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Month of Indie Comics – Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show Vol. 1

Every day this month I’ll be reviewing a different independent comic book, based on submissions from the creators of the comic books themselves.

The month begins with Gordon McAlpin’s Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show Vol. 1, the first print collection of McAlpin’s web comic about a group of employees at a movie theater in Illinois.

McAlpin created a brand new story for the collection set during the opening of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. After that, the book then features the first 102 Multiplex strips (plus character bios and some guest strips he had done for other web comics and some guest strips other web comic creators did featuring Multiplex characters).

Opening with the new material is an interesting decision. You see, the strip as a whole is now over five years old, and McAlpin has clearly grown as an artist since the strip began (and as a storyteller), so to open the book with a polished story featuring all these established characters and then follow that up with, “Oh yeah, now here are the strips that are not as good” is a bit disconcerting. But at the same time, chronologically it fits into the overall narrative (which certainly was McAlpin’s intention) and I guess it makes sense to lead with your best material (especially when it is brand new material to those who already are reading the strip).

Anyhow, the comic mostly follows two young men, Kurt and Jason, who are best friends and the main protagonists, especially Jason, who has a bit more of a high brow taste in films than Kurt (although they do share a lot of the same guilty pleasures). The comics are topical, so reading topical strips about movies from five years ago can be a bit strange at times, but really, McAlpin tends to give you enough context in the strip itself that you can understand the joke even if you barely remember the film that is being mocked. Also, after awhile, the strip began to move more into the lives of the employees than simply making fun of movies.

A great deal of the humor in the strip is derived from the universal problems that happen while working in retail.

Here’s one of Multiplex’s most popular strips…

Here’s a really good movie-related gag…

As you can see, the art in the comic is not really what you’re coming for – it is the jokes and the character interactions, and McAlpin does a good job developing the characters (which is especially impressive seeing as how he depicts a Multiplex the way it really is, with a ton of different workers coming and going).

For pretty much the entire first collection, there’s only one black cast member, and his name is Franklin…

And that, according to the new commentart by McAlpin that accompanies each strip, was a total coincidence. How weird is it to have one black cast member in your comic strip and have his name be Franklin, and also have him being named Franklin be a total coincidence? That’s really strange (I believe that it is a coincidence, of course, just saying it is a really weird coincidence).

The collection is put together very well – it is extremely professional-looking, and it is a hefty piece of material. Even if you were familiar with the web comic, there’s a bunch of new material here to make it worth you buying (the commentaries, for one).

Having the character bios come in the back of the book was another interesting decision. By the time we get to them, we already have read so much about the characters featured that we really don’t NEED a bio anymore. The bios (or some sort of set-up for the main characters) probably would have been more helpful earlier in the book, especially right before a new comic book story that throws you into things in medias res.

Still, the fact that by the time you get to the bios you can pretty much write them yourself says a lot about how much characterization McAlpin pumps into the main characters in the story. I especially like how McAlpin, whose style is not the most detailed, still manages to tell a story well, including beats that turns solely on a character’s expression.

If you’re a fan of stories with a lot of character interaction, then this volume should hold interest to you. If you’re interested in modern movies and/or stories about retail workers, than you should REALLY be interested in this collection!

Here is a link to the Multiplex website.

13 Comments

A huge fan of McAlpin’s work. Glad to see the first book get some more press.

And that, according to the new commentart by McAlpin that accompanies each strip, was a total coincidence. How weird is it to have one black cast member in your comic strip and have his name be Franklin, and also have him being named Franklin be a total coincidence? That’s really strange (I believe that it is a coincidence, of course, just saying it is a really weird coincidence).

I’m assuming this is a Peanuts reference? You might want to make that paragraph a little clearer if it is.

Great idea by the way. I look forward to the month of this feature.

I just so happened to started reading Multiplex lately. I’m almost caught up to the present on the comics. He does a really great job with making you care about the characters in what could otherwise be just a silly webcomic. You’ve made me want to go purchase the book now for the extras…

I’m assuming this is a Peanuts reference? You might want to make that paragraph a little clearer if it is.

But that’s my point, that all I have to say is “the only black character in the strip is named Franklin” and people automatically know what I’m referring to, which is why it was funny/strange that McAlpin was taken by surprise by the comparison.

Yeah, but I’ve recently come to realize that there’s a big generational gap as far as Peanuts is concerned. A lot of people under 30 are surprisingly not well acquainted with it, beyond the broad strokes like Charlie Brown and Snoopy. I’ve realized this from my workplace, where I make Peanuts references and get blank stares from the younger half of the room.

This is a comic blog though, so I should probably keep in mind it’s a savvier crowd here.

On a side note, I was digging this until the Franklin strip. It suffers from that benignly racist “I think I’m so cool with the brothers because I’m young, hip and liberal that I can make jokes about them” humor that so many liberal types enjoy. Kevin Smith uses that type of humor often too. That strip could have worked perfectly fine without bringing up Franklin was black in the first panel and bringing up race again in the punchline.

I didn’t realize it was a Peanuts reference until I read T.’s comment. Does that make a bad person?

I’ve been reading Multiplex for a few months now. It’s pretty good and reminds me of the crap jobs I used to work as a shiftless kid just out of high school. The artwork is pretty basic, but it get’s the point across. I enjoy reading it on the site, but I don’t think I like it enough to buy the collection, unless it had a *lot* of new content, and it doesn’t really sound like it. I try to support the work through ad clicks.

Oh. I thought it was an Arrested Development reference.

Also, I really like the art of this comic; I don’t usually go for art that forgoes black outline, but this is good.

Didn’t know that was a Peanuts reference; I thought Brian was losing his mind, or something. Without the context it was like you were saying “How weird is it that there’s only one calico cat named Rupert and have him being named Rupert be a total coincidence?” Zuh?

I haven’t read Multiplex in a while. I like it a lot, but it’s got a real slow update schedule. I generally wait a year between readings.

Christopher: There is over 40 pages of new material in the book, out of 224 pages, including the 12-page prequel story. The other new strips are spread out (unnumbered and undated) between the other strips, to fill out the story.

T. – Just so you know, Jason is intended to be (part?) southeast asian, so he’s non-white as well. That doesn’t make it less smug and condescending, but Jason’s character IS smug and condescending. And when you read more than a few strips, you realize that Jason isn’t necessarily intended to be right most of the time.

[...] Gordon McAlpin’s Multiplex shows up in a trade on page 258 from Chase Sequence. The collection has been available for a while, but it just made it into Previews. Huzzah! Our Dread Lord and Master reviewed this here. [...]

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