Review: A Waste of Time

Artist(s): Rick Worley.

Published late last year by Northwest Press (Teleny And Camille, The Power Within), A Waste of Time1 is a collection of Rick Worley‘s largely autobiographical webcomic. In the best tradition of autobio comics, the author paints himself as a not very nice, but engaging character obsessed with sex and porn. It could be a Chester Brown comic, except Brown was not into twinks with cute butts.

Worley’s first idea was to draw himself as a rabbit. As you can see in the strip above, he’s accompanied by a small robot named Rickets, who serves as a foil and sometimes a conscience, à la Jiminy Cricket. But Rickets also has his own story, which is the fictional side of this strip: he’s in a highly dysfunctional relationship with a self-loathing teddy bear. The weirdness of the visuals is contrasted with the realism of the situations. The first series of strips sees the rabbit first dealing with a relationship with another guy drawn as a monkey (from the nickname Worley gave to his then-boyfriend), then having endless and mostly pointless conversations with his robot confident. As funny as Worley’s rabbit can be when he talks about fucking cute twinks and watching internet porn, that aspect of things can turn repetitive pretty quickly. Fortunately, the book includes more than just that.

The strip becomes both weirder and deeper when Worley begins to chronicle other relationships he’s had, by drawing the other guy as a human being—in fact, everything but the rabbit is drawn in a very realistic way.
Weirder because the cartoony rabbit moving in a realistic world causes a strong cognitive dissonance (or at least, that’s the effect it has on me) that both helps identification with the main character (who wouldn’t identify with a cute rabbit?) and creates a distance between the real world and the inner world of the author/character.
Deeper, because Worley doesn’t try to resolve the contradictions in his rabbit self’s behavior, who’s shown longing for a stable relationship as well as pushing away boyfriends. That, of course, makes the reader feel like hugging him to assure him life can be good and at the same time slapping him to help him come to his senses.

There’s also a lot of humor throughout the strips, with Worley often swerving away from self-pitying at the last minute. These stories of failed relationships and loss of self-control on the part of the rabbit and his friends (the teddy bear and the robot are shown having drunk sex more than once, for example) could get completely dark and hopeless, but there are enough situations bringing an amused grin on the reader’s or the characters’ face to counterbalance all that.

As you can see, the strip is full of contrasts and conflicting effects on the reader, which shows the quality of the writing. The art is also better than a lot I’ve seen on the net. Worley obviously has the chops to draw in a classical way (his portraits of cute boys are both anatomically solid and emotionally resonant), the interest shown by the rabbit for classical art—or at least for classical art depicting male bodies (Michelangelo, Caravaggio)—confirming his will to improve his art.

I must admit that at first, I thought Rick Worley might be a one- or two-notes musician. With the breadth of situations and characters included in this collection, he’s proved he’s moved into quartet territory. I now wait for the symphony I’m sure he could give us.

  1. A comic-sized collection was published back in 2008, but this 140-page book collects the more recent strips, alongside some new works. It is available from Amazon, as well as from the publisher, both in print and in iBook versions.

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