Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn is the first collection of Merideth Gran’s web-comic of the same name. The comic follows the life of Eve Ning, her pot-smoking roommate Hanna, and a constellation of supporting characters.
We first meet Eve as she and her boyfriend are breaking up:
Setting – Eve’s Mom’s House: Eve, James, and Eve’s Mom are sitting in the living room. James has just broken up with Eve over the phone, but still won’t leave.
James: And I mean, the fact is that billions of universes exist where Eve and I aren’t dating. We mainly exist to be broken up forever, y’know? And like you can totally apply that to life and death …
(His words continue in the background while Eve gets more and more upset and her mother looks more and more entertained. Finally, Eve gets up and takes James’ arm).
Eve: All right, Steven Schpielberg. Out we go.
James: But I’m not done Schpieling!
Eve (pushing James ahead of her): Don’t be silly. You’ve already shown me the light!
James: I have? Really?
Eve (slamming the door behind him): Hell yes. No more existential boyfriends!!
Mom: Not even in the multiverse?
Eve and her friends are twenty-somethings navigating post-college life with varying success. The book is divided up into chapters, each one following a distinct story.
I had a few issues with this series. The drawings are simple line drawings. I found them to be a little too simple, often having trouble finding ways to distinguish the characters from one another. I also found the story lines a little disjointed. The comic is divided up into chapters each telling a different tale from Eve’s life, but each individual storyline did not always flow well for me. The beginning can feel a little disconnected from the end of the story or the punch line gets a little lost, leaving the reader wondering if they had missed something. I chalked most of this up to the serial nature of its publication. That is, rather than being a novel that an author could revisit and re-edit, once a strip is published, the author cannot go back and re-work any choppy plot lines.
But by far my biggest issue with this comic is that it is about hipsters. I didn’t know about hipsters before I read the comic. Many of the ways the people in the comic talked and comments they made mystified me. So I started doing my research (including asking my sister, who is always up-to-date on pop culture). I went to the Octopus Pie web site to read more about the characters. I got my teenagers to read the comic (they were uninterested).
Matt Granfield, in his book HipsterMattic, defines hipsters in this way:
“While mainstream society of the 2000s had been busying itself with reality television, dance music, and locating the whereabouts of Britney Spears’s underpants, an uprising was quietly and conscientiously taking place behind the scenes. Long-forgotten styles of clothing, beer, cigarettes and music were becoming popular again. Retro was cool, the environment was precious and old was the new ‘new’. Kids wanted to wear Sylvia Plath’s cardigans and Buddy Holly’s glasses — they reveled in the irony of making something so nerdy so cool. They wanted to live sustainably and eat organic gluten-free grains. Above all, they wanted to be recognized for being different — to diverge from the mainstream and carve a cultural niche all for themselves. For this new generation, style wasn’t something you could buy in a department store, it became something you found in a thrift shop, or, ideally, made yourself. The way to be cool wasn’t too look like a television star: it was to look like as though you’d never seen television.”
So Eve works at an independent organic food store and her friends reject pop and consumer culture. Putting aside my personal feelings about hipsterism, this is an adequate comic. It did not blow me away with art or well-constructed plots, but it is a relatively new comic and I have confidence that Gran will improve as she gains experience. It’s just that the comic is really targeting a very specific market.
I’m sure the hipsters would be pleased with my lack of “getting it”. After all, I’m not supposed to.
Recommended for hip teens and young adults (occasional nudity, lots of pot, swearing)
Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn
by Merideth Gran
Village Press, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: teen