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July 20, 2011


OTBP: Favorites, The Team Cul De Sac Favorite Comic Zine

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On Jaime Hernandez's The Death Of Speedy
By Tom Spurgeon
For Favorites, The Team Cul De Sac Favorite Comic Zine, 2011


I must have read Jaime Hernandez's The Death Of Speedy 300 times in the summer of the 1990, right before senior year in college. It was serialized in the greatest comic series ever published: the first volume of Love and Rockets. It was the only run of magazines I ever read in the car outside of the funnybook shop, hands trembling as I extricated each issue from the pressed-against edges of that brown stock paper bag you only ever saw in such stores. Hernandez's evocation of that fragile period between school and adulthood, that extended moment where every single lustful entanglement, unwise friendship, afternoon spent drinking outside, nighttime spent cruising are acts of life-affirming rebellion, is as lovely and generous and kind as anything ever depicted in the comics form.

imageViolence intruded into my circle of friends a few years before Death Of Speedy was published. Like the gang in Hoppers, it was not the possibility of a dramatic event that we vainly hoped to forestall, but the inevitability of its consequences. Speedy's death is in one sense as natural as it's possible for a jarring event to be. In another, his passing immediately assumes a larger than life aspect, providing no less than a half-dozen characters a moment of life-altering self-discovery, something they can use to look back at a time where "things became different" even if such a claim is far from the full truth. For Maggie and Ray D., Death Of Speedy's twin leads, the days before Speedy's final fate seal self-sabotage into what is already a pair of dubious adult living skill sets. They belong together for reasons healthy and harmful.

Jaime Hernandez's genius in Death Of Speedy was in creating a story that stabs at youthful self-delusion without cheating the issue by stripping those days of their romance. Quite the opposite, really: the swirling blacks and vibrant figures make this one of comics' most inviting worlds. Speedy shuffles off this mortal coil with an almost shamelessly touching and mystical episode, followed by a heartbreaking denouement that provides searing context for everything just lost. Death Of Speedy is sad and beautiful and wise, and my absolute favorite comic.

This article was written for the Favorites 'zine, to benefit the Team Cul De Sac effort against Parkinson's. Please buy it. Death Of Speedy best read in this volume, I think.

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