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I started reading The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal back in 2009 when the stories were posted a page at a time as a serialized web-comic. The story was a slow build, growing for five years as I logged on every few days to read the latest pages. I’ve long been a fan of the LGBT web-comic scene, and TJ and Amal stood out for its genuine approach to character and propulsive narrative. The story is still available online, but it is also available in print in the Omnibus Edition.
For the first time since the story completed, I sat down with a print copy and read the complete Adventures of TJ and Amal without the annoyance of waiting for each page to load online. I found myself back in the May 2008 story of a road trip in the age of skyrocketing gas prices and Green Day. Amal finds himself at a bar after a disastrous discussion with his parents: they wanted him to agree to an arranged marriage, and he wanted to sleep with boys. There, he meets TJ and drunkenly agrees to drive him to Providence, where Amal’s sister is graduating from Brown. TJ agrees to pay for everything along the way, a generous offer when gas prices average around $4.50 a gallon. Amal is in a ‘fuck it’ kind of mood, so the two of them hit the road, get high, eat greasy take-out, and fall into something like love.
As the story developed over five years’ time, E.K. Weaver’s art became more subtle and careful throughout the course of the novel. At no point does Weaver ever underestimate the significance of a glance or the twitch of a finger, the zoom on TJ’s lips as he blows cigarette smoke or the way his gaze lingers on Amal. The tone becomes subtly erotic in otherwise banal scenes of two strangers in a small car.
The cross-country road trip allows TJ and Amal to explore beautiful American landscapes, as the story is periodically broken up by beautiful full-color spreads. Both boys are on the run in their own ways: TJ runs from his dark past and Amal runs from his family. And as anyone who has been in a car for hours at a time can attest, things can only remain unspoken for so long. The length of this story allows for each of the boys to become nuanced in their own ways; with each new chapter, our image of TJ and Amal is complicated and expanded.
The Less Than Epic Adventures aren’t the kind of adventures that Tolkien would write about, but they are the everyday adventures that regular people find themselves in. Weaver is reminding us of the simple yet complex pleasures of meeting someone new, visiting new places, and eating Waffle House.
(Images via TJandAmal.com)
The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal
By E.K. Weaver
Iron Circus Comics
Paperback, 9780983875550, 528 pages