♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Cundle reviews Punks Not Dead: Teenage Kicks by David Barnett And Martin Simmonds, out now from Black Crown Pub…
Punks Not Dead: Teenage Kicks
Writer: David Barnett
Artist: Martin Simmonds
Colourist: Adi Bidikar
Letters: Dee Cunniffe (Black Crown / IDW)
I imagine the only thing that David Barnett has in common with Wattie Buchan is their adherence to, and faith in, the tenet that later became a battle cry for so many disenfranchised, disavowed teenagers and young adults, Punks Not Dead. But while one of them used it to foster a near four-decade cultural stereotype and ‘shock tactic’ that he still rigidly clings to despite having little understanding of the deeper, more philosophical aspects of the movement he claims to love, the other used it as springboard to launch, and a title for, a balls-out, anything goes tale of mysticism, magic, teenage angst, music , social decay, the crippling effects of the outdated, but rigidly enforced, class system and all manner of strange occult happenings and things that go bump in the night. And while punk may not be dead (trust me, it really isn’t and never was), one of the main protagonists in Barnett and Simmonds tale of modern alienation most certainly is.
It’s difficult to even know where to begin when trying to explain Punks Not Dead as there’s so much going on and revolves around so many seemingly disparate threads that eventually begin to weave together. Ostensibly, it’s the story of Fergie Ferguson, a fifteen-year-old social misfit whose mother pimps him around mid-morning talk shows and plasters him all over the pages of puerile gossip magazines in a series of duplicitous familial fictions as bizarre means to keep the wolf from their door, who in the immediate aftermath of “befriending” the ghost of an incredibly well-known punk “icon” discovers that he really is special. Not the kind of special that over-anxious parents repeatedly tell their mediocre children that they are in an attempt to nullify their common averageness, but the sort of special that manifests itself in godlike psychic and other-worldly powers that wreak havoc in his quiet corner of the world.
But as Ben Parker once famously told his nephew, “With great power comes great responsibility” and being a teenager, Fergie’s sense of responsibility is limited at best and with quite possible the most irresponsible dead punk rocker that ever lived continually whispering in his ear, any hope of Fergie keeping his head down and laying low goes straight out of the window. This results in all manner of chaos and brings him and his spectral companion to the attention of Department for Extra-Usual Affairs, a government department that’s sort of like a cross between Rentaghost and Ghostbusters which is managed and manned by a foul-mouthed sixty something witch who, as well as having more secrets than the Stasi, approaches life in much the same manner as Austin Powers at the height of a three-day amphetamine binge. And that’s without taking into account the demons, the bullies, unrequited teenage love and trying to fit in a world run by round holes which regularly rejects and disdains square pegs like Fergie. Like I said, there’s a lot going on and I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Life, as that stalwart of eighties culture Ferris Bueller informed his audience, moves pretty fast and Teenage Kicks moves even faster. Building layer upon complex, yet infinitely relatable, layer of plot David’s Barnett’s story is a reminder of just how horribly difficult it is to be a teenager at the best of times, that great things often come from the most humble of origins and that incredible music, unlike those who create it, isn’t a victim of the passage of time. Brought into being by the smash-mouth, hauntingly beautiful art of Martin Simmonds, Teenage Kicks is the sort of hyper-speed, completely involving book that’s impossible to put down or not become completely immersed in once you start reading it and I really believe that Simmonds and Barnett are just getting warmed up and that the best is yet to come. Teenage Kicks is the beginning of something wonderful…
Punks Not Dead Teenage Kicks is out now in trade paperback