Graphic Friday: Over Easy by Mimi Pond

I learned something from my graphic novel this week.  I learned about the Plymouth Mod Tops.  Our main character, whose waitress name is Madge, buys one as her first car.  1969 Plymouth Satellite Mod Top.  This sent me down a rabbit hole and I’m still pretty excited about it.  They’re a rarity, which is too bad because I pretty much NEED one now.

I was doubtful when I started this book.  It was bigger than I was expecting and had a lot more words that I was expecting and was printed in a greenish ink that made it hard to read in bed.  But I powered through and I was glad that I did.  Madge, who starts out as Margaret, is an art student but she is denied financial aid for her final year of college and asks for a job at a diner that she stumbled upon on a whim.  Lazlo, the manager, asks for a joke and she tells him one just like that she becomes a dish washer.

It’s the late 1970’s.  The hippies are dying out and punk rock is being born.  The restaurant is ripe with the usual dramas: hook ups and break ups.  There are drugs and drinking, drag queens and lesbians.  It’s basically the movie Waiting moved back a few decades.  It was good.  I found myself chuckling and laughing and wanting to wear vintage dresses listen to my punk albums.  Plus, I still really need a Mod Top.

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Graphic Friday: Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

That thing where you sneak in some reading at work but it’s a big mistake because the book you’re reading punches you in the gut and then you have to try not to cry in front of your coworkers.

Yeah, that was this book.

This is Clementine’s story but we know from the beginning that she is dead.  It is told through her journal, which has been left to her girlfriend.  Clementine was with her boyfriend the first time she saw Emma.  They passed each other in the street and Clementine couldn’t look away.  She is haunted with vivid, intimate dreams of this girl with blue hair.  Confused, she eventually breaks up with her boyfriend and begins trying to figure out “what is wrong with her.”  Luckily, she has a gay friend, Valentin, to help her on the way.  It’s Valentin who takes her to the gay car where she next sees Emma and then their relationship begins to unfold.

It’s not perfect, of course.  It’s all difficult.  Clementine is still just a teenager and she has to deal with high school and prejudiced friends and family.  She has a lot of maturing to do, but so does Emma.

This was perhaps one of the most heart-wrenchingly romantic comics that I have ever read.  It was beautiful and it seriously made me cry.  Five stars.

Graphic Friday: The Graphic Canon, vol 1

Hey, hey, hey!  We still do Graphic Friday around here!  I finished one this week and I am psyched to be back on track-kind of.

The Graphic Canon, vol 1 runs from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Dangerous Liasonsi and is comprised of a number of short comics from different artists adapting classics of literature into ye olde sequential art.  On a whole, I loved it, though I am willing to admit that there were some misses for me.  Most of the works were treated with respect but sometimes I felt as if the artists were poking fun at other cultures.  I think that out of all of the comics, I skipped maybe three.  For instance, I had a hard time reading Lysistrata just because the art style jumbled my brain.  But it was also really cool to see Revelations done in comic form.  There were a number of stories that left me awestruck because they were just so well done, things of beauty.

This was a hella big book, 500 pages and large.  If you intend to read it, I would suggest picking your way through it slowly, not carrying it to and from work with you, and not holding it while you read.

A short break, and then I’ll be onto volume 2!

Graphic Friday- Marbles by Ellen Forney

Hey, hey!  It’s Graphic Friday and for the first time in a couple of weeks, I have a review for you.

This is another title that languished on my TBR list since it was published in 2012.  If I’m being completely honest, I almost skipped this one.  There were a couple of reasons.  Something about the contrast of the black and white illustrations bothered me.  Was it that there seemed to be too much black?  Was it the sometimes crowded frames?  Also, I hate to admit it, it seemed like there were Too Many Words.  (At the time, I was working on a big reading project and looking forward to a comic as a bit of a rest and a quick read.)  “Do I really want to read a graphic novel about bipolar disorder?”  I asked myself.

The answer is that I did want to read a comic about bipolar disorder and you may want to, too.

I’m sure that most of us have some kind of experience with bipolar disorder, either because of ourselves or our friends or our family.  It feels surprisingly common sometimes.  And though I have never taken to time to seek a diagnosis or a clean bill of mental health, my own life has been defined by UP moods and DOWN moods.  What I found surprising about Forney’s autobiographical book is how acutely she described things that I personally experienced and how well she recorded thoughts that seemed so personal to me.

