Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Troop 142

Troop 142 is a slice of life tale, an account of a Boy Scout camping trip set in 1995. We get to see the goings-on and drama between camp counselors and adolescent boys as the latter try to win badges for completing specific tasks and classes. Along the way, they all learn about what it means to be a man, sometimes lessons that are sad and disappointing. And of course, there are lots of pranks, hi-jinks, sneaking out at night, horrible jokes, bodily odors, macho posturing, and homophobia happening all of the time.
What really stood out to me about this book was how well it captures a bunch of social dynamics, from dads who are uncomfortable around each other, to boys trying to fit in, to both who work to ostracize and torture those they find different. Some of the boys (and dads) are peacocks, others loners, and more than a few feel vulnerable and unsure of themselves. The personalities here are strong ones, and I feel that there are many alternatives for a reader to relate to, wonder about, mock, and/or revile.
The story also touches on a number of social issues. There are undercurrents of religious and sexual intolerance discussed, and it is clear that although being a Scout entails learning skills and striving for virtue it also involves some level of discrimination toward others. Being set in the past allows the author some distance from the topicality of these issues, and it seems more recently things in the Scouts are changing (or have changed to some extent). Still, these issues still affect many of our lives on a daily basis.

Troop 142's creator Mike Dawson has written and drawn a few graphic novels, including Freddie & Me, Angie Bongiolatti, and Rules for Dating My Daughter. I like his expressive drawing style, especially in how he depcits his characters' emotional responses. And I am not alone in my admiration for his work, as he was nominated in the Promising New Talent category of the Ignatz Awards in 2002. He speaks about his career and work extensively in this interview.

Originally published online, this book won the 2010 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Online Comic, and I found much praise in its reviews. Joseph Thompson summed up that "this graphic novel will sharply divide its readers in terms of personal taste but not quality."in ways that the best books do: ways that surprise, and trouble, and delight." Rob Clough called it "a comic that’s not about the monstrous nature of adolescence or even the less pleasant truths about masculinity in particular, but rather one that focuses on the fragility of ego, the demands of social and cultural mores, and the ways in which we all fear humiliation and vulnerability."

Troop 142 was published by Secret Acres, and they have a preview and more info about the book here. This books features crass, juvenile humor; sexual situations, and profanity, but I feel it is no worse than what I heard while I was a teenager myself. Still, those  offended by such things might want to steer clear.

No comments:

Post a Comment