100 Days, 100 Comics #7: ‘Justin M. Damiano’

Justin M. Damiano

This Dan Clowes 4-pager comes from the short story anthology The Book of Other People, which I picked for road reading on the way out to the Finger Lakes Wine Festival earlier this year. It’s a bitter icepick of a character explanation, but as far as stories titled with names go, it fits right in to the book’s criteria. The main character is a movie blogger, and his story is basically an investigation of personal emotional investment in critical writing and the responsibility Damiano owes to the creators whose work he reviews.

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever consciously acted out in the same way he does in the story, but ultimately it was for me what “Art School Confidential” was to a lot of my art school friends. Clowes ability to distill the bitter side of humanity in menial activities and everyday labor or interests is extremely keen, and the nasty bits within the human soul float to the top in this one as well as they ever have in his work.

It’s also about the rifts between critics and artists that can sometimes encompass shared ground. What’s interesting is how Clowes lets his character stare straight into that chasm and basically cold-shoulder-check it right into the ending. Everytime I bump into a new Clowes story, it seems to become my favorite read for the next month, and this one met that standard admirably.

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