Henry & Glenn

I’ve been keeping up with my reading, even if I don’t make a post, so I’m going to make two today. The first is of Tom Neely’s Henry & Glenn series. This comic has pretty much everything: nudity, sex, ableist language, gore, violence, satanic rituals, mockery of celebrities, virgin sacrifices… I could go on. You’ll like these zines if you’re into dark humor, don’t take yourself too seriously, and like to see alternatives to gay male stereotypes in mainstream media.

Plot: I’m not sure if there was an original Henry and Glenn, but I read the two books, Henry and Glenn Forever and Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever, which have different plots.

In Henry and Glenn Forever, to quote some of the very first pages, “Henry and Glenn are very good ‘friends.’ They are also ‘room mates.’ Daryl and John live next door. They are satanists. That’s all you need to know.”

In Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever, Glenn’s mom threatens the happy couple’s lives when she brings sweet Midwestern domesticity and her homophobic beliefs into Henry and Glenn’s home. It’s composed of a four-issue main story and many stories or art from friends of the author.

Initial thoughts: As a stand alone artifact, I had a hard time grappling with the zines. While I appreciate how domestic the stories are despite the hardcore, satanic surface, there are parts that are just too gory for my liking. Nevertheless, I appreciate what the zines do, especially now that I’ve done some research to better understand what’s been accomplished through these comix.

That said, I really like the collaboration of this book. Several artists donated their work to the book, which means that the story of Henry and Glenn’s massively hardcore love is depicted in several different styles and narratives, ranging from the bizarre and surreal to the cute and realistically domestic. It’s a joy to explore all these different styles because it’s like each reiteration gives new insight to the couple.

It’s also a cult classic, having garnered lots of attention from Los Angeles media, where Tom Neely is based, and niche interest groups reviewing comics and hardcore media. It’s spawned Valentines and anti-Christmas which was screened at the Heavy Metal Film Fest (now defunct, as far as I can tell). Heck, Rob Halford of Judas Priest wrote an introduction to Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever. If that isn’t an accomplishment, I don’t know what is.

Itty Bitty Research: If you’re not a music buff (like me), you might totally miss out on the real life inspiration of the characters. Glenn’s character borrows the name and likeness of Glenn Danzig, best known as the founder of The Misfits. A peek of his current band’s website shows the aesthetic embodied in the character of Glenn, best summed up as “a name that permeates, infects, and ultimately makes strong, the very soul of hard rock in the ’90s.” Glenn is contrasted against his partner Henry, who is based off the multi-talented Henry Rollins, who drew fame in the 1980s for headlining hardcore punk bands State of Alert and Black Flag. Now a radio host and columnist, Rollins’ website is more tame compared to Danzig’s, which I would argue is apparent in the book as well. There might be a real life basis for it…or not. (There’s basis for the cat litter stories, at the very least.) In case an epic love affair between these two is not startling enough, Daryl Hall and John Oates of Hall and Oates feature in the story as Henry and Glenn’s satanic, stoner neighbors.

According to creator Tom Neely, Henry and Glenn came about because “One night, after too many beers, Gin Stevens said something like, “There should be a book like Tom Of Finland, but with Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig.” And we were like, “OK, let’s do that.” [Chuckles.] Then we’d get together and just try to make each other laugh by making these stupid Henry & Glenncomics. We published it as a little zine for that art show. It was just a little throwaway idea that we just had fun doodling together. It turned into a monster” (x). I think audiences are receptive to Henry and Glenn for a number of reasons, including the nostalgic factor of the 1980s for aging adults and, of course, the highly iconic visual presence, which Neely attributes to much of heavy metal genre. While some of the art contributions are definitely in line with the aesthetics of the heavy metal scene, the main storyline is illustrated in an innocent, cartoony style. In some ways, this offsets some of the homosexual, satanic, violent, etc themes.

I was surprised to hear Neely was married to a woman, and while there’s the possibility that he might be bisexual or attracted to more than one genders, the interview I read gave me the impression that he’s a heterosexual man. Why is this problematic? When I first read the book, I really thought it was a reclamation of gay identity by satirizing the Christian fear of satanic gays. It also felt like a way of normalizing heterosexual mainstream culture by using Danzig’s and Rollins’ likenesses. Now, it just feels like the butt of some joke. But as most reviews will attest, there is a special tenderness in this story that isn’t apparent in even the most romantic heterosexual love stories. If you want a taste of what Henry and Glenn’s icon romance has spawned, I suggest reading “Fuck You Motherfucker” by Aaron Conley and Matthew Allison in Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever.

Rating: 3/5

Works cited: Neely, Tom. Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever. Portland, OR: Microcosm Publishing, 2014. Print.

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