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inner city romance 5
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 2
total score 9
Inner City Romance #5
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Only Printing / February, 1979 / 36 pages / Last Gasp Eco-Funnies
For the first time in this series, Guy Colwell presents five different short stories instead of one full-length story in Inner City Romance #5. In his autobiographical art book, Central Body, the Art of Guy Colwell, Colwell states that he chose to produce some short stories because they could be reprinted in magazines and anthologies much easier than a whole book, thereby earning him more money. Indeed, some of the stories from this issue were picked up by various publishers for reprinting in Europe and the United States. Inner City Romance #5 is also the last issue in this series, and the last comic book Colwell would produce for about a decade, until he returned with Doll.

Two of the five stories in this book are wordless yet joyful depictions of a man and a woman preparing for and then making love. The first is the opening story in the book, the couple is black, and they have sex indoors. The second story is the last in the book, the couple is white, and they have sex outside on a bed of clover. The first story may be slightly more intriguing due to the scenes leading up to the sex, and the artwork that hangs on their walls.

The second story in the book is called "Down Up" and features a skinny woman and a fat man, both feeling the severe effects of amphetamines (for the woman) and barbituates (for the man). The woman is talking a mile a minute and the man is barely cognizant of his surroundings. She takes a barbituate from him to "even out" her high and he takes an amphetamine from her to do the same thing. They go to her place to have sex, but like two ships passing in the night, their artificially induced states of mind never meet. It's an amusing story and the characters are portrayed as realistic, uniquely individual personalities by Colwell.

The third story runs eight pages and is the most ambitious in the book. It's called "Interkids" and stars a nameless black boy about eight years old who lives in the inner city. He is sent out by his mother to pick up milk at the store for his baby sister, but must resist the temptation of going with his friends to see a fire that just broke out in a nearby building, while also avoiding the bullies that are always looking to shake him down.

He picks up the milk but does end up encountering the bullies, who let him go this time since he spent all his cash. After taking the milk back to his apartment, he races out to catch the end of the building fire with his friends. There's also a harmless old drunk in an alleyway who provides comic relief and gives the kids a chance to demonstrate some humanity.

"Interkids" is filled with moments when you think something very dramatic or catastrophic is about to happen, but then Colwell neatly slips past the incident and moves on with the story. It seems quite reflective of what life must be like for children in the ghetto, when at any moment on any day your life might change forever or even end, but instead you make it through the day and the week and the month...and most kids actually grow up without getting killed. "Interkids" presents this reality in a "slice of life" story that feels nostalgic without tasting saccharine.

The fourth story, "Sex Crime," is much more harrowing, as it relates a tragic tale of a young woman who is tracked down by a rapist on a deserted street at night. The rapist holds her at gunpoint and begins to rape her, but another man happens by and intercedes, beating the rapist to death. At first the woman is grateful, but then the other man turns on her as well, attempting to rape her. As she struggles against him, she manages to grab the gun from the first rapist and kills the second rapist. The gun shots attract the notice of a third man, the only black in the story, who arrives on the scene asking if the terrified woman is all right. The warm gun is still in her hand, and she's already been fooled once by a "concerned citizen." She won't get fooled again.

There's not a weak story in Inner City Romance #5, and one ("Interkids") even has the cinematic sweep of the longer form stories from previous issues. While I am very happy that Guy Colwell was able to pursue and achieve some success in the field of fine art painting, I only wish he considered comic books as a more legitimate and everlasting expression of art than he does. Colwell makes his feelings quite clear in his autobiography, and I can't say he's entirely wrong, but I think he underestimates the potential power of combining words and pictures in sequential form. As Frank Stack told Patrick Rosenkranz in Rebel Visions, "My own feeling is that Robert Crumb is more likely to survive the judgments of history than Jasper Johns, Mark di Suvero, or Jim Dine. I hope so." Regardless of his "Choices," I wish Colwell the best as he lives out his life as a memorable and exceptionally talented fine artist.
Last Gasp printed approximately 10,000 copies of this comic book. It has not been reprinted.
Guy Colwell - 1-36