So starts Byron Wilkins’s trip into nostalgia, a semi-autobiographical story of four youngsters trying to form a band and generally have loads of fun in the ‘Me’ decade (as Tom Wolfe put it.) The band is made up of main character Bud (bass), Robyn (drums), Troubles (singer) and Jeff (guitar) and we follow them as they try and get an agent, get a record out and, more often than not, get wasted.
The story begins with Bud approaching middle age and in the impossible position of having to convince his moody teenage daughter that he was cool once. Anyone who has kids can relate to this situation - who hasn't tried to get their teenage son or daughter to listen to a little Led Zeppelin or get them to believe that flares and big hair were once the 'in' thing? The only way you can do it is the way Bud does; by telling a cool story. This is the framework for the entire comic, and from here we are taken way back to 1977 when Jimmy Carter was president and Fleetwood Mac were winning Grammies.
Byron's artwork is simple, clear and colourful, and he really brings to life the decade it is set in with loose clothing and puffy hair. The styles of the time are idealised and it is obvious Byron himself misses the decade and probably considers them his glory years. I could relate to this completely and I guess you will be able to as well - we can all think back to a time where we were the coolest we'll ever be, where we walked down the street with a confident strut and where we'd walk into the club and get high-fives left, right and centre. Well, maybe not the last part, but we all had a time when our coolness was at its peak. Maybe yours is right now, but you just don't realise. Byron Wilkins’s was the seventies.
Bud is a lovable stoner and beer drinker who opens up the tale of his youth by getting the shock of his life when he finds out his girlfriend is late. Not late for dinner or late for a date, no. This is the kind of late every teenage boy has nightmares about. Bud, though, is oblivious at first, and he infuriates Delilah with his naive question of "How could you be late if I didn't know you we're coming over?” This questions sums up the young bud. He is naive, carefree and definitely not ready to grow up. Luckily for him he doesn’t have to because the baby isn’t his. It turns out Delilah has been cheating on him, and this sets Bud off on some soul searching for the first time ever.
There's a streak of humour shot through the stories which Byron uses to add a softer side to even some of the more serious subjects. It lets the reader settle in and relax knowing that this webcomic will be an easy going read, not hard hitting soul-wrenching drama. This in turn is perfect for the mood of the time. People wanted to live life to the full, have fun and make music with their pals. They didn't want to agonise over the darker subjects of life. Perhaps this is why Byron has such a nostalgia for 1977; as an adult he probably has adult-sized things to worry about now, and who among us hasn't looked back at our youth when we had nothing to care about and nothing worrying us, and wished they could revisit it?
Going hand in hand with the humour are some truly surreal moments which sometimes aren't explained properly. I guess the idea of something being surreal means that it actually defies any sort of explanation, but in the comic it did leave me wondering what to expect of 1977's genre and story world. An example would be early on when, in the space of one frame, Bud is transformed into a buxom brunette beauty. I didn't know whether it was a metaphor for the emotional issues he was going through, or whether he actually had physically transformed into a lady.
Bearing in mind that Bud was telling this story to his own teenage daughter, does this mean he told her that he transformed into a lady in his youth, or was my poor brain just struggling to understand a metaphor? Probably the latter. Either way the surreal aspects do lead on to some funny jokes and story setups, so I understand their inclusion in the comic. It adds to the fun atmosphere and makes things interesting.
Another thing that will be of particular interest to any teenage boys in the audience is the sheer amount of cleavage on show. Both Lorraine and Robyn refuse point blank to wear bras and consequently always have their nipples poking through their shirts. I can imagine Bud and Jeff had a hard time trying to look them in the eyes when they spoke to them, and if this is based on Byron's youth then I can imagine he has developed severe neck strain later in life.
I don't think he is being gratuitous though, he's just keeping things authentic. As he said in a discussion with one of his readers, there was a very open atmosphere back then. Because of this, as well as the music, I completely understand why Byron thinks that the 70s was the best decade and although I didn't grow up in it, through Byron's fun and heartfelt comic I got to experience a little bit of it. That’s why I’m glad that Byron is still as passionate about 1977 as he was when he started the webcomic way back in 2009.
Byron is currently working on a 1977 comic book set to hit both print and digital shelves in February 2014. Read 1977 here.