Waifs And Strays: on Grant Morrison’s “Kill Your Boyfriend”

“As I grew up, everything started getting grey and dull. I could still remember the amazing intensity of the world I’d lived in as a child, but I thought the dulling of perception was an inevitable consequence of age- just as the lens of the eye is bound gradually to dim. I didn’t understand that clarity is in the mind”.

-Keith Johnstone, “Impro”

“They get you when you’re small and vulnerable and they take all the human parts away, bit by bit, until you’re just a wind-up toy. Turn the key and set it running. And the toy goes to university, gets a job, settles down with someone nice…”

-The Girl, “Kill Your Boyfriend”

It’s the simplest of stories. “Girl meets Boy. Girl falls for Boy. Boy takes Girl on violent rampage through English suburb-” ok, perhaps not so simple. “Kill Your Boyfriend” takes girl meets boy and makes them star-crossed, trigger-happy criminals. If Jean Genet opened a youth hostel, it would be to house youths like the Boy and the Girl in Grant Morrison’s comic. This kind of“Bonnie & Clyde” story has been done time and time again. What makes “Kill Your Boyfriend” memorable is the tone of it: it’s a bright, colorful, joyous book. The narrative is as cheerfully amoral as its main characters: there is no real comeuppance, no justice, no redemption in the end, and thank Satan for that.

It’s a short read and moves through its plot rapidly. It takes a dozen pages for our lovers to meet up and commit the titular crime. From that point on the story roars forward like the gas pedal’s been taped down: our characters stumble on a “shagging palace”, meet up with “art terrorists” in a magic bus, experiment with their sexualities, rob a cake shop, steal a Hearse and hurtle forwards towards the inevitable shoot-out at the end. And button your lip before you start moaning about spoilers: in stories like this, they ALWAYS end with a big shoot-out with the cops.

In some ways, “Kill Your Boyfriend” makes me think of Gregg Araki’s films(“Doom Generation” and “Nowhere”). The comic isn’t as bleak as “Doom Generation” (Philip Bond’s art is too playful and warm to let any nihilistic downer vibes bring me down), and it isn’t as surreal and weird as “Nowhere” (no space aliens, kids named Dark and Lucifer, etc), but it definitely feels like a cousin to those films. They all share the same viewpoint of radical youths, intoxicated by sex and criminality and each others company, lashing out against an older world that’s drab and makes no sense. And like the Araki film, all the adult characters in “Kill Your Boyfriend” are squares and cliches. It turns out that most of the younger characters are, too: Paul, the girl’s doomed boyfriend (who reads bad fantasy novels and prefers to stay at home and jerk off to porn rather than take his flesh-and-blood girl out on a date) is a hopeless nerd, and the “art terrorists” the fugitives bunk with for a spell turn out to just be impotent art students. All sound and fury signifying blah blah blah. Just as in Araki’s film universes, the only people who matter are our lovers. And while Morrison doesn’t flesh them out much (we don’t know their names, their backgrounds are vague… hell, we don’t even know what bands they listen to), the pair work as primal archetypes. And The Girl is such a fun lead: her excitement about her new life is contagious, and she speaks directly to the reader, like Ferris Bueller. At first it was a confusing device, but within a couple of pages I got into the rhythm of her narration.

“The only way to stop being bored is to do something interesting. Or criminal. These days it comes to the same thing”.

Compared to a lot of Morrison’s other work, it’s a pretty straightforward read. Nobody’s tripping on DMT or fucking in the fifth dimension or trying to invade Los Angeles with giant sperm cells. There are mythological references and even a word bubble pops up early on that links Plato and Top Of The Pops in the same sentence, but all in all Morrison’s Occult and Pop Culture levels have been set low in the mix for this story. So even though some of the imagery in the book dates it as the era of raves and Britpop, the lack of explicit references to pop culture in the dialogue gives the book an ageless feel.

Is it as good as “Animal Man”, “Doom Patrol” or “The Invisibles”? Of course not… but what is?

Originally posted on the Our Lady of Discord in 2012. 

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