Malta’s ‘hipster mascot’ is one year old | Mark Scicluna and Moira Zahra

One year after it first hit our screens, we look back at Mark Scicluna and Moria Zahra’s gently satirical webcomic A Space Boy Dream and the ‘hipster’ subculture it picks on.

Recognise anyone? A Space Boy Dream pokes fun at local ‘art and indie’ subculture, sometimes throwing (relatively) famous personages into the mix.
Recognise anyone? A Space Boy Dream pokes fun at local ‘art and indie’ subculture, sometimes throwing (relatively) famous personages into the mix.

Are you a hipster? Actually, that's not a question you should be asking yourself - it's a social marker that, strangely enough, appears to be both desirable and repulsive - because others will be more than ready to apply that particular tag to you.

You'll make yourself into an easy target if you indulge in any or all of the following: buying your music on vinyl; indulging in obscure or intellectually dense cultural curios (be they films, books, visual art or anything else); growing a finely-kept lumberjack beard (if male) and pairing that with checked shirts - though 'vintage' fashion is a must for both sexes within this particular subculture... the hipster checklist is both specific and broad.

In London, hipsters - generally people falling into the late-teen to mid-20s age bracket - would be found in the rough-and-tumble, cobblestoned areas like Shoreditch and Spitalfields.

In Malta, however, local hipsters by and large have to make do with Coach and Horses. Formerly a no-nonsense colonial-styled watering hole - the kind of pedigree that hipsters tend to pray on, albeit ironically, more often than not - the bar, nestled between Valley Road showrooms, was revamped into a hangout for the lovers of the indie and the obscure a couple of years ago, which gave it something of a second wind that's still going strong.

It would only be a matter of time until its regulars started to become objects of parody, though perhaps nobody expected the Coach and Horses hipster milieu to inspire an homage as biting and colourful as Mark Scicluna and Moira Zahra's weekly webcomic, A Space Boy Dream.

Now a year old, the comic - a new instalment of which is available every Sunday on aspaceboydream.com - tells the story of the Maltese twenty-something Vincent Fournier, a sad-sack aspiring artist/musician who hates hipsters by proxy but, much to his chagrin, can't seem to help falling for their stereotypical affectations.

"With Vincent, we were interested in creating a juxtaposition of 'cool' vs 'embarrassing'," Mark Scicluna says.

"We wanted Vincent to be knowledgeable in the arts, music and even capable of thinking and reflecting about what's going on around him - hence his cynical comments. But on the other hand, he's also an idiot sometimes, which makes him a bit of an awkward individual."

Mark Scicluna and Moira Zahra, creators of Space Boy Dream, at Malta Comic Con 2012

Moira Zahra and Mark Scicluna at Malta Comic Con 2012, 'Vincent' statue in tow (centre)

Existing in a world that stands as a direct - if gently grotesque - parallel to the Malta we know, Vincent frequents 'Owls and Antlers' - a clear nod to the aforementioned Coach and Horses - in an attempt to curry social favour, all the while doing his utmost not to let his staunchly 'traditional' parents from doing his head in.

"We gave him very Maltese parents who seem to live in a completely different world than he does..."

Scicluna and Zahra - both of whom teach at the MCAST Institute for Art and Design - said that they initially set out to spoof Maltese 'exhibition culture' when devising the character of the self-conscious and eager to please Vincent.

"We really don't get the obsession of wanting to exhibit just for the sake of exhibiting. That doesn't mean we won't ever exhibit, but it does get a bit boring after a while (and yes, the contradiction here is not lost on us, given that we teach art and design)."

But perhaps most of the fun of A Space Boy Dream derives from the light mockery at the expense of local hipsters and other artistic types - chiefly musicians and their friends/fans/hangers on. The 'satire' is hardly scathing - Zahra and Scicluna are embedded in the same subculture, after all - and Zahra says that in fact, the bulk of their 'victims' tend to graciously "laugh it off".

"When we're thinking up of characters to include in the comic, the process generally goes like this: 'We should really include [insert name here]! And we should give him/her hair like [insert name here]! It's all quite fun, and we never really let people know in advance that we'll be spoofing them - we like to surprise.

"We never got any negative feedback, but we did get the silent treatment from some people we spoofed in too obvious a way... which is fair enough, since we can be a bit mean sometimes..."

A Space Boy Dream is currently on a brief 'summer holiday' but will be back online 21 July. Read the comic for free on aspaceboydream.com.

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