- GUTTERFAGS -
Quarterly reviews of sequential art about
dude-on-dude lust and love
Cavalcade of Boys
by Tim Fish
reviewed by JB Sanders for Gutterfags
Cavalcade of Boys is a graphic novel of short stories. The stories are all set in the same anonymous Southern California city, and they have some of the same characters, but by and large, you can digest individual tales without reading the rest. But if you do read them all, you’ll have assembled the pieces of a really big, really engrossing puzzle.
The stories follow the romantic tribulations of a variety of young, and some not-so-young, men as they find love, lose love, hook up, and figure out what they want in life. It isn’t just about finding romance either, but delves into how some men make relationships work. Or don’t. Spoiler alert: there are not a lot of happy endings here, not in the Disney sense, but then again, this is only book one. Even with a lack of traditional happy endings, I never felt the stories were downers, just a more realistic portrayal of life than you’d expect in a regular “romance” title.
Each segment follows a particular character around during an important day or single defining situation (e.g. how two men can fall out of love). The link between the short stories are main characters carried story-to-story, or other characters brought forward to be the star of the new tale. For instance, the first story follows one older guy who has just come out as he finds and loses love. In the next story, we have another main character who runs into and befriends the guy from the first story. The hand off isn’t always clear at first, but does always come up. The pieces do come together.
The view of these guys and their love-lives is pretty unflinching. Mistakes are made, and sometimes you do want to slap them, but not hard, more in the way a friend would smack you to bring you to your senses. Warren, the excitable twink who enthusiastically embraces everyone, could use some life coaching. Or some Adderall. And a hug. He falls immediately for guys that are nice to him, then jumps immediately to domesticity and which dog to get from the pound.
You’ll like most of these characters and even some you don’t start out liking get their own later stories, where they become more sympathetic. Or at least more interesting.
While there is sex, it never rises above an R in explicitness. There are some butts and legs and such, but no full-frontal nudity. Pretty much everything you’d expect from a teen comedy a few decades ago. And despite that comparison, the sex is also pretty positive — something adults are doing for fun or love. There’s kink, but it’s alluded to and only peripherally. At most, there’s some age difference between some of the characters.
The men in the book tend more towards the twink end of the gay spectrum, though there are some jocks and lumberjack types. It is very light on bears, and when used, the guys tend to be intentionally ugly. That may have been to make a point in a storyline about kept guys.
It’s hard to say that Tim Fish portrayed a thorough panorama of all the variations of gay men’s lives, but even with a cavalcade there are limits. That said, the focus tended to be on young guys and the culture of clubbing.
The stories themselves are thoroughly captivating and you’ll find yourself wanting more when it ends.
The art is abstract. There’s never any wondering if someone is a man or a plant or something, but if you’re looking for the more realistic styles used in “traditional” comics, or even the willowy manga style, look elsewhere. Tim Fish uses just a few lines to evoke his characters and settings, where others would use many. And he makes it work for him. There’s a definite sense of movement in his art — guys are in motion: bouncing out of bed, opening doors, going places. Each panel is adding to the story and showing you what’s happening with a real sense of immediacy.
His backgrounds and settings are even more abbreviated, a visual shorthand but here again, Tim Fish always conjures that scene exactly as thoroughly as the story demands it. When you’re at a club, you can feel the loud music and crowded dance floor in just the few blobs and dabs on the panel. When you’re in traffic jam, you can smell the diesel and feel the need for sunglasses to fight the reflected glare.
Fish also uses every camera trick you’ve seen in movies, plus some. He plays with camera angles, uses close ups, long pans, the works. But don’t feel like you’re going to be reading something experimental — it works in every story in a way that makes it invisible until afterwards.
Now, I want to take a moment to particularly call out Tim Fish’s faces. You might think that in an abstract style, you might lose some of the nuance in facial expressions, but this simply isn’t the case here.
Every face in Cavalcade of Boys tells its own mini-story. You can see when a guy is elated, hurt, curious, cruising, content, ecstatic, or angry. Really, any of a thousand different emotions. Aside from the stories themselves, the faces were something that really helped suck me in and feel for the characters. When the main character in the first story is in love, we don’t need the floaty hearts to know it’s true, his face says it all. Or when Warren is hopeful that his ride is really coming right back, and then when he’s certain the guy has truly ditched him, he is obviously lost. We don’t need voice-over narration text to tell us how he feels or what’s going on.
Art’s primary goal is conveying emotion and Tim Fish’s characters shine out to us from the page.
If I have one major complaint about Cavalcade of Boys is that the popcorn story format left me seriously jonesing for more by the end of the book. Pull up a chair, grab some friendly beverage of your choice, and chow down. Cavalcade of Boys will leave you satisfied.
- About the reviewer -
JB Sanders has published four books starring a gay married couple having romantic and humorous spy adventures, and you can find out more about them at http://www.glenandtyler.com. He also pens a monthly column on Geek Culture at The Magical Buffet.