When Forney was about to turn thirty, she received her diagnosis.  Manic at the time, she planned an extravagant event to celebrate her birthday.  Performers, artists, costumes, DJ’s.  The only person who recognized the pattern was her mother.  Forney’s manias make her loud and outgoing, overly sexual and easily distracted, a little too likely to cross lines and push people out of her life by just being overbearing.  When she is manic, she tells herself that she can prepare herself for the depression.  “Manic me will take care of depressed me,” she says.  Only, when she is manic she forgets just how low her lows are.

This is the story of Forney coming to terms with her diagnosis.  It’s about learning to monitor herself and finding the right combination of medications.  But it’s also about the big question:  How do bipolar disorder and creativity fit together and what effect does medication have on the two?

Graphic Friday- Missed Connections by Sophie Blackall

This little book was waiting for me when I got in on Monday morning and by the time that my computer logged on I had read almost all of it.

Blackall discovered missed connections one day on her way home to Brooklyn from Manhattan.  She was used to mining for material, reading old letters and telegrams and other personal artifacts for inspiration, but here was an endless well of possibilities.  Blackall resolved to illustrate one a day and post them to a blog.  This book is a collection of some of those drawings.

This was an interesting read.  The joy of a missed connection is that they are usually short and sometimes they sum up huge emotions.  Blackall’s illustrations were sometimes funny (like the hairy swimmer or the man with the amazing mustache) and sometimes sweet.  Plus, I always like a peek into the lives of others, their shared bear costumes and moments of bashfulness.

All in all, this was a cute, fast read.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

This is one of those books that kind of makes you ask what you consider to be a graphic novel.  See, when I started at this library, this book was shelved with the young adult fiction.  It wasn’t long before we moved it to the graphic novel section in the hopes that it would get more circulation there.  Even before I read it, I knew this was a neat book and pretty much completely up my alley.  I’d really like to see it check out more.

So, no, this is not a traditional “graphic novel” in that it is not in comic form at all.  Instead, it is told through a scrapbook with tons of 1920’s memorabilia.

Frankie (never Francis) Pratt is the smartest girl in her class.  She is also poor, her father having passed away at a young age and left her mother to care for Frankie and her two younger brothers on a nurse’s wages.  When we first meet Frankie, she is in high school, spending time with her friends and even going on a date with the smartest boy in her class.  She is accepted to Vassar on scholarship but decides to nurse instead in order to help her mother.  However, when Frankie starts a unfortunate relationship with her charge’s grandson, a recently returned war hero, she finds herself on her way to Vassar anyway.

We watch as the 1920’s unfold.  Frankie wants to write and she starts wanting to write like “Mrs. Wharton” but she is soon turned on to Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Joyce.  At college she takes up smoking and bobs her hair.  She goes to New York and Paris and smokes and drinks and has romances.  It’s pretty great.

I really enjoyed this book.  Even if the story is sparse and very “let’s get through everything in the Roaring 20’s,” I found myself caught up in it.  I also googled old brands and found that endlessly fascinating.  This isn’t for everybody but it was definitely for me.

Graphic Friday- Blankets by Craig Thompson

Welcome to Graphic Friday, where sometimes we accidentally post on Wednesday.  We’re working on it folks!

I was surprised to see that this book came out in 2003.  The way Thomson talks about his teenage years, which I placed vaguely in the early 1990’s, made it feel more distant at the time of writing.  You know, I am one of those people who forgets that I graduated 16 years ago so I guess that’s not really surprising.

This book, well, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me.

Thompson tells the story of his coming of age.  I can’t think of any better way to describe it.  He tells stories throughout that are memories of his childhood, when he shared a bed with his little brother.  Craig says that he was not a very good older brother, that he was sometimes mean to his brother and that he didn’t protect him.  He touches on the inappropriate conduct of a babysitter, a trap that he let his brother fall into and that sent him headlong into religion and the striving for heaven.

Craig takes religion seriously, seriously enough that his pastor asks if he has considered going into the ministry.  Craig hasn’t really considered anything about his future.  Then he meets Raina at winter church camp and he is instantly smitten.  When he goes to stay with Raina and her family in Michigan for two weeks in the winter, he begins to see that he may have missed out on some of life.

This book touched on a lot of sensitive and emotional subjects: religion, abuse, first lover, doubt.  However, I felt like all of these things were handled very well.  I can promise that I was invested in this story after my initial doubt that it was for me.  Craig’s experience of first love and his realization that he may not have been invested enough in the real world felt like legitimate experiences to me.  They felt real.

This was a touching tale but one which I can see not fitting for everyone.