Young Bottoms in Love by Tim Fish et al., reviewed by Damonk

Who needs to drink like a fish when you can draw like one? Tim Fish’s little webcomic corner of our universe certainly goes to great lengths to bring a whole new meaning to the term "Bottom’s Up!"

Young Bottoms In Love, a short story webcomic anthology site that updates weekly, focuses wholly on gay love, relationships, and of course, implied or "tastefully"-depicted soft-core snuggling.

Each weekly installment consists of a self-contained 5-page short story, which can vary in tone from straight humor (but not necessarily "straight" humor) to serious drama, from "silly" romp to sexy "romp", from fleeting superficial impressions to a penetrating of the inner workings of the human psyche. A few continuing series have emerged from all these one-shots, as well – Bigfoot has been sighted in at least three stories, "The Cupcakes" seem to have secured an ongoing engagement, and "The Tragic Something or Other" is now nine parts strong (two four-part acts plus a flashback episode) and growing fast.

Most of the stories have a VERY consistent look and feel – that of a cliched and dated romance-style comic. Voice-overs are literally over the top, melodramatic poses and expressions are dime-a-drama-queen dozen, an old-school Sunday Funnies fourtone glares throughout, and random shifts in rhythm always lead to awkwardly rushed climaxes.

In a crazy soap-operaesque twist, though, being really BAD makes the comics really good.

Fish and his cohorts have clearly done their homework, and there can be no doubt that the tone of these stories is very much intentional. In fact, Fish himself openly admits to the deliberate cheddar factor in the comics – most of which are written and/or drawn by him: "Think cheesy romance comics circa 1950-70, throw in a gay bent and guest writers and artists and you have Young Bottoms in Love!" Believe it when it’s said that he’s making an UNDERstatement here.

In terms of writing, a fair amount of these one-shot stories read like those old cartoon brochures of the 50s – ‘how-to’ books, or dogmatic propaganda a la religious "So Johnny’s Going to Hell" pamphlets. Consider the themes: a gay man helping to or accidentally ‘outing’ a straight man, two (not-so-?) ambiguously-lifestyled men hanging like "buds" but secretly lusting after one another, one gay man simply using another for sex. Most of these are handled as if they were primers, helpful instructional tools to help nab yourself some bottom. They are romance fantasy, wish fulfillment.

However, if anything, the over-the-topness of these stories is a big part of what makes them so much fun to read. Handled any other way, these types of themes would seem pretentious or borderline preachy; in this "nudge nudge wink wink" approach that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it instead becomes fun without ridiculing the subject matter – that of HUMAN relationships in all their various stages of grotesque glory.

The art in these strips is quite solid, whether it be Fish’s own, or any of his talented hordes of Guest contributors. While, say, not perfect imitations of a Mary Worth serial style, many still very successfully evoke the 50s-60s pulp feel they are intended to spoof. Fish himself shows his versatility by subtly shifting between various drawing styles, to better serve the story at hand.

Young Bottoms In Love is certainly not meant for everyone – it is aimed more or less at one specific audience. Those who are sensitive to/not particularly interested in alternative lifestyle issues may find the comics here nowhere near to their taste. However, some of the stories go beyond being just another episode of My Gay Romance, and have an appeal that broaches the universal. The Bigfoot stories, for example, are wonderfully silly, and "The Tragic Something or Other" is proving to be a very engaging tale to date: the characters are highly magnetic, and the story flow pulls you in – you find yourself wanting to know what will happen next.

Certainly amusing, and mostly a humorous take on romance and gay relationships (there is some decent drama in there, too), Young Bottoms In Love will likely be a treat to anyone looking for some quick-and-easy, alternative short story-style webcomic reads. With new installments and guest contributors lining up by the schools to bite on Tim Fish’s deliberately cheese-laden webcomic hook, it doesn’t look like this site will be bottoming out anytime soon.