So, who’s this “Dave” guy you heard mentioned in our last segment here, anyway? Yeah, okay, you may have gathered that he’s the central figure in John Smith and Sean Phillips’ Straitgate, but beyond that, what’s he all about? What’s his story? What’s he up to? What’s his definition of a good time?
You sure do have a lot of questions — so I suppose we may as well take them in something resembling the order you (shit, who are we fooling, I) asked them.
First up, Dave’s in his late teens or early twenties (and, according to at least one online reviewer, hails from an “immigrant” background, although for my own part I can find no actual evidence, or even any freaking clues, in the story itself to either justify or refute this assumption). His creators never specify his exact age, true, but judging from his youthful appearance and relative station on life, I’d peg him as being 19 at the youngest, maybe 21 at the oldest. He lives in a rooming house, works at a convenience store, and is either a college dropout or else never even bothered starting. His friends — to the extent that he has any — are all off at university, and Dave fancies himself something of a learned individual (okay, truth be told he usually thinks he’s the smartest person in the room, one of several annoying character traits he possesses), but, like a lot of people in his (fair enough, entirely assumed) age bracket, he seems to have a certain amount of difficulty when it comes to actually applying himself to much of anything. I can certainly relate, being that I suffered that same semi-hideous flaw myself when I was around his age — and there are those who would argue (among them my parents, my brother, my co-workers, my friends and, crucially, my wife) that I still do. But bless ‘em all for putting up with me, anyway.
Our guy Dave, though — he’s not necessarily so easy to put up with. And that really doesn’t seem to bother him in the least. In fact, he’s so certain of his smug superiority that he’s busy constructing for himself a fairly elaborate fantasy world that conforms to his self-absorbed-yet-pathetically-quaint notion that he’s the most singularly unique and important individual that’s ever lived. Screw this dull “reality” set-up that society has constructed around him with no input from him whatsoever — he’s increasingly drawn to his own world, where his thoughts, feelings, and impulses reign supreme and everyone else is just sort of passing through at his discretion.
In a way, you can’t really blame the guy — after all, by most folks’ standards his life doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans. He’s got no dad to speak of, his mother’s dying in a hospital bed, his job sucks, his housing situation sucks even worse, and most nights he’s really got nothing to do and no one to do it with. Faced with a situation that relentlessly bleak, I’d probably be pretty tempted to construct an interior “reality” where I actually mattered, as well.
There’s just one relatively major rub — Dave’s fantasy world is no Walter Mitty-esque flight of fancy and adventure, it’s a decidedly brutal and judgmental realm of non-existence with disturbing dashes of fatalism and outright nihilism thrown in for less-than-good measure. You know how Midwestern podunks like myself say “nice place to visit, wouldn’t want to live there” about places like L.A. or Orlando or Miami or Las Vegas (no offense to any of you fine readers who actually do, ya know, live in those cities)? Well, “Planet Dave” isn’t even a place you’d particularly want to visit.
Unless you’re a sick, twisted, irredeemable fuck like myself. And if you are, then John Smith and Sean Phillips are certainly the two best tour guides you could ever possibly hope for, because they sure do know how to imbue Dave’s twisted, far-from-ideal world with an uncomfortable degree of authenticity. Reading Straitgate makes you feel flat-out unclean — and well it should, since that’s the whole point.
So I guess that’s “what’s he all about?,” “what’s his story?,’” and “what’s he up to?” more or less covered — at least in the most basic, broad strokes. As for what his idea of a good time is — trust me, you don’t even want to know. But, like more or less everything else about the young fella, you’re going to find out anyway as our series progresses.