1986: When alternative WAS alternative...

Here Magazine    |    Bernard C. Cormier    |    November 15, 2005

Life is not easy. It is harder when you are a teenager.

On second thought, maybe not. Life at that point is really easy.

Regardless of how difficult life can be when you are a teen, chances are good that you THINK that it is difficult!

Perfect Example is just that: a perfect example of how life can be seen when you are a teenager. Written by John Porcellino, Perfect Example is a collection of short stories that were originally published as part of the comic series titled King-Cat Comics. All of the stories are autobiographical works of non-fiction. With a first-person narrative, Mr. Porcellino is the central character.

The general focus of the stories is on how depressed he is in Illinois during 1986.

The Plots: 1) "Live-Evil": A very short "short-story" with the massive length of… one page. While sitting on bleachers during a high school gym class in spring 1986, Porcellino and Harold J. debate the important question: which is a better band: Husker Du or Venom?

2) "Belmont Harbor": Porcellino is getting to know Tina (a crush of his) better than before. Along with other people, they venture towards a concert only to be carded at the door. They then decide to go drinking at a nearby beach.

3) "Haircutting Time": Porcellino's parents dislike the length of his hair. He gets his sister to cut it for him.

4) "In-Between Days": Porcellino and friends are awakened to the fact that they do not have luck with women for one reason: they literally watch them walk by.

That important moment happened during a "giant annual outdoor concert and drunken mélée".

By the end of the story, Porcellino makes it to at least "third base" in the grand baseball diamond of his love life.

5) "The Forth of July": Porcellino suffers from problems with women.

6) "Celebrated Summer": Porcellino learns how to be a better guitar player. Also, he realizes that everything (good and bad) is neutral in life. What makes things bad is how a person reacts to what is presented to them.

7) "Escape To Wisconsin": Porcellino and two friends, John J. and John Lyons, decide to have a road trip to Wisconsin.

Skateboarding is their focus once they arrive.

The book is packed with pop-culture references, mostly related to the alternative rock movement of the 1980s.

Some of the bands mentioned in the book: The Beatles, R.E.M., Husker Du, Venom, The Scorpions, Camper Van Beethoven, Soul Asylum, Bob Dylan, Motley Crue, The Ramones, Van Morrison, Angry Samoans, etc.

The most amusing part of the book is an appearance by a drunk Chuck Berry, who is performing at a concert.

Chuck Berry: "Helllooo? I have come out…from backstage!!" Narrator: "The crowd went crazy…" Chuck Berry: "But now…I am going…to go backstage… again……and…then…I'll come out…in a little while…" Also, some of the story titles have a thin reference to pop-culture, too.

"In-Between Days" is an obvious reference to the Cure song of the same name. The song is, of course, from the same period as the setting of the book (mid-1980s).

"Escape To Wisconsin" is a play on the words in the title to a Disney Witch Mountain movie from the 1970s.

The tone of the book is depressing in that what-do-I-do-with-my-life way. At one point, the main character tries to kill himself but then changes his mind.

The artwork is very, very, very simple. Anyone could draw the images, even your pre-school daughter! That is not a bad thing: it's a unique thing.

In the related state of perspective and proportion, forget about it! All vehicles appear to have elastic bodies.

The cars look like snakes, too.

On a positive note, this book gives people hope. It demonstrates that if you have the determination and a message to express, you can do it.

D.I.Y.=Expression Marvel and DC would never publish this material.

The only thing that may upset parents in this monochrome book is the language used.

Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer, broadcaster, and filmmaker.

A graphic novel/comic book review of John Porcellino's Perfect Example

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