I'm a big fan of Jeffrey Rowland's surreal diary comic Overcompensating. It took me a while to read through the archives when I first started, but I thought it was worth it, especially since I think it's gotten better as it goes along. Like Achewood, I think Overcompensating has a wonderful way of using language - even if most of the time it's Weedmaster P calling someone a dick ass in a new and fun way. Rowland is able to write dialect in a way that still feels authentic - that's really difficult to do. But when you read the characters in Overcompensating, they sound like real people.
I also like the fact that his characters will be wearing shirts that change text randomly or they will all be wearing costumes, and no one will comment on this.
None of that is particularly relevant here, I just want to establish that I like Overcompensating a lot, and have high hopes for Mr. Rowland's future both with his comic and with the TopatoCo empire he has forged with his own robot arms.
Point being, when I heard he was making an Overcompensating book, I was very excited. Then I thought to myself, "why did this take so long? he has about 6 years of archives - he could have released a book years ago." Then I went back to being excited.
Thanks to David Malki, I got myself a copy of the book (THANKS DAVID MALKI!) and then proceeded to wait several weeks before writing a review, because I was lazy. But also because I realized the review was going to be very long. For example, we are several paragraphs in and I have still told you nothing about the Overcompensating Book except that it is a book.
Here's the deal with the book: I was disappointed. Some of this was the fact that this book, being Volume I, was full of the early comics - from the first (a classic example of forcing a bad punchline on a not-as-bad comic) to the one where Jeffrey moves from Oklahoma to Massachusetts. The fact is, they aren't great comics - yet. The later comics are better. It roughly corresponds to the quality of the art - which has a flat, far more cartoonish look to it at the beginning. It's also true that putting the comic into black and white takes away some of the energy and fun of the full color comics. I recognize that color printing would seriously increase the cost of the book, but it's also true that it would increase the quality of the final work. Would it be worth it? I don't know - I don't know what the costs would be.
But my real problem is this: The comics themselves are overrun with extra text. Here - I'll show you the image they have on the product description page:
Now, I realize that this is the exact opposite of the criticism I had for Kate Beaton's Never Learn Anything From History. In that case, I wrote that I was disappointed by how little she wrote about her comics. Nonetheless, I feel like I'm justified here - the problem with A Dangerous Obsession isn't so much the amount of text - though really, it's pretty crazy - it's that it's not all that interesting or relevant. It's mostly just random conspiracy theories of the sort that are occasionally funny in very small doses but are present here by the dozen. The stories just get boring after a while, and distract from the comic - especially when they are physically breaking up the comic itself, as in the left-most example in the image above. At some point I just wanted Rowland to leave his comics alone and let me read them, and not interrupt to tell me about the original version of Ghostbusters and how it was a documentary that made viewers go mad. I think a good example of the right balance to strike - both in tone and quantity - was the way Chris Onstad did it in the Achewood book.
All that said, the quality of Overcompensating: A Dangerous Obsession is made to look far better when compared with the atrocious introduction by one "Andrew W. K." The introduction actually goes for the middle school trick of "I don't know what to write about so I am going to write this introduction about writing this introduction." Mr. W. K. comes off as a huge tool here and in his other portrayals in the comic, and I hope to never have to deal with him again.
Also, just a caveat emptor sort of thing here: there is a picture of Rowland's horrible spider bite necrosis, and it is towards the beginning, and it is not as bad in black and white.
Final grade: C+. It pains me to write it, and I still love the comic - but for now, I'd say to stick with the online version. forgive me jeffrey.