"A teenage anarchist learns the essence of punk... in Podunk. It's a classic coming of angst story."
Memphis, 1984: TOMMY (15) is more sensitive than most. His mother CANDY (37) is an uncaring drunk and his father is a distant memory. Tommy loses himself in the city life of skateboarding, making noise on his electric guitar, and ANARCHY. Tommy feels trapped like his pet rat "Fink" that he keeps in his room, plastered in DIY flyers for bands that play at the local Antenna club (a venue he is too young to enter). So Tommy fantasizes about the punk rock life and what it must be like.
One night Tommy is caught spray-painting in a Memphis alleyway. In defiance, he throws a brick through a cops windshield. This action leads to Tommy being hauled one hundred miles away to a small town in Mississippi called Yamston to live with his absent mother's stern sister PAM (40) and her laid back husband JOE (42). Tommy takes his battered amp and guitar, his punk cassettes and the torn and frayed clothes on his back.
Aunt Pam expects Tommy to be one with the family, but Tommy would rather test their will. Tommy reveals at the supper table that he doesn't want to pray because he doesn't believe in God. Furthermore, he has no interest in going to school. Tommy's cousin, sixteen year old (loin cloth wearing) SAM is oblivious to the "anarchist", expecting Tommy to play in his Ted Nugent cover-band "White Wolf". Tommy puts Sam's taste in music down, bragging (lying) that he played in a punk band at the Antenna Club in Memphis.
Tommy, always with a chip on his shoulder, sees a Yamston deputy talking to a black kid. Tommy makes it a point to give the cop a civil-rights lesson before realizing everyone in this town knows each other - except for Tommy. African American bespectacled-intellectual SHERMAN (15) motorbikes Tommy around in his side-car and they become fast friends, eating burgers at a their favorite hangout Snappy Snacks. At an impromptu practice Tommy urges Sherman to play bass and Sam to play drums. The Angry Rednecks are born. And boy, are they awful.
Tommy had gone truant from school on the very first day but now tells his aunt Pam he will give it a chance if Pam convinces her sister Candy to come get him on his (soon to happen) 16th birthday. Pam reluctantly agrees, though she tells Tommy he can't depend on his mother. Tommy doesn't want to hear it. Meanwhile, Tommy's 10th grade english teacher has assigned Orwell's "1984" as a book project - and picked up on Tommy's "Dead Kennedys" reference, quoting the band's song "California Uber Alles" which references "Now it's 1984."
A beautiful chestnut haired English teacher originally from Memphis who admits to attending the Antenna Club and knows Dead Kennedy's lyrics? Tommy falls in love with his teacher NINA (but she is 25).
The next friend is no teenager either. Tommy has fun playing Dungeons & Dragons at the run-down mobile home of Sam's pot connection CHUCK (30). Tommy has never met an adult before like Chuck: a shirtless redneck-stoner-folk artist whose life seems to revolve around role-playing a bufoonish wizard, making pot-brownies, and waiting by the phone to get laid.
Sam and Sherman and a reluctant Tommy sneak out of the house for a road trip to Memphis. Tommy is finally caught in his lie when he is refused entrance to the Antenna Club in front of his friends. Sam and Sherman do not judge him and their bond grows tighter. It's a good thing. Moments later Tommy spots his mother Candy in the bar across the street. This leads to a battle royale with her drunken boyfriend in which Sam and Sherman come to the rescue. They return to Yamston with a few bruises and a new shared secret.
Frustrated at his inability to show Nina how he feels, Tommy begins to write a love song for her based on the lusty, filthy one liners that are written in her honor on the urinal of the boys room - while Pam puts into motion Tommy's sixteenth birthday that quickly backfires when neither his mother Candy nor the secret love of his life Nina decide to show. Unable to take the blare of "Cat Scratch Fever" from Sam's standby southern rock band "White Wolf", Tommy snaps, wrecks the party and smashes the Deputies windshield. In anger, Tommy tears off on Sherman's motorbike in search of Nina (and to escape the law).
Hiding from the police, Tommy secretly finds Nina at home, having sex with Chuck. Tommy's notions of fairness and love are shattered repeatedly. These people were beginning to grow on him, become his friends, now he realizes they're just like everybody else.
The reversals continue. Nina sends Tommy to the principal's office to get a paddling for misbehaving. Then Nina surprises an angry Tommy at the next D&D game, where she apologizes to him. Nina relates to Tommy, perhaps even feels emotions for him, but guards herself as much as Tommy. Tommy falls deeper in love with Nina. Nina reminds Tommy that the book report for "1984" is coming up soon.
When grounded and left alone by the Boone family for the weekend, Tommy (w/ guitar) sneaks into the high school to be inspired by the "lyrics" written on the bathroom stall. Nina overhears his entire song wafting down the hall and surprises him in the boys room. She is deeply affected by his song. Tommy tries to kiss her and Nina lets him. Then she kisses Tommy back. It's a moment lost to time.
Immediately realizing she has done a wrong thing, Nina stops Tommy's advances. In defiance, a hurt Tommy smashes his guitar to the floor and runs away. This time the small town of Yamston will know his anger. As darkness approaches, Tommy finds a spare brick laying on the sidewalk and lobs it through the hardware store window. He steals red spray paint and creates one anarchy symbol after another until the town looks like a teenage war zone. Tommy calms himself by finishing "1984" in his hiding place, on top of the town's water tower - then sprays a huge red anarchy symbol for the whole town to see; a crowning achievement of his destruction.
Guilt and fear soon form futility in Tommy's troubled teenage mind. In seeking redemption for his anger, Tommy will reach out to Chuck as a 'big brother', find that Nina has saved his guitar and has kept their mutual secret, and his family will rally and unite around him, then his mother Candy will reappear desperately needing Tommy. Will Tommy head back to Memphis? He has a responsibility to clean up the town and begin his first steps toward being a man.
Tommy's teenage crisis is avoided thanks to the people who love him - and being needed is all Tommy really wanted.
Caleb Johnson | Gayla De Guise
Kid Anarchy and characters created and owned by George Cole and Mike McCarthy
Images from Kid Anarchy #1, 2, 3, Published by Fantagraphics Books
Kid Anarchy Copyright 2012 George Cole, Mike McCarthy