Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #211: The Auteur, Book One: President's Day by Spears, and Callahan

You know, just once I'd like to see a story about a Hollywood producer who's hardworking, serious about his profession, basically respectful to other people, and a teetotaller. Just once: that's all I ask.

I'm not going to get that in The Auteur; that's for sure: this is a gonzo, drug-fueled charge through all of the expected standard Hollywood tropes: top producer Nathan T. Rex is shallow, vain, obsessed with movies, self-important, utterly lacking in self-knowledge, massively indulged, and almost completely deranged. (Those also are his good qualities.) The world he inhabits is equally cartoonish and garish, full of shallow starlets, prima donna directors, Dr. Feelgood gurus, and the inevitable serial-murdering psychopath. And he's working on the movie that could break his career, of course -- a low-budget horror movie called President's Day -- at the same time he's concerned about making great art and obsessed with the behind of a woman he saw randomly. (That's what passes for True Love in Hollywood: the sight of a perfect ass, and the subsequent obsession therewith.)

And yet The Auteur, Book One: President's Day still manages to surprise -- it finds a way to go beyond even our expectations for a sleazy, aren't-these-Hollywood-types-crazy story, to soar so far above the top that the top isn't even visible in these pages. Equal credit needs to be given to the two main creative minds at work here: writer Rick Spears created this fever dream of a plot, and crafted the dialogue that brings these characters up to nearly two dimensions. And then James Callahan drew like a madman: blood spurting, eyeballs popping, butts jiggling, hallucinogenic colors vibrating, madness spilling off the page at every turn.

There is nothing at all subtle in this book; I don't expect there will be anything subtle about The Auteur as long as it runs. (I'm not sure why this is an ongoing series, aside from comics' mania for never telling a complete story -- the set-up would be perfect to tell the one story about this guy, end it definitively, and be done. But comics demands product every month, so we'll see more exploits of "T-Rex" for as long as possible.) But there's something lovable about The Auteur's brassy craziness, about this world where men wear suits with short pants so they can have "testicle slips" and convicted murderers are freed by minor bribery -- it's bright and bigger than life and utterly, utterly nutty. I'm afraid it will eventually turn into the story of Nathan's redemption, because that's what all Hollywood stories do, in the end -- but it'll be a great ride for as long as he can stay a magnificent bastard.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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