Dark Horse has released Evan Dorkin’s complete Eltingville Club comics, 1994-2015, in hard copy and on Kindle. It’s savage, brutal, hilarious, and probably something every fan should read.
Some people (understandably, especially after the first couple of seasons) complain that The Big Bang Theory invites its audience to laugh at, not with, the nerds. Compared to Eltingville, Big Bang is tame. Dorkin satirically slashes at the worst of nerddom with Swift, Juvenalian anger. I make no assumptions about the author’s feelings and motivations here; he names it anger in the book’s introduction. The saving grace is that Dorkin, something of a nerd icon, attacks from within; these characters don’t represent all nerds; they represent the worst excesses, the people who foul up fandom.
Of course, even less crazed fans may see something of ourselves in Dorkin’s funhouse mirror.
Either way, a fannish Valentine this ain’t.
Title: The Eltingville Club
Writer and Artist: Evan Dorkin
(with Sarah Dyer)
Collection Published: March 1, 2016.
Also available as a Kindle.
The worst nerds imaginable form a club dedicated to comic books, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and role-playing. Their obsessive, misogynistic, and selfish natures mean that the club’s activities usually result in destruction, injury, and general chaos.
The Eltingville Club collects all issues, features some commentary by the creator, and includes both “The Northwest Comix Collective,” a similar work by Dorkin, and additional art, including sketches from the pilot of the early-2000s TV adaptation (which did not sell).
Most of the time, the Eltingville members manage to be their own worst enemies, but their rare triumph over deserving foes proves highly entertaining. I’m not talking about “The Intervention,” though that disturbingly funny chapter won Dorkin an Eisner in 2002. “As Seen on TV,” involves a cynical late-night salesman pitching nerd paraphernalia and collectibles that he doesn’t understand to people he despises. His self-immolation under pressure from the club had me laughing out loud. This is metaphoric self-immolation, I feel I must point out; literal self-immolation occurs elsewhere in this volume.
“Lo, There Shall Be an Epilogue!” brings the saga to a worthy conclusion, at Comic Con, and a reflection back to the time the group first got together to, you know, have fun.
I appreciate bonus material but, except for comparison purposes, Dorkin”s “Northwest Comix Collective” feels like a weaker variation on a theme, and it drags on a little.
It would be antithetical to the mean spirit of Eltingville if the review did not feature a petty, nerdish nitpick, so let me proceed. The Eltingville stories were written over twenty years. Save for the epilogue, published in 2015 and set a decade after the club’s final adventure, the tales occur over perhaps five years. However, they’re set in comix time; the state of culture, geekery, and media reflects whatever was going on at the time of writing, whether ’94 or 2012. This leads to some jarring shifts of temporal context when one reads the entire collection as a complete piece.
Originality: 2/6 Satire of fandom from within fandom is a time-honored tradition, but Dorkin occasionally brings something new to the familiar targets. He might have trimmed the fat jokes a little, though.
Artwork: 5/6 Dorkin’s distinctive and slightly crazed artwork becomes cleaner as the years pass, and he has an eye for detail. He knows the world he illustrates.
Story: 5/6 The individual stories are strong, and the collection follows a loose overall arc.
Emotional response: 6/6 Dorkin, a long-time fannish nerd and Eisener-winning writer/artist, knows the ugly side of fandom, and his funny comics fill with dark comedic timing and disquieting observations.
Flow 5/6 My Petty Nitpick aside, I’m impressed with how coherent the adventures of the Eltingville Club manage to be, given that they were written over so many years.
Overall: 5/6 Unlike some other “Collected” graphic texts, this may really be it. Dorkin apparently has no plans to deal with these particular characters further, and that’s likely a wise choice.
They really are a bunch of assholes.
In total, The Eltingville Club receives a score of 33/42