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Bigg Time

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When I first read the subtitle of Ty Templeton’s graphic novel Bigg Time: A Farcical Fable of Fleeting Fame (Vertigo), I must admit I was not enthused. Another satire of disposable celebhood – was there anything new that cartoonist Templeton would be able to wring out of this overdiscussed subject?
Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean the writer/artist can’t make a few good jokes along the way.
Bigg Time is the story of Lester Bigg, a ranting street denizen who accidentally (after pissing on the third rail) gains the ability to see and hear his guardian angel, a burnt-out “earthbound celestial being, third class” named Stavros. Bigg forces his angel to help him attain his big wish, which is to be famous. Said goal isn’t as easy as it looks, however – especially when you’re an unattractive, balding wreck like Lester.
Our hero acquires an agent after Stavros impersonates an alien (seems many of our big league power brokers’ve been regularly abducted and submitted to anal probes). This gambit secures Les a speaking role on a big-budget action flick, a recording contract to sing a hiphop version of “Stayin’ Alive,” plus a chance to play on a high-rated game show entitled Who Can Survive Becoming a Millionaire? Of course, he blows ‘em all.
In between, Les ineptly tries to woo a gorgeous, but slightly cracked hair technician named Shelly. He dangles the promise of a meeting with his brother Lance, a celeb baseball player, to pique her interest – a fool’s ploy, indeed, as we all know where it’s gonna end once the starstruck blond sees Les’ handsomer bro in the flesh. Yeah, our hero’s an idiot: only way he’ll achieve lasting fame is through a fatal accident.
Along the way, Templeton (who previously trafficked in comically cosmic matters w./ Stig’s Inferno) gets to ponder bigger questions. Stavros has been tossing obstacles in front of Les all his life. But where Bigg sees this as proof that fate has conspired against him, for Stavros it’s just a means of staving off the boredom of his “dead-end human shepherd job.” It’s the poverty of Bigg’s dreams that oppresses him: “Wanting to be famous,” the angel notes, “is sucking the ego nipple without ‘doing’ anything!”
There’s more to the story, but to even parse the workings of Templeton’s convoluted philosophical farce is to spoil some of the better jokes. Cartoonishly rendered in black-and-white (over the years, Templeton has been paying the bills by drawing kid’s comic book versions of DC’s superheroes – and he has a clean, straightforward style), Bigg Time is the product of a kid raised on Capracorn fantasy, Kurtzman’s Mad and the rare spurt of Serling-esque whimsy. “I don’t want . . . any of that O. Henry twist ending crap you supernatural beings are so fond of,” Bigg tells Stavros at one point, even as he (and we) know that’s precisely what he’s gonna get.
It’s to Templeton’s credit that even when we’re sure we know where his story is going, he’s still able to thrown enough good spin to keep us chuckling.
At one point in the story, Les’ spirit guide magically “convinces” big name comic book creators Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Tod McFarlane and Art Spiegelman to work uncredited on a graphic novel under Bigg’s name. “You will acclaimed as the greatest comic creator in North America,” Stavros brags as his charge flips through the pages of this ghosted opus.

“I thought you were supposed to be trying make me famous,” Les grouses back.
Clearly, Ty Templeton has not been holding too tightly onto the “ego nipple.”

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.