Abandoned Cars by Tim Lane

Abandoned Cars
by Tim Lane
Fantagraphics Books, 2008

Although it initially appears to be a homage to the early work of Daniel Clowes (but with better drawings), Abandoned Cars reveals itself to be something more, a structurally sophisticated series of short stories exploring the concept of “The Great American Mythological Dream”, as Lane helpfully explains in the afterword. Another feature of this book which sets it apart – very few cartoonists can write intelligently and articulately about their own intentions.

The tales are monologues narrated by lost and disillusioned young men who idolise certain masculine American tropes: the art of freight hopping, Lucky Strikes, Kerouac, Elvis, 4am bars and stupidly large automobiles. The terse narratives are spat out paragraph by paragraph, with only occasional lapses in composition taking you out of the stories, which are interleaved with each other and broken up with interesting one-pagers: the adventures of The Manic Depressive from Another Planet, thoughtful Edward Hopperesque urban vignettes, and a “collectable”series of cut-out paper dolls representing American archetypes such as Man Practicing Tai-Chi and The Magnificent Old Time Grifter.

The book begins with an ink portrait of the young and handsome Marlon Brando, and ends with the sad and flabby old one. What happens in between is heartbreakingly bleak.

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