When I first got my copy of the Geeks & Greeks graphic novel for review, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Being a geek from Massachusetts my whole life and seeing as to how it took place and around the storied M.I.T had me intrigued. On top of that, a vivid art style that jumps between pop art and almost old school art styles (think Archie comics on a decent amount of LSD with colors turned up to 10) and it all only lured me in further. But it was only upon finally opening and reading it that it hit me how perfect it was. In a time when we are inundated with comics that are gritty and filled with heroes struggling with pseudo-ennui, here we have a graphic novel that sets itself apart by having nothing to do with any of that. It is about actual people. People like US! The end result is a book you actually connect with and relate to the humanity of. In a time when every hero is donned in black and seems to long to blow their own tortured brains out, Geeks & Greeks is a wonderful leap in a whole different kind of pool, and that change is needed in the world right now. Geeks & Greeks is not like other graphic novels, with their cliché-laden dialogue and tired, recycled plotlines. Geeks aspires to grandeur and more often than not, achieves it. We have had enough ennui and angst in this medium lately. Now give us some good old fashioned hazing and geekery and you had me at hello.
Written by Steve Altes and illustrated by Andy Fish, who clearly did his homework when it came to many of the real-world locations that are captured in this book, these two strike a Simon & Garfunkel-like balance. That meshed with the ease of storytelling and the popping visuals just pull you into Geeks & Greeks and does not let go until it is done. A decent sized book, but one you will most likely finish in one sitting, as its intelligent humor and pacing keep you glued to each frame, waiting to see what (real life) madness may unfold next. I did mention it was based on some experiences writer Steve Altes had in real life, and you can feel that many times throughout the book. All I will say right now is “Frozen Fish” and anyone who has read the book is laughing right now. Great scene, just trust me. If any of you have seen the classic Val Kilmer 80’s film Real Genius, you have a decent idea what is in store for you here (and considering Real Genius is one of the best geek movies of all time, that is high praise).
Now I know what you are thinking. Why is he NOT telling us about the actual story. Well, that is the fine print with my reviews of things I end up liking. I often end up liking things that have good writing and some twists and turns, so for me to tell you the gist is to take away half the fun of what Geeks & Greeks does so well. But here, if you need a LITTLE more to whet your appetite:
It’s the brainchild of MIT grad Steve Altes, who has spent the better part of his adult life trying to tell the story of his experiences as a frat rat at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1980s. It’s a coming-of-age story set in a world of high-tech college pranks, gonzo fraternity hazing, with a charming little romance set in a sperm bank. You read that right.
Who would NOT want to read that? Commies, that’s who. It takes you to M.I.T. It takes some very different demographics of students there and thrust them together in ways that feel fresh, fun, and sometimes, wonderfully batshit insane. Writer Altes says about 90% of this story is based on actual events and he includes copious endnotes to back up those claims. Hell, if even half of this story really happened, what a ride it must have been.
Also and with all respect, a nod to MIT police officer Sean Collier, who sadly lost his life protecting the students there. The stellar book was dedicated in his honor.