:: Article

Lone Racer

Nicolas Mahler, Lone Racer (Top Shelf Productions, January 2007)


Austrian illustrator and comic book writer Nicolas Mahler returns after his horror-but-not-as-you-know-it Van Helsing’s Night Off with another offbeat tale — that of a down-and-out racing driver. With lines like “I’m still big. It’s the cars that got small,” Mahler is dead-pan hilarious but often teeters on the brink of tragic, though he manages to stay this side of nihilism.

The Lone Racer lives in the crummiest apartment, “pisser in the hallway”, his wife is on a drip in the hospital: “… changed I.V. …” is all she says during each visit as “she doesn’t have too many adventures, either”. Thank god for the Bar Juanjo, the dive where everyone knows your name and where Lone Racer can drown his sorrows with barflies Rubber (who got hit by a rubber tyre, the smell of which still haunts him) and Irksome (a former mechanic-turned-cop).


The appositely named Irksome hatches a scheme to rob the bank, recruiting Lone Racer as getaway driver. The job, to provide Lone Racer with enough money to get out of the racing game altogether, is abandoned on the day when Irksome bottles out, so it’s back to the bar for Lone Racer. A break from the norm comes first in the form of comely Bar Juanjo waitress Ms Jacqueline, who catches Rubber’s interest, but “what kind of woman would go out with a guy who looks like..a..well..thumb”, he asks. Then, when Lone Racer has an affair with a divorcee. Saved by sponsorship from a curd manufacturer, Lone Racer turns a corner, gaining new confidence and a steely resolve to stop drinking and to beat hot-shot driver Delli Ferolli.

Crudely drawn in Mahler’s trademark style — a mash-up of Ulf K and Gary Larson, if you like –Lone Racer is a nice slice on the mudanities of everyday life but may be a little too idiosyncratic for broader tastes. Me, I liked it. Sort of Bukowski with a driving licence.


Susan Tomaselli lives in Ireland where she edits the inimitable Dogmatika and is Comics Co-Editor of 3:AM.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, April 16th, 2007.