When I tried to Google H-Boyz to get an image of their debut comic book, the first thing the search engine turned up was the official Hardy Boys website. Granted, I typed “boys” instead of “boyz,” but Google has never been further off base. Where the Hardy Boys were a pair of clean-cut young men who followed in their father’s footsteps by starting their own detective agency, the latter-day H-Boyz are a pair of degenerate heroin addicts who wallow in their own filth and sleep with their decrepit landlady in lieu of paying rent. This is not a critique of H-Boyz, just a fact about the comic book.
As far as my critique goes, this is a rare instance where you actually can judge a book by looking at the cover. If you like stories about angry young punks with heroin habits, then you’ll love H-Boyz. This isn’t, of course, to be dismissive. H-Boys reads like a cross between Robert Crumb and Hubert Selby, Jr. — or, more accurately, a comic book retelling of Requiem for a Dream from a hardcore death-rock perspective. What’s more, the title of the comic places it in the company of the “H is for…” exploitation novels of the 1950′s and 60′s — e.g., Lloyd Rice’s H is for Hell!, David Hulburd’s H is for Heroin, J.X. Williams’ H is for Harlot, and their H-centric cousins, Allan Horn’s A Taste of H, and Evan Hunter’s Quartet in H. Like its predecessors, H-Boyz walks a fine line between glamorizing drug use (if the squalor of the boyz’ rundown apartment can be considered “glamorous”) and illustrating its fallout. The H-Boyz have, after all, pretty much hit a wall with their music careers and can barely pay the rent — even if they do manage to delude themselves into believing they have a future in music.
Like the book’s writing, the art of H-Boyz is as disturbing as it is bizarre, and though the “adult content” warning on the cover is certainly warranted, it also raises questions about the meaning of “adult.” A lot of the humor revolves around bodily functions, so the comic takes on a strong Jackass vibe at times. Among the more inspired pieces of scatology, however, is an odd fantasy sequence titled “H-Boyz Starring in Tadpole Tales,” in which the boyz and a host of other characters appear as sperm making their way toward some unseen goal inside their landlady’s body.
The promotional materials that came with my copy of H-Boyz #1 proclaim that the comic heralds the resurrection of the great American underground comix movement. From what I’ve seen, this may well be the case. God help us all.