A few weeks ago, Harvey Pekar died, and one of the more interesting comic writers was lost to us. What he was able to do in telling the story of a man going through an ordinary (if not mundane) life—a man who then goes through the nuts-and-bolts of being diagnosed with cancer—brought to our attention a grittiness and reality that could only work in a medium that was both visual and textual.
While I’m not saying that Doug Lefler is Harvey Pekar, it’s hard not to think of the late Mr. Pekar’s work when reading Seven Extraordinary Things.
(NOTE: This comic deals with adult themes, and while I don’t think there’s anything terrible here, there is nudity, and I would definitely rate it “R” if it were a movie.)
The most obvious comparison would be the black-and-white drawings that are good, but not quite spectacular. The fact that the artist knows they aren’t that great—something the comic deals with directly—I think adds to a sense of stark actuality that is gripping. The writing, the art—it’s all sparse, and yet done with enough, I don’t know, vigor, to make you have to keep going.
The story is pretty simple: a young man is out of art school, and he is telling the story of how he came to be where he is today. The fact that the “webcomic protagonist being an artist” is one of the most common clichés found in this rather young medium would normally turn me off. But unlike Under the Influence, 7XT admits it is lacking—that the art is not quite where it needs to be. Because of that honesty—and the honesty of the story as it unfolds—Lefler thus creates an earnest character out of Greg, one whose life has ups-and-downs (and, again, reminds me—just a little—of Pekar).
What makes the arc meatier, though, is the combination ”pay it forward” plus ”bucket list” attitude that young Greg decides is his lot in life. In need of inspiration to help him achieve his dreams, he comes up with a list that will ultimately define how he lives his life.
1. Rescue a beautiful girl in distress.
2. Draw a comic book.
3. Get a black belt in karate.
4. Climb to the top of a mountain.
5. Be someone’s champion.
6. Paint one great picture.
7. Walk on the surface of the Moon.
Obviously the last one is a bit of a stretch, but as Greg tells us, he was eleven when he wrote it.
The one that really drives the story—at least so far, is #5: Be someone’s champion. A grandiose idea for an eleven-year-old, possibly, it also has a certain sense to it. As a child, Greg grew up on fantasy stories, so it’s only natural that he would, in a way, want to plot out his own quixotic adventure. When he stumbles across the person he wishes to champion, though, it is only then that the obstacles of such a venture present themselves. The stresses of being an art student, a boyfriend, and someone’s champion are burdens that Greg has to deal with, and although he shares them with us in flashback, there’s a very real sense that this is going to be a tough trip down memory lane for both him and us.
I’m not trying to make too large a claim about 7XT. Lefler is not, in fact, the “next Harvey Pekar.” All I can say is that it struck a chord in me, and I spent much of Friday afternoon reading through this story, possibly to the chagrin of my employers. But it is that compelling, and I can only hope that you give it a shot.
Don’t forget, folks: Mike and I read a ton of webcomics, and we still haven’t scraped the surface. The problem is, we’re almost tapped with the ones we’re aware of, which means we need your help. Please go to our forum and recommend comics you’d like to see featured or reviewed, or even artists you’d like us to reach out to. We thank you all for reading The Funn-e-Pages, and we’re counting on you to help us continue to write this column!