Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blankets - By Craig Thompson

Graphic novel??? What the heck is a graphic novel I asked my son Ramsey. That was about two years ago. It turns out, it is what I would call a bound comic book.

When I learned that Ramsey had bought me one for Christmas this year (and it was $29) I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I knew he liked graphic novels, along with about every book that has been written. But I had not read a so-called graphic novel since reading Mad Magazine as a teenager. My expectations were low to say the least.

I finally picked up my new book after I had finished Grapes of Wrath and A Catcher in the Rye. I had two other books started, a new Biography of Francis Schaeffer and Heaven Misplaced. However those were my hot tub books. I needed a Starbucks book, so I grabbed Blankets.

If it means anything, I read Blankets in one day. Yeah, it happened to be a Sunday and I didn’t have much going on. But after I opened the cover that morning at Starbucks, I couldn’t get it off my mind.

Yes, I know that comics, woops, I mean graphic novels read faster, but the book does have 592 pages.

First of all, I was really impressed how well my son knows me.

He had said, “Dad, I really think you will like this book

He had said, “Dad, I really think you will like this book.” But I didn’t know why . . . until now.

First of all, Craig Thompson writes beautifully and draws even better. That alone is captivating. However, there were other points that were alluring to me.

It is autobiographical and while the main story line is about Craig’s first love with a gal named Riana, the subplot, or “B Story” has to do with Craig’s rearing in an Evangelical home. Despite his best intentions, (sorry to give anything away) it is also about his eventually leaving the faith.

Thompson writes with incredible realism. Over and over I thought to myself, “Yes . . . I’m sure that’s exactly the way it happened.” His Evangelical candor is like that of Frank Schaeffer. But he does not take up the embellishments and over-dramatizations of a movie like Saved.

I think the book does a wonderful job in exposing the dichotomy that a young man faces while believing in the Evangelical’s pretense about the world, but, having to live in the realism of a very different world.

Ramsey knew that I would love this “B Story” because he knows that I hold this issue very dear to my heart. The issue of course is Evangelical dishonesty that helps to lead to 80% of our children eventually leaving the faith.This book is a must read for every open-minded, honestly-searching pastor and youth pastor.

The third reason that I enjoyed this book so much is that the crux of the story takes place in Marquette, Michigan . . . a place I lived for 8 years. The realism was so convincing that I started to have vivid flash-backs to my time there. They drive up a lonely mountain road that I had driven many times. They visited Marquette High School, which I had also visited many times and the drawings brought it all back to me.


Anonymous said...

The main difference between a comic book and a graphic novel is that a graphic novel is much longer and is published as a bound book instead of a periodic serial.

Because of this, graphic novels normally have better production values and storytelling than a monthly comic.

In the USA, the anti-comic book witch hunt of the 1950s (Seduction of the Innocent, et al) resulted in a tight censorship on American comics, which in turn resulted in Superheroes, Superheroes, Superheroes, Superheroes, and Superheroes. (During the ferment of The Sixties, "underground comix" rebelled against this, but themselves went out-of-balance in the other direction, into X-rated temper tantrums.)

Whereas in Europe and Asia (primarily Japan, whose comics/graphic novels are known as "Manga"), the comic strip was seen as just an alternative way to write a story or novel. And after the whiplash between American Superheroes and Undergrounds, the US seems to be settling more into a balance.

But like all publications, there's a lot of crap out there and you have to search a bit for the good ones. Fortunately, these days the big chain bookstores and public libraries DO have dedicated graphic novel sections, so browse away.

One nonfiction "graphic novel" providing an overview of the medium is Scott Mc Cloud's Understanding Comics; this is a good primer if you want to learn more about the graphic novel medium itself.

-- Headless Unicorn Guy

P.S. I would like to plug one obscure small-press graphic novel, Mary Hanson-Roberts' Here Comes a Candle:

Done in a faux 18th-Century sketch/woodcut style, the graphic novel retells the story of the French Revolution with an anthropomorphic cast (mostly descendants of talking-animal characters from French fairy tales). It is noted for its extensive period detail and heavy use of puns and in-jokes (both period and modern) on almost every page.

Unfortunately, it was done by a small-press (too small to even afford an ISBN) and is only available from the publisher here. (Note: Scroll about 1/4 down the page, looking for Here Comes a Candle). This one really deserved a bigger distribution and audience than it got.

MJ said...

How do you know so much about so many things?

Renee said...

you've made me want to read it! sounds interesting

Anonymous said...

In short, I'm weird.

I'm an ex-kid genius and natural-talent speedreader who's been involved in various F&SF-related fandoms for over 30 years -- Lit, Media, Comics, FRP Gaming, and Furry. During that period, I've toured some interesting tracts of mental landscape and accumulated a LOT of random trivia and information, all of which keeps bubbling up when IT wants to. (NOT when I need it to.)

-- Headless Unicorn Guy

P.S. MJ -- you know your website has no email contact address?