By Mannie Murphy. Published by Fantagraphics.
Hardcover, 232 pages, Monochrome, 2021.
In this graphic novel, what begins as an affectionate reminiscence of the author's 1990s teenage infatuation with the late actor River Phoenix morphs into a remarkable, sprawling account of the city of Portland and state of Oregon's dark history of white nationalism.
Mannie Murphy is a gender queer Portland native. This work of graphic nonfiction, told in the style of an illustrated diary, begins as an affectionate reminiscence of the author's 1990s teenage infatuation with the late actor River Phoenix but morphs into a remarkable, sprawling account of the city of Portland and state of Oregon's dark history of white nationalism. Murphy details the relationship between white supremacist Tom Metzger (former KKK Grand Wizard and founder of the White Aryan Resistance) and the "Rose City" street kids like Ken Death that infiltrated Van Sant's films -- a relationship that culminates in an infamous episode of Geraldo. Murphy brilliantly weaves 1990s alternative culture, from Kurt Cobain and William Burroughs to Keanu Reeves and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with two centuries of the Pacific Northwest's shameful history as a hotbed for white nationalism: from the Whitman massacre in 1847 and the Ku Klux Klan's role in Portland's city planning in the early 1900s to the brutal treatment of Black people displaced in the 1948 Vanport flood and through the 2014 armed standoff with Cliven Bundy's cattle ranch. In Murphy's personal reflections and heart-racing descriptions of scenes like infamous campfire kiss in My Own Private Idaho, the artist's story becomes a moral anchor to a deeply amoral regional history and marks the incredible debut of a talented new voice to the graphic medium.
"Reading occasionally like true crime and raising provocative questions about masculinity, power, and art, this unique graphic novel critically examines queer cinema and pokes holes in the rosy, naive view of the Pacific Northwest as a progressive stronghold." — Booklist (Starred Review)
"This stunning and original debut graphic novel weaves Portland, Oregon's not-often-talked-about history of white nationalism, masculinity and hate with reminiscences of 1990s alt-culture, queerness and power." — Ms. Magazine
"Murphy's piercing debut grants a sobering reflection on the depth and deadliness of American intolerance." — Publishers Weekly
"This crucial, original work relates a local history with candor and insight and is a gem not to be missed. It uses the book's complete form — its sensitive art, its skilled storytelling, its mistakes and indie structure — to capture a dark tale of youth via the observations of a wise narrator recalling what happened both as an adult now and, uniquely, as a kid when it went down." — Lambda Literary
"The book's visual style is stunning and just spot-on in conveying the gloomy menace of Murphy's world. This is the work of an important new voice in the graphic storytelling medium." — Newcity Lit