumstances?
(If you’re offended by the language here, scroll on down to Scott’s book. It doesn’t have any bad words, even though it’s much more dangerous. But we’ll talk about that later.)
Noah’s not making his work for a Mormon audience and his current Mormon status is, shall we say, largely historical. But he engages with Mormonism in interesting ways. If you have money and want to support the arts, please consider dropping fifty grand on Noah so he can spend a year finishing his Joseph Smith comic. It’s one of the most interesting takes in a long time.
Anyway, this is a story about young Noah in the days of AOL dialup and the girl he met first in a chatroom and then at the mall. It’s the tale of an adolescent boy who can see adulthood but it’s still a little too far off to make out the shape. It reminds us that pretty much everything that happens during that stage of life can be (and will be) interpreted as embarrassing, shaming, mortifying. Life at that age is a desperate struggle to fit in and petrified assumptions that everyone else is succeeding better than I am.
Yeah, so even though Noah and I probably wouldn’t have known how to talk to each other when we were fourteen, on the inside, the turmoil would have looked much the same.
My Hot Date is a story of the inevitable humiliations of being fourteen. It’s a personal story about specific circumstances, some that are almost universal, some that are unique. But even if you managed good-little-mormon-boy/girl, you will see on young Noah’s face the same internal struggles we all sloshed through.
It might—egad—even help you grow your empathy.
Big pieces of My Hot Date first appeared online (1 – 2).
In other news, Noah was pretty busy in 2015. He also published Saint Cole and Fante Bukowski, and he’s now fellow at the Center for Cartoon Studies.
Scott’s given up being anonymous. When he started the Mormon Shorts twitter feed, no one knew it was him. When Enid showed up, I didn’t know it was Scott. Scott seemed surprised both times no one recognized him, but he’s taking no chances this time. His name’s right on the cover of this little giftbookesque collection. Fifty comics from the Mormon Shorts tumblr and one hundred fifty stories from the twitter. I have a couple minor quibbles with the design and I think he would have been served by an outside editor’s eye, but overall, this is a collection I’m happy to endorse. Here’s what it looks like:
I mentioned earlier that Mormon Shorts is more dangerous to a Mormon audience than Noah’s confused kid with his pot and his expletives. What I mean by this is that Scott is engaging directly with Mormon doctrine, Mormon seeming doctrine, and Mormon culture; and so instead of the self-righteous being able to easily dismiss it as something that does not belong here, they risk seeing themselves in Mormon Shorts. Thus, as a “Mormon” work—by which I mean a work engaging with Mormon ideas for a Mormon audience—Mormon Shorts is right in there a-pushing buttons. But it’s humor, so the questions it’s asking and the challenges it’s posing might be missed by those not reading closely.
In that last spread for instance: “It was love at first sight until he saw the second piercing.” Which form of shallowness is Scott satirizing here? And check out that Earth there. Listen to what it has to say.
Scott has a lot to say about unexamined aspects of our culture and about Mormon culture’s relationship with the rest of humanity.
That he’s doing it in a form safe enough to give as a gift is to be commended. That he’s doing it dangerously enough to give as a gift is to be marveled at.
Dislaimer: I purchased a copy of My Hot Date but, due to a miscommunication, the publisher later sent me a second copy for purposes like unto this review. My copy of Mormon Shorts was a digital proof given me by the artist.