If there’s one thing that sucked most about growing up in the 1980s — among many worthy contenders from that culturally blighted decade — it was the rampant anti-drug hysteria that started with our figurehead “leaders” at the top, Ron n’ Nancy, and filtered its way down until it permeated pretty much every corner of society. Drugs — even essentially risk-free recreational stuff like pot — were considered “bad,” and their users were “bad people.” This stuf’ll kill ya, kids — why, if you don’t believe us, just turn on the TV, because that’s what every single cop show is all about.
Never mind, I suppose, that TV is the most prevalent and most harmful drug of all, or that most of the pseudo-righteous political figures profiting from drug hysteria were either being funded to the tune of millions by Wall Street cokeheads or, in the case of Bush and his Iran-Contra cronies like Ollie North, directly responsible for bringing massive quantities of drugs into the US themselves in order to bankroll the psychotic mercenary death squad armies they had the nerve to call “freedom fighters” in Central America. Do as we say, people, not as we do — we are, after all, your “betters.”
Hmmm — now that I think about it, maybe it wasn’t anti-drug hysteria in and of itself that was the worst thing about life in the 1980s so much as the blatant hypocrisy surrounding it. In any case, make no mistake — each and every popular culture outlet extant at the time presented a united front in terms of “drugs are evil” messaging, comic books included. In fact, it’s no exaggeration at all to say that every single superhero was conscripted at one time or another into the “war on drugs,” and look where all that propaganda has gotten us — over three decades later we’re still “fighting” that same “war” to the tune of billions, and we’re still losing. And why wouldn’t we be? We live under a brutally remorseless system of hyper-capitalism that provides very few avenues for escape, and people — particularly the ever-swelling legion of poor people — are desperate for any sort of relief, no matter how temporary and/or risky, from the full-time pain caused by a world this fucking heartless and cruel. Job got you down? Lack of a job got you down even more? The easy answer to either situation is the same — self-medicate!
Psst — I’ll even let you in on a little secret : all those PSA scare films you had to watch in school are all bullshit, anyway. The truth , which you probably already knew, is that most drugs that society has classified, usually for economic reasons, as “illegal” are actually pretty goddamn fun, provided you don’t go overboard. Yes, some of them (though certainly not all) can kill you, but as we’re all aware, so can nicotine, alcohol, and most prescription pharmaceuticals, all of which are perfectly acceptable to consume in the eyes of the law. And yet — what if the situation were completely reversed? What if psychoactive and/or other pharamacological (did I spell that right?) substances not only weren’t deadly in the least, but were, in fact, something you needed in order to survive?
Such is the intriguing premise behind Dark Horse Comics’ new four-issue series Neverboy, which comes our way courtesy of author Shaun Simon (best known for co-writing Killjoys along with Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame — in fact, Way himself provides the variant cover for the first issue of this book, shown later in our little review here, with the main one displayed at the top coming our way courtesy of Conor Nolan) and artist Tyler Jenkins (who’s building a nice little following for himself thanks to his work on Image’s Peter Panzerfaust). Yes, our title character, odd name aside, may look just like you and me, and have a life much like yours or mine (complete with wife and young son), but appearances, as we all know, can be mighty deceiving indeed. Neverboy seems to spend a lot of time hanging around in hospitals and the like, looking to hustle up drugs by any means necessary, and when he’s not sufficiently medicated, folks seem to completely ignore him, almost as if — well, as if he weren’t really there.
In case you hadn’t worked it out already, that’s because he’s not. Neverboy, you see, is a former imaginary friend to a child who ended up dying, and he needs pills — lots and lots of pills, apparently — to remain in the real world. Just to further complicate matters, though, it turns out that when he’s running low, not only does he begin to disappear, but so does the barrier between our solid, three-dimensional reality, and the “fantasy world” that he’s supposed to inhabit.Obviously, things could get pretty messy pretty quickly if he doesn’t keep himself good and “hopped up,” but he’s got one other big problem, to boot — the powers that be in “dreamland” have caught on to his scam, and they’re determined to drag him back “home,” whether he wants to come or not.
As I’m assuming is abundantly clear by now, I really dig what Simon and Jenkins (along with colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick) are doing here — the science behind it might be murky at best, but this is one of the most intriguing story pretexts to come down the pipeline in a long while, with strong characterization, smart dialogue, and nicely fluid, organic-feeling art, to boot. I’m not sure how much of a “built-in” audience a project such as this one has, so conditioned is the comics-buying public to “drugs are bad for you” nonsense, but hopefully positive word-of-mouth will see to it that it finds at least a semi-sizable cadre of fans, because this is a well-done, highly imaginative book that’s worthy of both your support and your dollars. In fact, it’s one of those “damn, I wish I’d thought of that” ideas that you actually root for, rather than seethe with envy over, simply because the creators have obviously put so much thought and heart into it.
I admit it — hardened cynic that I may came off as (or, hell, that I may even be), I do still have a soul, and this is a comic that I’m rotting for to become the “little indie project that could” of 2015. Squares and cops may take offense to it, but since when do their opinions matter, anyway? Sit down, indulge in your favorite recreational substance of choice, and give Neverboy #1 a go. It’s definitely a trip you’re going to enjoy.