By Gordon McAlpin
A long long while ago, I used to work at a movie theater. There are things that happen in a movie theater, behind the stage (so to speak), that are…gross. Take for instance our initiation rights for employees who lasted more than 2 weeks. We would pour popcorn salt (think salt in powdered sugar form) and make them squeeze an ice cube. After the chemical reaction begins and the employee screams in pain, we’d welcome them as one of us. And then there was the projection booth, which if you shined a black light into, you might go blind. But there are thousands of stories that people outside of the movie theater world would just not believe. That’s where Gordon McAlpin comes in with Multiplex: Book One.
I might be biased reviewing this, as every page was pure nostalgia, but it is a hilarious book, as is his website, where new skits come out. Yet this isn’t just a bunch of isolated skits SNL style taking place in a movie theater—there is actual plot. We get to know the characters very well through the various hilarities that ensue. It’s almost like a sitcom in comic form. Each skit has its own little story about some bizarre occurrence (yes, I have seen bathroom stalls with shit-handprints on the ceiling), but there are also numerous plot threads that give life to these characters. The star in this is Jason, who is not-so-great with most of the girls and absolutely obsessed with movies. Sure, Sunny and Kurt and all the others are fun too, but Jason is the spine of the story. McAlpin balances it, though, so that it never feels like Jason’s story highjacks the series. Sure, at times its given more focus, but we also get the crazy blogger or the guy who wants more butter and the running around the theater like your James Bond in Casino Royale.
And his art is fun too. You can actually see it progress through the story as he plays with character designs and color pallets. Yet it’s never so different that it’s distracting. In fact, you’d have to have a pretty trained eye to see the slight differences and it’s only when he mentions them that they become apparent. But it’s a simple and fun style that works wonderfully with his humor.
Art and writing aside, this collection is great for an entirely different reason: director’s commentary. That’s right, Multiplex actually has a little bit of commentary under each skit that makes McAlpin just as important of a character as the rest of the gang. Not only does it come with a director’s track, but a wealth of special features including hilarious character bios, guest sketches from several writers/artists (the best being from Joe Loves Crappy Movies), and a making-of featurette! Actually, of all the special features, this is one of the most fascinating. To me, anyway—I love hearing how other creators make their work. If you haven’t gotten it by now, the collection is actually modeled after a DVD release to the point of a director’s cut—he reorders some of the skits and gives a prologue that is hilarious.
Honestly, there is nothing bad I can say about this book. Even the production is great. The pages are each sturdy and glossy and holds together better than most graphic novels (I’m looking at you, DC trade paperbacks…looking at you). It’s also a great price. If you have any family members or friends who has worked or is still working at a movie theater, this is the perfect gift for them. It’s a fun story, but they’ll also be able to laugh at all the absurd things that happen to them, that manage to end up in this book. I hope it’s not long before McAlpin releases book 2.
(Seriously, still have nightmares about shit-handprints)