I first became aware of Tom Galambos because of a little one-shot comic called Ranger Bob. From the cover, I thought it might be something like The Cowboy Wally Show, which I liked. Well, I was wrong. It was nothing like The Cowboy Wally Show. It was a touching, poignant little story about a man's struggle for dignity. It was funny, it was heartbreaking, most of all it was real. It was one of the best things I've read so far this year.
I haven't yet ordered Galambos' "from Hungary," the true story of his family's escape from the communist crackdown after the 1956 uprising, but I intend to. I intend to watch for his name and snatch up everything connected to it. I suggest you do the same.
All the Wrong Places is Galambos' first attempt at a multi-part story. This issue, naturally, sets up the situation. The main character is Nathan, a lonely man who lives in an isolated farmhouse with his mother, who is dying from cancer. We first meet Nathan through the narration of his friend, Richard, who seems to be looking back on the story from some distance of time. Although he starts out in the present tense ("My friend Nathan, he's basically a good guy. Sometimes I know exactly what's going on in his mind . . . why he does what he does. Other times I've just got no idea.") But he quickly places the action of the rest of the issue firmly in the past ("A few years ago, he took some time off to stay at home and take care of his mother, who had gotten quite sick. I'd drive out to see him a couple of times a week, take some groceries and stuff.")
This narration takes place over pictures of Richard's truck driving up Nathan's long driveway, all on page 2. A few other narration boxes for more narration by Richard on page 13 are all there are in the way in the way of captions. The rest of the story is carried in the dialogue. Not snappy, witty, sophisticated dialogue that stands up and gets itself noticed. Dialogue that sounds remarkably like the way real people talk, about subjects real people talk about.
Nathan has a problem, besides his sick mother. He's desperately in love with Jessica. The problem is that Jessica's got a boyfriend who's about to get discharged from the army.
Richard brings groceries, talks with Nathan, and tells him he should forget about Jessica. Nathan says "It's not as if I set out to fall in love with her. I've tried to change my mind around . . . it don't work."
Richard leaves. Nathan sets with his mom a while. She's better today. She recognizes him. But she doesn't get out of bed and doesn't feel like eating.
Jessica comes to visit. Nathan drags an old car seat out of the garage, an old-fashioned bench seat that Nathan's father kept when he could no longer keep a favorite car. Nathan uses it as an outdoor couch, and he and Jessica sit and talk for awhile. Then she leaves.
That's it. No death threats. No flying saucers. Certainly no costumed mutants. Just a slice of life in small town America, with characters that ring very true to this former small towner (my graduating class was 90, and we were the largest the school had ever had).
I was very impressed with this book, and I'm very impressed with Tom Galambos. Since Galambos is Laszlo Press and this book is in black-and-white, there's a good chance your unfriendly neighborhood comic book shop will refuse to even order this book for you. If so, I strongly urge you to find a more customer-friendly shop. In the meantime, however, you can order All the Wrong Places or any of Galambos' earlier comics from Laszlo Press, 6020 Waterman, Apt. 3E, St. Louis, MO 63112.
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