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Best Of Fleen: So This Is New York

Editor’s note: Gary’s away from regular internet access just now, so enjoy this dip into the Fleen archives. It’s an early piece of writing he thinks was pretty neat, and with the recent return of the comic in question from hiatus, somewhat timely.

New York, the city where … no, wait, let’s start over.

NEW YORK! The city where anything is possible. Where your co-workers are an Orthodox rabbi, a secular Muslim, a half-Columbian half-Dominican future supermodel, and a Liverpudlian former electrician who managed to marry into an old-money New England dynasty. Your neighbors come from every ethnic group and subdivision you can think of, your block is defined by the local bodega and homeless guy, and the transplant from upstate that lives below you hates the bridge-and-tunnel dicks more than any native-born Manhattanite ever could. The city has nurtured generations of industrialists, writers, geniuses, and crooks. Now it’s a seething powderkeg of differences, class frictions, and resentments, overrun by rats with wings, hipsters, high-glamour drag queens, Paris Hiltons in training, token Republicans, society matrons, and performance artists who, in a reasonable world, would be hunted for their pelts. Here, their shtick is met with acclaim, or at least small-c celebrity in the form of a local-access cable show.

So where else would an Alien and a Predator share a walk-up? Every week, Bernie Hou brings us a slice of New York in the form of Alien Loves Predator, as Abe (the Alien) and Preston (the Predator) try to get by. They should hate each other. A decade of comic books and movies and video games has taught us that they should be trying to kill each other and everyone around them. Sure, they don’t like each other much, but eh. You know how hard it is to find a roomie you can tolerate? Besides, the apartment’s probably rent-controlled and they have other things on their minds: is a mutual acquaintance doing Abe’s Ma? Is that really hot girl you hit it off with a psycho just because she’s a Mets fan? And like all New Yorkers, Abe and Preston understand it’s not really that other person over there that’s pissing you off, it’s just New York.

And that’s the great secret of ALP: not Abe, not Preston, not the supporting cast … New York. It’s lovingly photographed in detail, and our actors (in the form of action figures) are composited onto the backdrops. Sure, the little visual gags (like Preston being the only near-sighted Predator, and having to wear glasses) are funny even without the context of the city. And the interior scenes can set up some great gags, but they lack that little extra something. Check out Abe and Preston wondering what to get sometimes-roommate Jesus for His birthday; it’s the sort of bizarre philosophical discussion — it’s bad enough if your birthday falls on Christmas because you get cheated out of a present, but when your birthday is by definition Christmas? That’s gotta suck — that works perfectly on a stroll through Bryant Park.

Whether it’s Central Park, the subways and stations, Times Square, or Washington Square Park the location is critical to the gag. It also lets Hou get topical on occasion. And even when the action takes place elsewhere, New York is still the lens that Abe and Preston see life through. With almost zero exceptions, the fact that our heroes are an Alien and Predator is completely irrelevant; the title could be Bridget Loves Bernie or Joanie Loves Chachi (okay, maybe not), and the edge would still be there. Because it’s New York, and that grim cheerfulness that New Yorkers exhibit in the face of the city trying to grind them down? That’s goddamn hilarious.

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