After my positive review’s of Derf Backderf’s books My Friend Dahmer and Trashed, blogger Richard of From the Long Box, suggested I read Derf’s first book Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. Derf takes us back once again to Ohio during the late 1970’s.
Although fictionalized I believe the main character Otto, also known as The Baron, is a version of the author himself. Otto is a band geek in his senior year of high school, who lives in a trailer park with his alcoholic great uncle. A fan of the emerging punk rock scene, he often heads into nearby Akron to see concerts at The Bank. Told over the course of a school year, we follow Otto as he briefly fronts a punk band himself and interacts with real life singers and bands such as the Ramones, the Plasmatics and Klaus Nomi.
This book was filled to the brim with different plot threads, and at times it veered between the mundane and pathos. In addition to his trips to The Bank, Otto moons over an unrequited love interest, participates in hijinks with his friends against other schoolmates and a pervy teacher, and endures the death of a close friend. For a self described nerd, he sure got some action, from two very unlikely women. There was a bit too much crammed into this graphic novel, and in future books he tightens his narrative.
Derf’s artwork is very reminiscent of Robert Crumb and of Don Martin from Mad magazine, with people drawn in an unusual caricature-type manner. It is all drawn in black and white, and while not an attractive art style, it does get that underground comix vibe right. Despite Derf illustrating the comic The City for years, you can tell his style has evolved throughout his three books, as this book has the grittiest look. I’m assuming he slightly adjusted the next two books to make them more appealing to a larger audience.
Although this was my least favorite of Derf’s three books, I still enjoyed the ride. He not only has a distinct voice and art style, he captures the nostalgia and allure of the punk rock scene in an authentic manner. If music helped define your teen years, give this book a read!
Derf has since written an online sequel- you can follow Otto’s further adventures at The Baron of Prospect Ave. The Baron lives on!