CAN'T GET NO (2006)
A Graphic Novel by Rick Veitch
Comic book fans will know Rick Veitch well. He produced some beautiful art on Alan Moore's run on SWAMP THING. He also produced some decent scripts for later issues, including some stuff where Swamp Thing meets various historical figures. In issue 88, Veitch had Swampie meeting up with Jesus Christ. But, just before publication, the issue was pulled by DC Comics' editor Jeanette Kahn. Veitch quit DC Comics in protest and has since made his living outside of mainstream comics.
CAN'T GET NO sees Veitch back on DC Comics... under their largely creator-owned Vertigo label. It's easy to see why Veitch softened his stance on "never working for DC Comics again". The industry is different - smaller and more inclined to give freedom to its writers. Whether this helps CAN'T GET NO, I'm unsure.
CAN'T GET NO tells the story of an executive for the ETER-NO-MARK permanent marker company. He lives with his completely aloof wife in a beautiful waterside home, but needs to take anxiety pills before he goes to work. Life is ok in the first 20 or so pages, ETER-NO-MARK is doing well. And then the hammer drops. The New York City council makes it known they are suing ETER-NO-MARK for $6 billion dollars, for the irremovable graffiti that the pens have left on their walls. The company crashes and so does the lead character. He escapes into more Xanex and a bunch of booze.
Along the way, he bumps into two female artists. They mock him, leaving a page of artwork about a businessman falling on rough times. He drinks even more, and collapses in the street. The artists hoist him to their place. And while he's half-awake they use his two ETER-NO-MARK markers to draw indelible patterns over his entire body... including his cock. When he wakes, they're gone and he can't wash the stuff off. He's going to have to go through life as the ultimate tattooed man.
Initially this freaks him out. His wife finally notices him but runs away in fear. He tries to cover the ink with make-up, and he returns to the business sector. But the pink make-up steadily peels off and he's removed from the building.
In fact, there's so much to recommend about CAN'T GET NO. The story engrosses throughout, no matter how weird it gets. I loved it when the lead ends up in a 70s amusement park filled with statues of past presidents. It's an ever creepier version of Mt. Rushmore. The art is equally fantastic throughout. It has everything: a sense of movement as the guy hitches a ride on a motorhome, silhouettes as he sets out to bang a girl in one of the president's heads, and just a really savvy use of facial expressions.
But there is one major downside... and that's the completely unnecessary use of text. While the images flow along, telling the story, each panel has a piece of tonal poetry commenting on what's going on. It's laden with heavy-handed metaphors and does absolutely nothing to add to a story. As ever, I don't want to call this stuff pretentious. Veitch isn't pretending anything, he wants to put this stuff down there and he thinks it adds to the story. The true description is that the poetry is indulgent. It's Veitch trying to make his stuff seem worthier. And, the sad thing is, CAN'T GET NO is incredibly worthy without it.
It's yet another indication of the transition period we're in when it comes to comic books. Adults will read them, but they still aren't considered adult. So writers/artists keep trying to prove themselves. Whether it's including too many swear words and too much rough stuff (THE BOYS, THE PRO etc.) or getting overly arty and obtuse (THE SANDMAN, LUCIFER etc.), the comic book kid in the playground is trying too hard.
Please get hold of CAN'T GET NO. But please don't read a single word of the text in it.
Lose yourself in the images and a fascinating story... because the rest is sad, unnecessary fluff.
Review by Steve Hussy