One of the best parts of attending comic conventions is the opportunity to discover new books and the passionate writers and artists that create them. At Baltimore Comic Con, we came across Cliff Galbraith, a New Jersey native who started in comic books, branched out to TV and then returned to his first love. Keep reading for our impressions of one of his newly published comic books, Unbearable.
Written, drawn, inked and colored by Galbraith and co-written by J.C. Luz (Galbraith’s wife), Unbearable follows the downward spiral of an unemployed 40-something man named Ben Freeman who spends his days drinking and playing video games with his friends instead of looking for a job. Even after his fed-up girlfriend gives Ben an ultimatum — land a job by the end of the month or get dumped — he barely makes an effort to appease her, instead getting easily roped into doing some inane favor for, and getting drunk with, his dead-end friends.
According to Galbraith, this story was originally meant for an animated TV sitcom, and it’s not hard to believe. One can almost hear where the laugh track would be when reading through the panels as all the requisite comedic beats are hit when Ben’s friends continue to make things worse for him. Galbraith’s art gives the further impression that you’re reading the storyboards for an animated TV show, utilizing very simple character designs and backgrounds.
Watching Ben’s actions is like watching a train wreck, as you know that his carelessness will cause some serious problems for him but you don’t know exactly how. For that reason, Unbearable is an engrossing read. The book’s co-writer Luz worked as a bartender in an Irish Pub in New Jersey and can remember the stories she heard from the clientele, which some of these characters are based on. This lends a realistic (and for some, surely, relatable) level to the main character and his friends.
Ben’s girlfriend is a stereotypical woman who puts up with the crap that her boyfriend does on a daily basis for no real reason — a staple of modern sitcoms. His friends are portrayed as being enablers to his bad habits and their individual personalities are fleshed out just enough to show that they’re all selfish bums who knowingly assist Ben in ruining his life while making no effort to improve their own.
Unbearable is an unassuming book that manages to entertain from beginning to end. The dialogue is all perfectly natural and believable and the main protagonist is surprisingly uncompromising in his crappiness as a person, specifically at the end of the book when he’s more concerned about losing material possessions than losing his significant other.
Unbearable is worth a read for both the comic and Galbraith’s humorous and sentimental afterword that explains the story’s origins.