When I began reading comics and graphic novels, I kept seeing stacks of a book by Craig Thompson, Blankets. I would pick it up, read the blurbs, flip through it and eventually set it down… it didn’t look like something I would be interested in. Towards the latter half of 2011 I began hearing rumblings about one of the most gorgeous and amazing graphic novels, Habibi, by the aforementioned Craig Thompson. For whatever reason, that book caught my attention… and it was my favorite read of the year.
In the year that followed, I no longer saw stacks of Blankets as I did when it came in 2003 and began collecting awards like a hoarder, but it was always present… and something kept drawing me to it, and at the same time, something kept repelling me away. I was a fool to not delve into this fantastic piece of autobiographical art.
Blankets is a touching, heartwarming story of first love… of growing up poor and in an evangelical family… of how we come to our faith, and in the end move away from the faith of one’s childhood into the cynicism of adulthood. But it’s in the story of his first love where the novel breathes and grips your soul.
The novel opens in Thompson’s childhood, and having to share a bed with his younger brother Phil. From there the book moves chronologically through his life, through his adolescence and ultimately into the beginnings of adulthood… but it always goes back to scenes from his earliest days with his brother.
There is a warmth to the way Thompson constructs his story and in his art. What I thought were crude line drawings at first, evolve into something far more effective than I would have imagined at first glance… and by the time he heads off to a Christian camp and meets Raina, that first love… his art work is filled with life and emotion.
His love is rendered in such a way that you will be blown away by how well he conveys the emotions of someone experiencing that feeling for the first time… the trepidation of wanting to touch this object of your desires… the excitement of the new, the foreign emotions, the sight of watching someone you pine for sleep, the desire to spend every waking moment engrossed in that other person’s love. I was enraptured by the emotive power of Thompson’s pen… both in the art and the written words, which were sparse and perfectly placed.
I would like to say that many things happen during the course of the novel, but it doesn’t… very little happens in terms of action… but the book is a testament to the very experience of growing up. There is pain, there is confusion, there is fantasy, and there is the harsh reality of what we go through and what happens to us. Some of these things are in our control… others, not so much. Craig Thompson understands how to mine those emotions and distill them to their base constituents.
Blankets is a beautiful book… lovingly rendered and expertly written. I now have a better understanding of how Habibi came to be… and am eagerly anticipating what Mr. Thompson has planned next. My trepidation regarding this book were foolish, it’s a remarkable piece of art, and one that should be savored and enjoyed.
Cornelius J. Blahg