Shia LaBeouf’s Self-Published Comics May Be a Secret Code from Space
Better known as an actor, the son of Indiana Jones, and a renowned scholar in the language of Cybertronian, Transformers star Shia LaBeouf made a surprise appearance at the C2E2 comics convention in Chicago this past weekend, signing self-published comics that the Chicago Tribune described as being "borderline philosophical" and having "crude, child-like drawings." I unfortunately missed the signing, but when I discovered that my local shop, Chicago Comics, was selling two of his three books in store, I dashed over to pick them up.
They are... an experience to read. If I didn't know any better, I might say they're secret messages sent from space robots to warn us of impending armageddon. Or maybe they're just some freshman-English-level poetry thrown into a couple picture books. Probably the latter. One of the two LaBeouks I bought, Let's F***ing Party (above), has no narrative at all.Instead, what it provides are LaBeouf's "thoughts." You, the reader, know this because, following a title page featuring the above Alfred E. Neuman-esque figure from the cover, is something I can only call a warning.
LaBeouf's thoughts read a lot like tweets, ranging from aphorisms you might hear from your dad ("Only boring people get bored") to religious statements you might have heard in your college dorm at 3 a.m. ("Belief is a graveyard") to Seinfeldian observations about day-to-day life ("Why is it the pick-up truck carrying the loose washer/dryer is always driving between 80 and 90 mph").
A musing near the back compares love to a turkey, states that "every day is Thanksgivin'," and comes with illustrations of two smiling people so terrifying that you should probably send me some flowers for omitting them here. Move over, H.R. Giger. You've been LaBeoufed.
In a few places, LaBeouf mentions real people. One of his thoughts is about an attractive actress who has aged and isn't getting work anymore, for instance, but it's general enough (and the art is so rough), that it's hard to tell exactly who he's talking about. One page, however, makes it perfectly clear:
I'd like to believe that this means that Shia LaBeouf and Marilyn Manson got into a fistfight at some point, perhaps the set of their music video collaboration, although LaBeouf does refer to Manson as a friend in his MTV interview -- albeit a friend who told him his artwork is "f***ing terrible."
The closest LaBeouf comes to having a consistent through-line in Let's F***ing Party is near the middle, where he tells us what he thinks about poets.
He doesn't like them, I guess. Which makes it all the weirder when he makes it clear he fancies himself one ("you gotta draw a whole f***ing comic book to get your poem heard"). Also, comics are dust in an expensive wind, thank you very much, especially when LaBeouf is selling them at $20 a pop. (Edit: Apparently $10 at some venues.)
The other comic I got, titled Cyclical, tells the story of a Lorenzo Lamasian biker's big ride. (Get it? "Cyclical?" Motorcycles?)
It sort of reads like a children's book, in that almost nearly ever page has but one illustration and a line or two of accompanying text. LaBeouf isn't big on panels. Or backgrounds, for that matter. Each page gives only the most basic illusion of the setting, with characters surrounded by a ubiquitous pink haze that seems to indicate everything that happens, even the indoor scenes, is occurring at sunset.
The story's fairly simple. Two guys ride up to the edge of a canyon and look into it. One, Santavo, throws a rock to check out the distance, and they talk about how fast you'd have to go to be able to jump it. There's some weird symbolism with a bird. Santavo asks the main character, the ominously named Dave Raven, "When you going, man?" Raven answers, "Tomorrow." Then there's a sex scene.
By the way, from what I can tell, this is all supposed to be taking place in Buckhead, Ga., which either refers to a tiny town in Morgan County or one of Atlanta's richest neighborhoods. As a former resident of the Atlanta area, I can say with relative certainty that neither one has any canyons. Buckhead, the neighborhood, does have several huge malls that it'd be pretty sweet for a guy on a motorcycle to jump -- you know, in case you're thinking about a sequel, Shia.
Anyway, after the sex scene, Raven loads his motorcycle onto a truck, an action LaBeouf finds interesting enough to go on for an entire page. Raven and Santavo (who, the text clearly states, is wearing a sombrero) go to the canyon, Raven gets on his bike, guns it up to 125 and hits the ramp. There's no audience or anything. He just jumps the canyon in front of one guy.
I won't give away what happens, but I will say there's some 2001-style stuff in the last few pages, and don't worry: LaBeouf revisits the whole bird thing.
I'd be lying if I said LaBeouf's comics -- if you can call picture books consisting entirely of splash pages and only the occasional word balloon comics -- are any good. They aren't. But I'm not going to fault the guy for trying. By virtue of his celebrity, LaBeouf's self-published attempts at comics have gotten more attention than they probably should (I know I would have been better off not reading them), but he's done what anyone with a hankering to make comics should do: Make some comics.
So, at the very least, let's learn a lesson from the former star of Even Stevens. If he can create and publish comics that look and read like this, pretty much anyone can. Hell, he didn't even use anything too fancy to make 'em. It's on the back of both books: "Made on a Mac."
Just do me a favor, future comics creators, when you publish yours: Don't make them 20 damn dollars. Seriously, Shia LaBeouf, that's like... 50 cents per thought.