A review of

Service Industry Comic

by T. Edward Bak

Central question: Is there professional courtesy between dishwashers and waitstaff?
Format: 28 pp., paperback; Size: 7” x 8-1/2”; Price (from the author): “The price on this comic varies, because I have designed a few different covers for it. There are hand-drawn covers which go for $15 to $20 and can be ordered by contacting me directly via email at [email protected] The price of books with silkscreened and linoleum block-printed covers is between $5 and $7. As of now, the book can be purchased at usscatastrophe.com, bodegadistribution.com, globalhobo.com”; Publisher: self-published; Representative sentence: “Is this before or after the dishes are clean?”

T. Edward Bak has been a fringe drunkard and oddball on the small-press comics scene for years now. He’s the kind of guy whose name I knew, but I would’ve been hard-pressed to recall any of his actual comics. I saw his message-board posts and chuckled as he counted the days of sobriety and then suddenly stopped. My impression was that he was a charismatic waster at best. I couldn’t have been more incorrect, at least about the waster part.

Bak the cartoonist is possessed by his past. What we see are the inner musings of a man in his late twenties/early thirties, biding his time at his dishwashing job. He rehashes his history in straight narration, sometimes leaving little room for actual drawings. Then he’ll cover the same territory as a nearly wordless allegorical adventure comic featuring a “Lil” (as in “Lil Archie”) version of himself, a black cat spirit guide, and chattering demons. Then back to a political screed that blots out the drawings again.

Part of this comic’s beauty is that Bak printed a page a week in Flagpole magazine in Athens, Georgia, so you get the feeling that much of what you’re reading is off the cuff. The story is leading Bak, and he’s dredging up stuff from his past that surely surprises even him, but the result isn’t haphazard. Bak slowly builds to the heartbreaking sixteenth page, then leads us away quietly as we’re still reeling.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Tom Devlin

Tom Devlin is a cartoonist and comics publisher. He is currently working on his 1,200-page comic book Nike Country.

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