“Real streaking should involve higher social and political ideals. It should be about going where people are taking themselves too seriously and taking them down a peg, reminding everyone that we’re animals.” That’s Xavier, streaking demagogue (and manager of a burger joint), holding court at the weekly Streakers Association of Summit City meeting, attended by his two friends, Doug and Tim, there to slurp down beer and ponder the politics of taking it all off in public. Doug, who gets in the paper for exposing himself to women around town, is perhaps, more accurately defined as “flasher” than “streaker” good and proper, and Tim, an aging-out idealist with a entry-level dishwasher job going on eight years, hasn’t yet drummed up the confidence to strip down, which makes him only “a streaker at heart.” They are a rag-tag trio.
So, yes, Nick Maandag’s Xeric Grant-winning, Doug Wright “Best Book” Award-nominated, Seth and Chester Brown-approved comic Streakers, is about three guys for whom the mid-70s trend of getting naked and disrupting some sort of public event, thereby freaking out the squares, is a life-consuming hobby. Streakers is also another entry into “sad white men” indie comics subgenre. But it isn’t a “look at these losers” comic, and it certainly isn’t gently joshing a subculture with their own in-jokes. There’s a good-hearted but never sentimental appreciation of these outsiders that enables ironic distance and invites empathy all at the same time. When two college girls jokingly walk in on their streaking meeting, Xavier, Doug, and Tim inexplicably convince them to go on a streak. The moment the girls remove their tops, in a telling characterization and a funny/sad way of tapping into the absolutely shamelessness of this crew, Xavier pulls out a camera and creepily snaps a picture. During the streak, though, Tim has his moment of self-realization. Finally removing all his clothes, he leaps around, flapping his penis in joy (sound effect: “jiggle jiggle”). It’s actually kind of touching.
Maandag’s art, which is all thick, confidently cartooned lines, is particularly good at representing the deadpan physical comedy of naked bodies on the move. Everyone’s flaws—too thin, too fat, goofy-ass sideburns—are well-wrought, with special attention paid to varied patches of body hair and yes, even the size of their penises, which are seen quite frequently (Doug is uncircumcised, by the way). Plus, the absurdity of authority figures taking down tubby, grown-up naked dudes never stops being funny. To call the streaking sequences “kinetic” isn’t accurate, but they have a delightfully immediate, panel-to-panel energy to them, for sure. Comics grammar goes invisible and you’re simply caught up in the absurdly low-stakes excitement of it all. During one streak, a streaker is caught, and then slips away for a victory lap. Maandag devotes an entire page to this bonus streak and the confused roar of the crowd. Then it jumps to jail, where the streaker, face swollen from the punches of an angry twice over group of security guards, declares, “If I could do it all again…I would.”