The first time I bought Kill Your Boyfriend, it was nothing more than a listing on Amazon. I had no idea who Grant Morrison was. I had no idea who Phillip Bond was. I doubt I even knew was Vertigo was. But with a title like that, who could resist?
It’s almost impossible for me to do this comic justice. It’s like someone putting A Clockwork Orange, a greek tragedy and a Buzzcocks track into a blender, then injecting it into your skull using their fist. It’s every moment of teenage nihilism played out free from any negative consequence or moral obstruction. An intensely dark comedy/romance about blowing yourself up and seeing what survives when the dust clears.
With a description like that, it’s probably a little damning to admit that Kill Your Boyfriend was the one of the few things that I think helped make me who I am. As a teenager, I’d long since realised that when a movie, or teacher, or parent encourages you to “be yourself”, what they actually mean is “Be yourself, within the established boundaries of acceptibility.” What Kill Your Boyfriend said to me was: “Be yourself, AT ANY COST.” That’s a nice thing to hear when you’re 15. Some people heard it from rock music, or a film, or a book. I, somoewhat predictably, found it in a comic.
It certainly helped that the comic, despite being American, was made so deeply British by Morrison and Bond. The fact that it played out in British anytown suburbia and ended at the top of Blackpool tower made me feel like the target audience in a way no comic ever had. Even The Beano, which is aimed straight at British children, plays up to some idealised version of post-war Britain that, for me, only ever existed in fiction. This story felt like it could have happen in my town. I also loved the fact that the main character spoke directly to you (a device I’ve since been a complete sucker for) although in retrospect, I suspect I was so enthusiastic about it because not very many girls were actually talking to me at the time.
Anyway, the reason I own two copies is because, quite simply, I read my first one to death. First learning its message. then later, pulling apart its techniques. If you sliced me open down the middle, you’d find this comic running right through me. When the comic was re-issued a couple of years ago in a marginally more robust Prestige Format (with extras!) I had to buy it again, just for the chance to re-read it like it was new. There are few things in the world that I’d describe as “perfect”, but Kill Your Boyfriend is one of them.