From Gestalt Comics, Alex Cox, Chris Bones, and Justin Randall
In 1984, Alex Cox brought us Repo Man, a cult classic film; certainly one of my favorites. It was an unconventional film, a story that wove together the subjects of the 80’s punk movement, the life of repo personnel, and extraterrestrials. The humor being so low brow that you really had to pay attention, but had big payoffs. The chemistry between Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton on scree as Otto Maddox and Bud was gold, and the ending of the film, so unconventional and mysterious, that there is a lot to love about and find in it. If ever there was a list of films that one person should see in their lifetime, this would be on it, no question.
Thirteen years after the film was released, Cox found himself craving a sequel; he created a script, put a production team together, and even shot test footage, but sadly, the film was never picked up by any studio. Cox never abandoned hope on the project, going so far as to put the entire script on his website, and in doing so caught the attention of artist, Chris Bones. Together with Justin Randall, the three produced a 176 page graphic novel that reads like a fever dream.
After ten years, Otto returns to earth as Waldo Parks, and attempts to survive mid-90’s Los Angeles. Waldo runs a muck of 90’s telemarketing, and get rich quick schemes that never pay off, except for a trip that he wins to Hawaii. Cox and company present this form of America, where the American Dream is more of a Panzi scheme. The tone of both works are very similar, though Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday is given an updated tone to accommodate the time period. Together with a cast of characters that are stranger than its film predecessor, Waldo goes on the an unconventional journey, that serve as a quasi-social commentary that’s pay off is a little more clear, even if it’s absurd on the face of it.
The alien paranoia from Repo Man is a prevalent part of this story, and is given further explanation. We find that Waldo was living on Mars for the last ten years and that this story is exploited on Mars as Otto/Waldo watches his life unfold on television with two female martians. These martians later visit him on earth and expose their design of Los Angeles as a prison for humans, which like the American Dream, will make these Martians rich.
The universality of themes is cause for great laughter, as well as relatability. On the cover of the book, it’s stated that this is “the quasi-sequel to Repo Man;” even further, it feels like a quasi-take on The Great Gatsby‘s themes of the American Dream and how chasing for it can be tragic and empty. Waldo never does go on that Hawaiian Holiday, and is left with nothing at the end of the story, but does that make him tragic? Not hardly, his outlook on everything is proof of that. Cox never denies one vital thing though, that it all comes down to choice. That our choices leave us broke, and lead us down strange paths. Through an out-0f-date American who makes every conceivable wrong choice in his life, Cox presents a social commentary that is extreme on the face of it, but is relatable on all levels. If humanity ever turned out to be a fever or flu, at least there were pleasures to take hold of, no matter how temporary they are.
At the end of the book, Cox & co. leaves you with little hope, but not complete despondency; at least, nobody made it out of this book unscathed, but some are better off than others. Misery has its silver linings, all you have to do is find them.