Writer & Artist: Simon Hanselmann
Release Date: August 28, 2014
Packaged like a DVD box set with an end-sheet inspired by John Everett Millais’ painting of Ophelia, Simon Hanselmann’s Megahex — a collection of his popular episodic comic — is much more ambitious than its stoner characters might initially suggest. The small cast features Megg (a witch), Mogg (a cat/Megg’s lover) and Owl (a humanoid owl); the trio share a house where they spend most of their time smoking weed, watching TV and going on misadventures that start out comedic and slowly turn tragic. It’s not just Megg’s depressive episodes, which are impressively bleak on their own, but the self-sabotaging behavior that all the characters participate in, revealing a deep, clear sadness behind the arching narrative.
Hanselmann fills his color palette with pinks, greens, whites and grays, and his style is fairly cartoony. This visual approach can soften the impact of the deviant events he depicts (vomiting, a cheese grater to the scrotum, cat-on-witch action, sexual assault among friends). On the other hand, he’d also be less likely to get away with drawing such graphic material under a more a realistic style, which is somewhat disturbing. (It’s no surprise that these strips run regularly in the sex and drugs-obsessed pages of Vice). But there’s much more here than shock value; Hanselmann’s repetitive grid mirrors the lack of progress in the story. As the story proceeds, this routine becomes less a liability and more the point of the book expressed over countless panels. It’s a new take on the Michael Corleone dilemma: every time they try to get out, something (inertia? laziness? fear?) keeps pulling them back in.
Is it funny when Megg and Mogg break into a convenience store after hours in the pitch dark, and steal pickled onions, 12 lemons, some mystery meat, mineral water and three boxes of “the bad Skittles”? Sure, but their increasing paranoia, feeble attempt to replace what they’ve taken and general inability to cope make the situation is as sad as it is amusing. This set-up keeps repeating, especially as Owl attempts to grow up and behave like an adult, only to find his friends/roommates committed to dragging him down to their level. There may be an abundance of stoner comedies, but very few stoner tragedies exist; Hanselmann’s subtle approach makes Megahex both at the same time, and reliably interesting even to those who have long since left behind extended adolescence.