Monday, 13 March 2017

120 Days of Simon by Simon Gardenfors Review

Swedish cartoonist Simon Gardenfors comes up with the kind of gimmicky book concept Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace used to do back in the day: he sets up a website where strangers can sign up to offer him food and shelter for a night. He’ll travel around Sweden for 120 days staying with different people every night. The 120 Days of Simon is his account of the experiment - and it’s an ok comic. 

The visual style is the book’s most striking feature: two black and white panels per page with a very cartoonish, almost childishly so, design aesthetic amusingly contrasted with the adult material. I didn’t love the art but it’s pleasantly unusual.

The thing is: Simon is an unlikeable dirtbag and he annoyed me a lot. He’s a member of a band called Las Palmas (never heard of them but apparently they’re big-ish in Sweden) and a number of female fans signed up so they could have a celebrity stay with them. Simon does drugs with some of them and then fucks them. Some of the girls are still in high school and their parents are in the same house!

It’s difficult to root for someone who’s just taking advantage like this, especially when he includes scenes embarrassing for some people who specifically ask him not to include them. So when there’s an “emotional” passage where his contrived lost love tells him she doesn’t love him and he lies in bed weeping, I felt no sympathy for him. She dodged a bullet, you creep!

While the first half of the book is repetitive with Simon doing drugs and sleeping around, the second half becomes more interesting. The brother of one of the girls he screws sends him death threats, a TV news crew films him during one of his stays and his cartoonist buddies pretend they’re pagans who don’t know him, and he gets assaulted by some drugged-up teens. The best was when a horny and homely middle-aged mom aggressively flirts with him and makes him nervous – very funny!

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the concept and I got a mixed bag. Some of it is mundane and boring to read and some of it is amusing and compelling. I guess if you’re an indie comics fan it might be worth a look if you come across it but The 120 Days of Simon is nothing really special.

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