[The Comics Journal intern Laura Pieroni put together this series of discussion questions about Mark Kalesniko's Freeway for use in book clubs. As this is intended for those who have read the book, please be warned that spoilers lie ahead. – Ed.]
Alex, Mark Kalesniko's recurring dog-headed character, has been stuck in Los Angeles traffic for longer than he can remember. In fact, Alex has been stuck in traffic through multiple time periods and alternate lives.
Freeway is a non-linear compilation of various alternate realities centered on Alex and his dream of being an animator at Babbitt Jones Studios. Alex takes readers through his memories as a child dreaming of a career in animation and into his experiences working that same dream job turned nightmare. Through the story Alex also has multiple visions of violently dying, and a fantasy of what it might have been like to work at Babbitt Jones during its Golden Age when the animators were treated like royalty instead of assembly-line workers.
While Alex struggles with the disillusionment of working at Babbitt Jones Studios and its disheartening office politics, he tries to maintain a relationship with a co-worker whose family won't leave them alone. Unfortunately for Alex, nothing he dreamed about works out the way he had thought they would and he winds up angry, alone, and possibly dead.
1. How do fiction and autobiography interplay in Freeway? For example, what can readers infer from Alex's experiences at Babbitt Jones Studios about the author's experiences at Disney?
2. Why does Alex have visions of his own violent death? What do these visions say about how Alex feels about his job, relationships, and life?
3. Who is the mysterious girl in the car that Alex keeps seeing? What does she represent to him and why does he continue to try and speak with her?
4. Why does the Alex in the Golden Age of animation have a human head instead of the dog-head Alex has in all of the other scenarios?
5. What is Mark Kalesniko saying with this graphic novel about the American Dream?
6. Who are the shadowy gangsters and why are they following Alex? Are they real, or just another fantasy?
7. What does Alex's last words, "Hooray for Hollywood," say about the book as a whole?
8. The last panel shows an empty chair that young Alex used to spend a lot of time in watching TV. What does this last image say about the end, and beginning, of this story?
9. What do Alex's interactions with the religious man in the restaurant and the flower girl in the airport say about his views on religion and spirituality?
10. Which ending do you think is the "real" ending? Is there a "real" ending?