Written by Matthew Pardue
I’m feeling much better than I was last week, so here’s Mike: Bookseller. April showed it to me, like I said; she noticed a growing trend in my disclaimers and thought I might like a webcomic with a lighter tone to break things up. After reading through the six hundred and fifty pages of Mike: Bookseller (let’s just go with Bookseller from here on out), I’m not sure I’d classify it as lighthearted, precisely, but it’s certainly less gruesome than, say, Unsounded, particularly if you ignore the strips where Mike beats up Santa, loses his hand, or punches through someone’s mouth and out the back of their head. Books are serious business, you see.
Maybe you saw my short post last Wednesday, in which case you might remember me saying that Bookseller is about all the annoying things that happen at work. Some pages depict good days, but for the most part, Mike (the character, not the author; I’ll come back to this a few times, I’m sure) runs through a gauntlet of problems that either send him into a violent rage or simply make him wearily frustrated. Given that the hero of our story is an author avatar and several others in the comic are based on real people he works with, this pretty clearly started as a way to vent after work. That’s also, coincidentally, the main reason to read Bookseller, so the word of the day is definitely “catharsis.”
You will not find a more relatable comic, unless you’re living on a deserted island (in which case you need to send me the name of your internet provider so I can switch) or you’re at the top of a corporate ladder (in which case you better have a sense of humor before picking this up, since a good quarter of the jokes will be at your expense). Everybody’s experienced at least a few of the things that Mike Lugaresi (by the way, the author’s full name is Mike Lugaresi) depicts, and if you aren’t retired, there’s a good chance you’ll run into such a problem today. Bookseller is best for anyone working in retail, or perhaps the restaurant business; I showed it to a friend in the former and spent the next two hours getting a mix of excited and angry messages about how the comic is dead-on and reflects his own daily struggles. Still, even outside that demographic, surely you’ve had at least one boss you didn’t like:
Or a coworker you couldn’t stand:
And everybody who’s ever had customers or clients has seen how all our IQs drop a good thirty points when we’re in a workplace other than our own:
I love my job, and I still can’t get away from the last one; I can’t count how many times people have come up to our office door, stood by our book displays and the big sign reading “University Press of North Georgia,” and asked us if we’re Graduate Admissions. This happened literally an hour ago at time of writing, and I’d be lying if, after the second or third time in a single day, I said I hadn’t daydreamed about helpfully leading such people down the hall and flinging them through a third story window.
That’s pretty much the comic; I could stop here, but I think I’ll talk a bit about something I quickly wondered after I started reading, since it might’ve crossed your mind too. If Lugaresi (for the purpose of this review, Mike is the character and Lugaresi is the author; the confusion is never more pronounced than when Lugaresi talks about his protagonist by name and ends up reminding me of Dobby from Harry Potter) based his writings on his many years of working in a book store, which still employs him, and outright lifted some things wholesale, what do his bosses think about this comic? Given that, you know, he seems to straight-up hate most of them and frequently criticizes real company policies. And that he claims to have a following of fifteen thousand fans as of about two hundred and fifty strips ago, meaning that it’s probably grown further by now and they’re all reading about this company’s bad decisions. Lugaresi never actually says who he works for, instead using “Booksellers,” but he does talk about the Nook (his opinion of it is pretty low, for yet another nail in the corporate coffin). It took me all of ten seconds to bring this information to Wikipedia and figure out where he works (I should’ve known who makes the Nook anyway, being part of a press that pushes digital books and all, but whatever). His employers needed a few hundred strips longer than me to make that connection, but eventually they took issue with it. Lugaresi’s response?
If you go to the actual page, below the comic is a letter about his bosses, their discussion, and his general unwillingness to stop or change his work on the grounds of free speech. Good for him, although I’m not sure how he got away with his job intact. Thousands of readers potentially willing to boycott somebody might’ve had something to do with it.
I figured I’d mention it, in case you were curious about how Lugaresi’s work and webcomic interlace. Other than that, the last thing I have to say is a repeat of a bit from my first paragraph: there’s some violence to be found here. It never gets too graphic, but you see blood and whatnot, and sometimes a character will threaten another with some pretty specific torture. Various adult topics are also referenced. I don’t think Bookseller gets crude about it, though. By the time you’re old enough to work without violating United States labor laws, nothing in the comic should shock you. Prior to that age, you probably won’t get much entertainment from it anyway because you haven’t yet been put under a manager you wanted to set on fire (then again, I guess parents might count).
Give the first page a look; I think you’ll like it.