When Grant Morrison and Philip Bond’s Kill Your Boyfriend was first released I loved it an enormous amount, having come from a sheltered Surrey background the idea of anarchy and all round craziness appealed a great deal. I even got a t-shirt made up of the front cover and a particularly pithy panel from the comic itself, which mostly lead to confused looks and people bolting their doors shut when I walked past, and understandably so. It was a mix of Natural Born Killers and Kalifornia in comics form but given a distinctly British feel, what with our murderous duo joining a bunch of anarchists on a double decker bus and the ending taking place in Blackpool.
Twenty three years on from it’s original release and I have to admit that I find myself slightly less endeared with it. It’s still a fun comic without a doubt, but it is a tad immature in places, though given that the two leads are all but children perhaps it’s intentional. I’ve long been a fan of Grant Morrison’s since the days of Zenith in 2000AD, and his runs on DC’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol I still rate as some of the best comics ever released, but this was clearly an excuse for him to have a bit of daft violent fun with the occasional rant against a pet peeve.
It begins with a brief snippet from the ending (where “People said we were evil but they missed the point again. It was just high spirits” should give you a hint that the following story is going to end badly) before jumping back to our unnamed anti-heroine in school, bored shitless and fantasising about murdering everything. Soon she meets the unnamed anti-hero of the piece and they’re going around vandalising cars, throwing bricks through people’s windows and murdering Paul, the girl’s geeky boyfriend simply because he’s a bit pompous. And that’s enough for our anti-heroine to fall in love with the killer. After a bit more murder and sex and drugs they join up with a bus load of art school students who plan on blowing up the Blackpool Tower but soon the police are on to them, and it looks like it’ll be a bloody ending for both.
Morrison shamelessly uses the lead character to have a go at the things that annoy him, like the type of schools where individuality is crushed, claiming “The more I think about it, the more I realise that schools are just factories for turning out robots. That’s all”, he may have a point to be fair but it’s hardly the first time such a thing has been suggested. He also mocks geeky virgins who are more obsessed with Terry Pratchett novels than reality which is an easy target, and his mockery of the police is rather heavy handed though so extreme it did make me smile. Some of the satirical points he makes are effective though, like his knocking of middle class parents who are more worried about what the neighbours think than the well being of their children and the tedium of small town life in general, as is his commentary on becoming desensitised to violence.
It’s anti-authoritarian and that’s no bad thing, but call me an insane madman who’s likely to claw his own skin off and then eat it but I’m not sure murder is the answer. I’m also not sure that showing a sixteen year old girl in her underwear in a scene which feels exploitative is a good thing (actually I am, and it isn’t). Later on she dresses up in tight fitting gear and claims “I know what you’re thinking, rebellion’s all very well and good but does it include becoming a blonde bimbo? What you have to understand is that I’m not real anymore. I’m just a figment of his imagination, I’m no longer responsible. And that means I can do anything”, which is a persuasive argument within the context of this story but I’m not completely sure I buy it personally, and wish Morrison had made the female in question a few years older as I can imagine certain readers enjoying the comic for all the wrong reasons.
That’s not to say that it’s not worthwhile reading despite these issues. If you enjoy pointless violence (and who doesn’t on occasion) you’ll like it a lot, and it is funny in a good few places. The satire’s often sharp and amusing, at least when it’s targets aren’t predictable, it’s pro sex and drugs and anti organised religion which I can’t help but be behind, and there is a sense of real joy as the duo cast off society’s rules and do whatever the fuck they want which is fairly infections. There’s also a certain amount of meta-humour as our anti-heroine makes comments to the reader, as in one scene where the anti-hero accidentally murders someone and she smiles and says “What do we do with him?”. Morrison happily mocks the bus load of unusual arty types the duo meet too, they feel like a very English take on Ken Kesey’s The Merry Pranksters but Morrison is aware of how pretentious they are, and how their supposed beliefs and values fall apart with alarming ease. They don’t just lack the courage of their convictions, indeed it’s hard to believe they really had any in the first place.
I can still see why it appealed to my younger self, who lived in a similar small town and longed for excitement and adventure, Philip Bond’s art is impressive throughout and he captures facial expressions incredibly well, and it definitely has some very funny moments within it’s pages with the ending making me smile to this day. But it is very much a product of it’s time and the problems I have with it mean I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. Yet if you’re in the mood for a fast, fun, throwaway read that’s all but impossible to take seriously you could do far far worse.