For years, whenever I mentioned the words “comics” or “comic books” to my friends, they’d scratch their heads and ask what I meant. Most of their inquiries carried assumptions with them, like “Do you mean like Archie?” or “The ones in the newspaper?”
These assumptions told me something: most people in the general public aren’t aware the comics industry is alive and well. All of this is changing of late with the rise of movie adaptations of comic books and critics taking a more respectful look at comics and what has become known as the graphic novel.
Is there a distinction between comic books and graphic novels? The answer’s yes: comic books are thought of more as the single-issues that come out every month that contain parts of a story, while the term “graphic novel” is more reserved for books that come out with the entire story altogether, or are the single-issues collected into one easy-to-find place. Although these two different terms exist, they are still under one banner, and that is the art form of comics.
Now, down to business. While I had some free time in my hectic semester, which I’m sure many of you can relate to, I took the time to pick up a charming book I had been hearing about in circles on the Internet: “Blankets,” by Craig Thompson. At first glance, you might not even realize that the book you see is a graphic novel, considering the width of its spine is about two inches. However, once you take the time to sit down and read “Blankets,” you’ll see that it is far more than some “book.”
The story within isn’t filled with shenanigans and tightly-clothed super-powered beings; instead, Thompson chose to write a memoir concerning the universal subjects of looming adulthood and teenage first love. It is hard to describe just how emotionally wrought Thompson’s story is; all I can really say is he correctly gets every feeling from that time in one’s life down on paper. As the narrative ebbs and flows from childhood to adulthood, the reader can clearly identify the emotions in every single scene, whether they concern heart-pounding infatuation or dark childhood memories. As far as story goes, Thompson hit a home run.
Now we have to address the other side of the coin when comics are concerned — the art. Some ventures into graphic storytelling have creative teams, but on a project this personal, Thompson decided to go the lone wolf route and cover all bases himself. Thompson’s art carries a warm familiar feeling by mixing realistic bases with more artistic or cartoonish trappings. One thing I’d like to note is the way the lines of Thompson’s pen flow from thick to thin, giving all of his forms a sense of flowing movement.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough; I actually didn’t want it to be over when I knew I was nearing the end. If you want proof of this graphic novel’s quality, you can find that it won the Harvey, Eisner and Ignatz Awards in 2004 and won the Prix de la Critique in France in 2005. So if you’re ready to explore outside the written word for more, or if you want to expand your understanding of the comics art form, Craig Thompson’s “Blankets” is one book that is definitely worth your time.