The main character of a new comic book struggles with life in Brooklyn — where he’s surrounded by hollow friends, vain artists, and pathetic hipsters.
The problem, Tim the protagonist narrates in the first issue of “Polarity,” is that after his bouts with mental illness, he has gained an annoying ability to see “past the vintage dresses and ironic ’90s-era attire and into the epicenters of their desperate souls, as they cry out with a grating, banshee-like plea for validation.”
Turns out, author Max Bemis is writing from experience.
“Most of the Brooklynites, [in the book] are a conglomeration of more than one person I know, and many represent a certain type of person I’d run into often,” said Bemis, who is the lead singer of the rock band, Say Anything.
“I can’t say anyone in the book is as purely based around one person in particular as Tim is a bastardization of myself, but I did encounter many or all of the behaviors exhibited.”
It’s not just his run-ins with Brooklynites that inspired the book. It is loosely based on Bemis’s psychotic episode more than a decade ago and his subsequent struggles with bipolar disorder.
During his fight with the illness the author once wandered out of his apartment in Williamsburg and roamed the neighborhood, confronting strangers, rambling incoherently, and insisting that he secretly was being filmed.
It was one of the scariest moments in Bemis’s life, but it turned out to be great fodder for this musician-turned-comic book writer’s first series.
“Two of my four or five episodes took place in Brooklyn,” said Bemis. “I’ve always wanted to tell the story, but I could never figure out what would be the best medium. It was so glaring obvious. It was under my nose the whole time.”
At the end of the first issue of this four-issue series, Tim becomes fed up with being “just another insecure, pathetic scenester with nothing to offer,” and goes off his meds and stops seeing his therapist.
But this sparks a return of his paranoia. He begins to wonder if he has super powers, if people are spying on him, and whether anything is real or merely a figment of his imagination.
It’s uncertain how far Tim will fall into the rabbit’s hole in “Polarity,” but his real-life counterpart found his way towards recovery with the help of the arts. Music played a part in Bemis’s recovery — each issue of “Polarity” comes with a free download for a new original song written and performed by Bemis — as did comic books.
“I grew up reading comics since a young age,” he said. “When I was trying to get healthy again and taking my pills, I needed something healthy, an outlet. I didn’t think consciously about going back to comics, I just gravitated to them. … They’ve been a saving grace.”
“Polarity” by Max Bemis is available at: Brooklyn Comics and More [493 Seventh Ave. between Windsor Place and Prospect Avenue in South Slope, (718) 840–5840] and Bulletproof Comics [2178 Nostrand Ave. near Avenue H in Flatbush, (718) 434–1800].