Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #158 by Drew Barth

Meat Me in the Middle

I adore postmodern advertisements where you know that they know that you know they’re just trying to sell you something, but the whole ad is so deep in its own meta-narrative that you forget that you’re being sold a product. The ad can tongue-in-cheek its way to your heart. We seldom see that intersection of advertisements and a full issue of a comic. At least, not until Monkey Meat by Juni Ba.

This first issue of Monkey Meat is the first part of a five-part anthology series by Ba in partnership with the Monkey Meat Multinational. Through the audience’s familiarity with the Monkey Meat Multinational, its line of products, and the mysteries of their headquarters on Monkey Meat Island, we’re drawn into the process behind their newest creation: Lug’s Soul Juice energy drink. We’re given the story of the island’s caretaker, the Lug of energy drink fame, and how he came to be the sole defender of Monkey Meat Multinational’s headquarters from the ravages of the rest of the island. Immediately we feel a connection to Lug—he’s a working-class lad that we can see ourselves in as he is also beholden to a corporation that both relies on and underpays him. But we also want to be like Lug since he’s big and strong and has all of this energy that we feel like we could experience from his new drink.

The entire issue, the story of Lug and his soul being signed away to the Monkey Meat Multinational, is all building up to the introduction of a new energy drink. We don’t even see it happening despite the hints. This anthology breaks down what an ad is and what it can do in the universe in which Monkey Meat exists as a product and company. On the outside, the book satirizes advertising culture and the ways in which we buy into stories. But we buy into the story of Lug either way. That is the skill of Ba on display. We’re so lost in the story, we don’t know that we’re in an ad until the final panel hits.

While this is only the first issue of what will be a five-part anthology, it is already setting up the mind-bending world we’re going to be living in for those five issues.

Get excited. Get meat.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331 & 485) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.