Pope Hats #1
Written and Drawn by Ethan Rilly
32 pages, 6″ x 9″, $4 US
Distributed by AdHouse Books
Everybody wants to rule the world. The characters in Ethan Rilly’s Pope Hats would love to rule over their own lives. We’re invited to see them try.
Don’t let it ever be said that there isn’t room for another comic about whining aimless youth. Meet Franny and Vickie. Two friends who have recently decided to share a house and who seem at their best when they’re not doing much of anything outside of witty remarks. The opening scene finds the two inside a KFC as Vickie eats and Franny observes, “I’m convinced that I spend an outrageous portion of my life watching you eat.” The conversations and the art work are executed with crisp panache. The thin brush lines go well with the dry wit similar in spirit to the work of Gabrielle Bell.
As the night progresses, we are privy to a callow conversation between the girls and a couple of boys, Louis and Peter. It is Vickie’s hope to get to know Peter better. Instead, Vickie gets wasted, has to leave the bar, and pukes in an alley. She is the aspiring actress and eveything must be dramatic for her. She steadies herself a little as she announces she will continue to vomit in a Boston accent. Franny is the more responsible one. She’s a legal assistant and doesn’t seem to have any interests outside of work.
They tell you in art school to create something that you are compelled to do. Anyone can draw a scene with a couple of girls chatting and maybe throw in a few other devices. Someone who is compelled to say something is going to take it further. That’s what Ethan Rilly is doing. I can sense a driving force at work. After all the cute banter, we find the spotlight falling on Franny as she discovers Vickie has wandered off in search of a boy or a hot dog in the middle of the night. Once alone, Franny begins talking to a cartoon ghost she’s spoken with before. The dialogue is funny but it can also be read as a meditation on loneliness.
Who is Frances Scarland? We know she’s what keeps Vickie together. We know she’s loyal to her job, she’s pretty mild-mannered, and she talks to a ghost. Maybe that’s more than enough for a girl of 23 or so. Maybe it’s a perfect picture of someone young who is trying to cope with an uncertain future, just a few steps away from the nearest Zoloft.
After a one page interlude depicting an old man cleaning out his yard, the last section of the book is an extended monologue of Franny talking about, what else, ghosts. Maybe this is Franny at that party she was racing on her bicycle to get to from the feature story. She had just had what she hoped would be her final talk with her cartoon ghost.