Thursday, March 26, 2009


Today for your consideration, Slap In the Face: My Obsession with GG Allin, an indie comic/memoir by Justin Melkmann. As a student at Lehigh University in the late Eighties, Melkmann was obsessed with super-filth rocker GG Allin. Allin's music and terrifying reputation provided inspiration and outlet at an engineering school where the student body was full of corporate fascists-in-waiting and power-drinking strongmen. Lehigh also happened to be a DD alma mater.

Melkmann was introduced to Allin's music while on the community staff of WLVR, LU's student-run radio station in Bethlehem. The DJ who first introduced Melkmann to Allin was Rich McInerney, who for a short time was the driver and all-around associate of the Dick Destiny & the Highway Kings band. Small world!

Originally, Melkmann was interested in doing an underground movie on his hero and later a comic book biography, to be entitled Last in Line for the Gang Bang. Both were blocked by circumstance, so Melkmann made Slap In the Face a trenchant observation on life. Parts of it are also a snapshot of the way it was at Lehigh. During the period depicted in the comic the south side of Bethlehem was a slum seasoned with hardware stores, small eateries and dive bars, with the school for an upper class of people who acted like a lower class occupying the side of the facing mountain.

"In the fall of '87 I began my four year sentence at the Pennsylvanian frat-infested jock trap known as Lehigh University," Melkmann writes.

"Dude, I got into the fag-bashing house!" shouts a Lehigh student in the same panel. Harsh to be sure, but about right.

The second half of Slap In the Face finds Melkmann off for greener pastures, transferring out of Lehigh for Sarah Lawrence College, a move which immediately improves his disposition. More women, many more women than at Lehigh, one imagines. GG Allin dies by drug misadventure but his music is carried on by brother Merle Allin in The Murder Junkies, with the artist along for the ride and collecting material for the dead man's biography. Of course, this has Melkmann rubbing elbows with some fairly dire characters from weird old urban and suburban America, excellent material for loving illustration.

"Slap in the Face" is hysterically funny, more so if you were there for even a bit of it. At the end, Melkmann is in New York with a day job in the media, joining a band to pursue his punk rock dreams by night. More adventures seem imminent.

"If someone had told me that when I was a miserable 18-year old GG Allin enthusiast that this was how things would turn out I never would have believed it," he writes.

A second Melkmann comic, entitled Earaches and Eyesores, is a collection of works previously published in the magazine, New York Waste. Promising "adorable substance abuse" and "frightening sexual encounters," it is utter truth in advertising. I recommend it, too.

The blog of Melkmann comics.

And here.


Previously published on GG Allin.


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