Comics

Blankets

Jonathan Messinger

Thompson's work is fluid, with broad sweeping lines that capture the childhood and dreamlike elements of the book magnificently.

Blankets

Publisher: Top Shelf Comix
Length: 592
Writer: Writer and Artist: Craig Thompson
Price: $29.95
Item Type: Comic
Amazon

At the end it turned out to be a period of deep therapy. I had to deal with untrustworthy memory and the residue of guilt about the fairness and accuracy of the portrayal of loved ones.
— Will Eisner, discussing his autobiographical book, "To the Heart of the Storm" (www.willeisner.com)

I met Craig Thompson this past summer at the Wizard World convention in Chicago. I caught him at the Top Shelf booth toward the end of the day, after heading there specifically to pick up his new graphic novel, Blankets. Craig was sweet, self-effacing, and happy to personalize the book for me with a stamp and a flourish from his brush-pen. And I know it was a brush-pen because he took more than a polite amount of time to talk shop with my artist friend.

It was no surprise, then, to find Blankets so warm, inviting and riveting. Thompson's highly personal story lays his young life naked, cutting a path through familial, romantic and spiritual turmoil. What makes it so lovely is that it's not nearly as heavy-handed as all that sounds. On the contrary, Thompson's story-telling technique is reminiscent of a long night spent with a new, dear friend who doesn't fear laying out the truths that have formed them late into the night. It's intense, but it's worth it.

The autobiographical story tells of Thompson's young life in Central Wisconsin, where he was raised in a home built on scripture. Such is the level of righteousness in the Thompson household, Craig and his younger brother are sent each summer to Church Camp. Both artistic, neither are encouraged for fear "doodling" may interfere with loftier pursuits. Craig, however, finds his loftiest pursuit in high school in a girl named Raina, who lives hours away. They form a supernovaic relationship, fading even as it burns brightest, and it's this romance that informs much of Thompson's resultant, shinier outlook on life.

It takes a lot to earn comparisons to Will Eisner, but Blankets reads a lot like Eisner's "To the Heart of the Storm." Both are unflinching in their portrayal of good parents as flawed characters. The parents are flawed not because of anything as insidious as abuse, but because of the blinders parents put on in their undying love for their children. Likewise, the relationship between older and younger brother is told here in a way that'll make siblings laugh as well as cringe. Thompson shares Eisner's ability to plug sentimentality where it's deserved, and drop it when it becomes too saccharine.

At times, Thompson encounters some stumbling blocks with dialogue. So much of the book is narrated, and the reflective tone works. However, that tone is kept for the dialogue, which makes people talk in metaphors a bit too often. Still, it's a problem that has to be searched for in an otherwise flawless telling.

As for the art, the book is a masterpiece. Thompson's work is fluid, with broad sweeping lines that capture the childhood and dreamlike elements of the book magnificently. He's able to subtly alter styles for differing moods and circumstances, bringing the scenes to life with slight touches the way master cinematographers work in film.

When I bought the book at Wizard World, the guy in the Top Shelf both told me Diamond Comics Distributors had already sold out of its first print run in July and a new run was already in the works. It's easy to understand why -- Blankets has received about as much hype as a funnybook can expect nowadays. What a pleasure it was to pick it up and see the hype was deserved.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image