How Loathsome

“We were beautiful monsters, the kind this city thrives on, allows to flourish, and greedily destroys. Alone we felt like outcast aliens. Together we were perfect: too unusual and awful for anyone else.”

So begins Ted Naifeh’s strange and haunting collage of drawings, photographs, and words, showing us a cast of characters as fascinating as they are flawed. You may have loved them from afar, aspired to join their ranks, grown tired and disillusioned in their company, or found comfort in their existence; if you’ve ever felt yourself on the outside looking in, you’ll recognize someone you know.

Sulking on the borders of her city’s drugged, gay, goth underground Katherine reflects with cynical lucidity on the foibles, loves, vices, and transcendence of her fellow freaks and outcasts. After a week of drinking, shady dealings, and dubious sexual exploits Nick and Katherine meet in a bar to compare notes on the night before. Nick’s coming down off of a bad trip and gleefully narrates a story of giant praying mantises and Germans with x-ray vision. Katherine is mulling over the implications of an inconclusive threesome with two of the local goth nightclub’s most sought-after denizens. Two tales of strange sex and misunderstandings weave together into a tapestry at once repugnant and delightful, and this really sums up the whole series of episodes. Stories range from a spiral of heroin addiction told through fractured encounters and a Japanese folktale to the story of Katherine’s wild week of debauchery with a drag queen. The second ends with a painfully thorough lesson about what it really means to transgress the boundaries of gender, and the price some people will pay for a coherent identity. Through it all we care deeply about Naifeh’s characters because they revel too much in their own oddity to ever give in to despair. At the end of every story, and throughout the final episode, Naifeh reminds us again and again that to be an outsider is to be beautiful in the eyes of some, and in the end it’s only these people who really matter.

How Loathsome
ISBN: 1561633860
by Ted Naifeh and Tristan Crane
NBM: ComicsLit, 2004