Pros: Funny, engaging with eye-catching illustrations
Cons: Non-Queen fans wouldn’t get this...probably
I just found a cool new (to me) rock and roll/comic book store recently, which is located in Howell, NJ aptly named The Record Store. Filled with rare vinyl LPs, high priced CDs, and lots of comics and comic book related toys. I happened to be checking out the graphic novel shelves and pulled out this 300+ page paperback called Freddie & Me. Freddie is in regards to Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, and Me is the author Mike Dawson. The spelling of Freddie instead of Freddy will always catch my eye, and so I bought the copy.
I guess I kind of expected a comic book styled Queen biography, which relays the story of the band with some cool illustrations. Well, I was totally off in my quick guesstimation because what we have here instead is the bio of Mike Dawson, a British/American cartoonist/Queen fan. Oops, this turns out to be a hasty purchase. Or is it?
Freddie & Me is in fact the story of an eight or nine year old boy, living in England who accidentally discovers the British rock band Queen while watching his favorite Billy Joel video on Top of the Pops. The program aired the video for I Want To Break Free, and with the addition of his father immediately giving Mike a cassette tape of the song he was hooked on the band, especially lead singer Freddie Mercury. At the same time his younger sister Sarah decided on becoming a die-hard fan of George Michael & Wham, which caused some great arguments about who is the best. Of course after Freddie's death, the two were able to reconcile their musical differences when George Michael was the real star at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert in 2002.
The story of Mike Dawson's life is chronicled here from 1984 to twenty years later in 2004. He writes about how he moved to America when he was still young and how the Yanks viewed his favorite band. Highlighted here are the instances in his life that are accented by Queen and their music. When he begins showing an interest in illustrating comic books along to his own stories, they are usually influenced by Queen's imagery. When Freddie died in 1991, he remembers the events of the day in high school, and in his personal life ands how he was deeply affected by this.
The story of the author, at first seems to abruptly stop and start intermittently throughout the book in order to tell Dawson's imaginary story of the start up of Wham and eventually the break-up of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. The breaks come unannounced at first, and you're not sure what is going on, but as you read on it becomes apparent what Dawson is trying to pull off.
The life of Mike Dawson could not have been more different than mine. I was born and raised in the USA, where Dawson was born in Scotland, moved to England and then when he was eleven years old, he moved to New Jersey in the US. Yet, whenever his illustrated life touches upon the subject of Queen, our lives are nearly identical. One of the back cover blurbs comes from Greg Brooks (official archivist to Queen), and he says the same thing - "This isn't only the story of growing up with Queen's music at the center of his life, in many ways it is mine too!" This gives off the impression that Dawson's experiences would strike many a chord with other Queen fans out there.
The illustrations seem to have a comical exaggerated style, yet they convey emotions and feelings effortlessly. The face that Mike Dawson wears when he first realizes he is a Queen fan in front of the TV is perfect. The shadows and silhouettes that appear here and there always give off a true to life feel to the images.
I recommend this graphic novel to Queen fans around the world. There were many times that I found myself laughing out loud, but mostly just enjoying the story as I was able to easily identify with the author Mike Dawson and his love for Queen. Is this book for everyone? Not bloody likely, this could only be strictly appreciated by Queen fans alone in my estimation. This story is truly personal and intimate, and some of the inside info littered throughout the book would go over the average reader's heads. Yet at the same time, these little tidbits included make it all the more intimate and personal for the average Queen fan as well.
: Freddie & Me: A Coming of Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody
Author: Mike Dawson