One of the great loves of my life is the art of film-making. To most of my friends I am a virtual Wikipedia when it comes to film facts and anecdotes. So much so that they’ve bestowed upon me the nickname, “Mr. IMDB” (yes as in Internet Movie Database). So it should come as no surprise that I’ve seen the American Film Institute’s #1 choice for the best American film ever made, director Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” (1941). With this one movie (Welles’ first feature), the director (along with cinematographer Gregg Toland) created techniques that are still being used in film today. Welles’ would go on to direct many more classics such as The Third Man (1949), Othello (1952), Touch of Evil (1958), and Chimes at Midnight (1965), to name a few.
However, it was a film he never had the chance to make that my mind can’t let go of… an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s short novel, Heart of Darkness. The novel revolves around a river boat captain by the name of Charles Marlowe, contracted by an ivory trading company, to sail up Africa’s Congo River to engage the chief of one of their most prosperous trading outposts, the mysterious and (possibly mentally unhinged) Mr. Kurtz. This film was intended to be Welles’ first feature, but was abandoned (due to budgetary constraints), and the director went on to film Citizen Kane. The novel was eventually adapted by director Francis Ford Coppola for the film Apocalypse Now (1979) and set during the Vietnam War, with actors Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, playing Willard (the Marlowe character) and Kurtz respectively. Although I thought Coppola’s version was brilliantly executed, I can’t help but wonder what might have been if Welles was able to give us his own vision of Conrad’s story. And to me, that is what writer-artist Justin Melkmann’s book “Slap in the Face: My Obsession with GG Allin” is a story of: what might have been.
Slap in the Face is Melkmann’s personal story of meeting one of punk rock’s most notorious frontmen, Kevin Michael “GG” Allin, and his efforts to film a documentary about the singer. The book traces Melkmann’s first exposure to Allin’s music during his tenure at a college radio station, his first meeting with his idol and their relationship (before Allin’s tragic death by accidental overdose), and his efforts to make the documentary with the cooperation of Allin’s brother Merle. Unfortunately, the documentary was never completed and Melkmann’s attempts to tell Allin’s story in the comic format were derailed by a cease and desist letter from Merle. What Melkmann decided to do was nothing short of inspired, instead choosing to tell HIS story of his infatuation with the Allin. In many respects, the “Heart of Darkness” analogy is fitting, the difference being Melkmann having met his “Kurtz” (Allin) before his journey of uncertainty begins.
I was first introduced to this book by my friend Annemarie, who is friends with Melkmann. I was well aware of GG Allin (having watched some of his videotaped gigs on Youtube) and when Annemarie told me of what Melkmann had gone through to produce Slap in the Face, needless to say, I was fascinated. The book is well structured and is injected with as much humor as drama. The art is reminiscent of the best of the independent comic books, in the vein of Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor and the works of Robert Crumb and it does an admirable job of reflecting the spirit of the subject.
As comic reviewers, most of the books we write-up are steeped in the cape, sci-fi, and horror genre… mostly fiction. Rarely do I get to review a book about a person’s Life. And although Melkmann was denied his opportunity to tell Allin’s story, he was good enough to tell us his.
And I find it no less riveting.
5 out of 5
Want to read it?
Buy it at the Dispatches from the Underground store: http://dftunderground.storenvy.com/collections/79770-all-products/products/378333-slap-in-the-face-my-obsession-with-ggallin
and go check out Justin’s Facebook page!