Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Repo Man's Life Continues To Be Intense

Edge City, a suburb of Los Angeles. A vast time warp where people are addicted to telemarketing and perpetually looking for work. The faces are familiar but the names are different. The economy has completely tanked. Welcome to 1996.

Rewind to 1984. Film director Alex Cox debuted with a low budget indie film about a disaffected suburban punk named Otto who falls in with a bunch of repo men, a seedy colony of people whose jobs it was to repossess vehicles from folks delinquent on their payments. Otto fights the straight job but under the tutelage of Bud he learns first hand that the life of a repo man is intense. Interwoven are subplots concerning a Chevy Malibu with aliens in the trunk, CIA agents and cultists, and punk criminals whose idea of hardcore extend to "Let's go get sushi and not pay." At the end of the movie all stories converge as Otto finds himself jetting around the skies of Los Angeles in the Chevy which (if I understood it correctly) utilized the power of the aliens inside to convert it into a space ship, or a time machine, or just a flying car.

Jump to 1994. Cox began wondering what happened to Otto. He worked out a screenplay and shopped it around Hollywood with his original producers (including a particular Monkee named Mike Nesmith) and was told "You'll be hearing from us."

That never happened. Jump ahead another dozen years or so. Some artist gets this idea to take the script to that sequel to Repo Man and turn it into a graphic novel. And with Cox's blessing we now know what happened to Otto after that fateful car trip.

Sort of.

Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday is about as odd a sequel as you're likely to come across. In fact it's called a "quasi-sequel" on the cover because it literally could exist in a universe of its own.

First because Otto now goes around calling himself Waldo, without explanation. He arrives in front of his parent's home in that same Chevy Malibu and it's as if he merely took a drive around the block, except it's been a dozen years. No one knows where his parents are but the current residents are more than happy to take Waldo on as a replacement for the dead roomie they just buried across the street. In no time Waldo has a job suckering people into telemarketing schemes and timeshares alongside his old friend Kevin, who is now Kenneth, who he doesn't seem to recognize. In fact, everyone from Repo Man is here (and then some), but they all have different names, different jobs, and no connection to the world Otto left and that Waldo now finds himself in.

There is espionage, undocumented workers, mindless employment, naked encounters, double-crossing, and, yes, even aliens involved, but the whole thing is one weird, warped, tangled mess. Tangled in a good way, because there's just no telling where the story is going to go to next. Who is the benevolent figure that seems to appear whenever Waldo needs a job, always with a new name and a new scheme? Is Waldo really on Earth, or is he somewhere else waching all this plugged into some sort of alien virtal reality for their entertainment? Did his parents really put themselves into cryogenic suspension for 30 years in order to escape disease and strife? Will Waldo ever manage to escape to his prize Hawaiian Holiday, or is that only an illusion fed to him by the Martians who have turned Los Angeles into a prototype penal colony?

Cox's view of Los Angeles circa 1996 was just as pretty-ugly as his 1984 view. And with illustrator Chris Bones and colorist Justin Randall he's found collaborators to paint Los Angeles in all it's glorious shades of smog brown. In keeping with the name changes the characters only vaguely resemble their movie selves, but the book is entirely stand-alone. No need to have seen the movie, but then again, it's appeal is in it's sordid and tangential connection to the movie.

Rated R for sexual situations, language, cartoon violence, repo man intensity and other general weirdness.

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