A Waste of Time

By Rick Worley
136 pages, black and white
Published by Northwest Press

Rick Worley’s A Waste of Time is another in a long line of web comics that has made the leap to a collected print edition. In doing so, I think that A Waste of Time has shown both the strength and weakness of the online delivery system; this is a collection that weaves all over the place (figuratively and literally), and even as some stories improve by being collected together, others fall a tiny bit short.

The strips of A Waste of Time are a mixed bag in terms of basic plots; some are semi-autobiographical strips about Worley (portrayed here as a rabbit named Rick), but then you’ll turn the page and get an extended story about the robot character Rickets and a relationship that went sour. The earliest strips are the ones that I think suffer the most from being collected; one joke about Rick wasting time watching porn on the internet is entertaining, but five or six one after another dilutes the original punch line as it shows up over and over again. It’s a shame that these strips are the first ones in the book; they set up the character of Rick and his friends, but it gives the reader the (incorrect) perception that A Waste of Time will be nothing but the same two or three jokes on endless repeat.

Everything changes, though, with the second chapter, titled "The Boy From Santa Cruz." Beginning with Rick finding a new model and then having the relationship turn sexual, it’s a brutally candid telling of a relationship that never seems able to stay quite on track. Even as A Waste of Time is up front with its depiction of the sexual side of Rick and his model (an early punch line is "Happiness is a boy who swallows" after all), it’s the negotiation of what their relationship really means that grabs your attention. Gay or straight, most readers will find a lot here that rings true; the inability to pin down where a relationship is going, the desire for steps that clearly aren’t going to happen, the big gestures that go over like a lead balloon. By the time the chapter came to a close, I had a new-found respect for Worley and A Waste of Time; he’d clearly found his voice in the comic and was moving it in interesting directions.

The other story in A Waste of Time that stands out a great deal is "Marching to ‘The City’," a 26-page silent story about the robot character of Rickets. It’s here that the collected A Waste of Time definitely is superior to reading page-by-page as it’s posted on the website; even at one page a day, it wouldn’t flow quite as easily or hold together the way it does in the print edition. Worley’s story here is another great depiction of a troubled relationship; you see the ups and downs, and while one the metaphors is a bit overused (if I never again see the roller coaster used in a work of art for this purpose, it will be too soon) it’s still got a lot that readers will understand and perhaps remember in their own lives. Silent stories in general are hard to pull off, but to his credit Worley still does so and infuses a lot of heart into this short piece.

As the book winds down with more short strips about Rick and his friends stumbling through desire, relationships, and yes, more online porn, it comes across much more balanced. By this point Worley’s able to rotate his different themes in and out of the strip instead of focusing on any single one for too long, and he even brings in past elements from time to time. His art also improves over time; the lines seem a bit more confident and strong, and his portraits of non-anthropomorphic characters are also a lot more nuanced and expressive. When Worley starts drawing Edna Purviance (a co-star of Charlie Chaplin’s from the 1920s), it’s with a gentle subtlety that wasn’t present in those early chapters.

A Waste of Time ended up being most definitely not a waste of time; it’s interesting watching Worley’s skills as a storyteller grow and improve, and how the collected format increases the strength of his later storylines. I’m glad that Northwest Press collected Worley’s comics; I’d never heard of him before, but I’m interested in enough to want to read more of his work. His frankness might scare some people off, but I think it’s ultimately one of his strong points. No matter what the situation is, Worley’s going to attack it head-on in A Waste of Time.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

1 comment to A Waste of Time