Comics

Skitzy

Brendan Kiefer

With few words to slow the reader down and a relatively small page count, Skitzy takes no more than 15 minutes to read. But I can't say I felt cheated.


Skitzy

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Subtitle: The Story of Floyd W. Skitzafroid
Price: $19.95
Writer: Don Freeman
Length: 96
ISBN: 978-189729958
First date: 1955
US publication date: 2008-11-19
Writer website
cat_label_url
Amazon

The term "graphic novel" has been in vogue the past few decades, and it's a term that publishers and bookstores have wholeheartedly adopted in marketing picture-stories to adults. The idea behind the phrase is hardly new: Frans Masareel released a book of narrative woodcut prints called Passionate Journey in 1926, and Milt Gross's wordless comic masterpiece He Done Her Wrong was released in hardcover in 1930. And you can easily trace the tradition back further than that. While the term "graphic novel" avoids the nerdy, anti-social connotations of "comics", it fails to provide a concrete definition that differentiates the two.

More than anything, the term "graphic novel" is an attempt to legitimize the medium as proper literature: not restricted to genre. The term "comic" -- which still bears a genre-specific name from its early newspaper humor-strip origins –- more often denotes publishing format (trade paperback or newspaper-strip) rather than content. Generally speaking, a "graphic novel" is identified by it's proper-book format and adult themes, though these are not required. Will Eisner foresaw this semantical problem when he coined the phrase "sequential art". Yet his term was far too broad and also fell short of providing an accurate definition of comics. The term could equally be applied to the work of any number of painters, sculptors, filmmakers, and so on: all of whom create art in sequence. Perhaps the term "graphic literature" really is the most accurate -- if a bit snobbish-sounding -- term suggested so far. Either way, adult graphic novels have existed far longer than the term (again attributed to Eisner). And this is where Don Freeman's Skitzy comes in.

Freeman is best known for his numerous children's books, most notably Corduroy. Not surprisingly, the format of Skitzy shares as much with a children's picture book as it does with comics. Unlike children's book illustrations, the images in Skitzy do not simply reaffirm the text, but tell the story on their own. In fact, the book is almost entirely wordless: only employing text when absolutely necessary. Again, the wordless He Done Her Wrong is an apt comparison in both approach and style. Each image is given the space of a page rather than a panel: meaning pages are turned at a rate equal to moving from one panel to the next in a standard comic. This, coupled with Freeman's loose gestural cartoon drawings, makes for a quick-paced story with a flip-book feel. With few words to slow the reader down and a relatively small page count, Skitzy takes no more than 15 minutes to read. But I can't say I felt cheated.

It's is a warm story, full of humor and verve, and it has all the charm you would expect from a picture book written for an adult audience. Freeman's minimal line and sporadic, yet clever, compositions capture the hustle and bustle of the New York City streets that the protagonist, Floyd W. Skitzafroid, finds himself. They create an ephemeral world: more suggested than depicted. Although the book is quite short, its nonchalant nature encourages re-readings.

Skitzy follows Floyd -- a grumpy everyman -- through matrimonial turmoil, and the splitting of his two personalities into identical, yet opposite, people. One Floyd finds joy in the simple things in life and spends the day painting and buying jewelry for his wife, while the other slaves away at a menial job and is motivated solely by money. This struggle between art and commerce is certainly not a foreign concept in any art form, but Freeman brings it to light in a clever and comical way.

The story is simple and lighthearted and yet, perhaps because of it's semi-autobiographical nature, Skitzy has an honest human touch. In fact, the personal nature and lack of readership for adult picture books in 1955 (when it was originally released) left Freeman few publishing options. It was self-published and, until now, has been largely unread. Today, the book serves as a historical oddity as much as a wonderfully quirky story and it reveals itself as part of a slow-building movement of graphic storytelling that has culminated with the modern "graphic novel".

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.