Halfway done with my degree and thinking, I could do this forever. Not just writing, but the whole experience of living and breathing writing in a community which does the same. While this semester has been largely more stressful and less blissful than the last, I still find myself more satisfied with my life than I ever have been before.
Things that are blowing my mind:
- I am halfway done with an MFA. Only one year left.
- I have enough pages to meet my thesis requirement.
- I have enough pages for a book.
- I have written my first syllabus and will teach two classes next year.
- I have made friends which I will be extremely sad not to see every day once these shenanigans are over. In one year, I will be a sentimental mess.
- I am a writer. Not just a student.
My summer plans are mostly tentative at this point. I am searching for a job or internship back in Michigan and looking forward to spending a lot of time at the beach in the name of thesis research. Mostly, I will be writing and revising and researching in preparation for another year of workshops.
In other news:
You can find my short story, “Milkweed, Bowling, and the Japanese Bomb” in Issue 9 of Midwestern Gothic. I am happy to see my work showcased alongside so many fantastic Midwest writers.
The last book of the project is a doozy, Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines. This graphic novel imagines a world in which animals can talk, and fight for their rights, and form militant terrorist groups. One such group, led by the vicious monkey, Pompeii, bombs a building, which sets off a massive animal-hunt for her and her accomplice, a gorilla. Duncan approaches the story and the make-up of this alternate world from both human and animal perspectives. The dynamics between the two groups are fascinating yet real. Of course a dog would want to know what is happening to a cow at a slaughterhouse.
But this graphic novel is perhaps less about the narrative and more about its execution. Hines uses poetry, philosophy, collage, multiple plot lines and digressions. He experiments with the art form of the graphic novel in previously unseen ways. While the narrative is strong and interesting, the real value lies in this experimentation. A great way to end the project.
And now, for the break down. A listing of graphic novels worth reading, middling, and worth skipping. (See the wrap-up from last year, too.)
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
- Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
- Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes
- Wilson by Daniel Clowes
- A Contract with God by Will Eisner
- Sardine in Outer Space by Emmanuel Guibert
- Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines
- I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason
- Low Moon by Jason
- American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Stephen King
- The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire
- The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
- Making Comics by Scott McCloud
- Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
- 300 by Frank Miller
- Creature Tech by Doug TenNapel
- Captain Long Ears by Diana Thung
- Hereville by Barry Deutsch
- Special Exits by Joyce Farmer
- The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan
- The Impostor’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell
- Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
- Set to Sea by Drew Weing
- Cairo by G. Willow Wilson
- Weathercraft by Jim Woodring
What is this? Why do I keep returning to Daniel Clowes? This is the third title I’ve read by him for this project, and I have this strange compulsion to read everything he’s written. Also, the library has an abundance of his books, and rather than read some questionable vampire-crime-Greek-god comic, I’m drawn to his dependable asshole-ery instead. Yeah, asshole-ery. Everything I’ve read by him has an asshole. Even Mister Wonderful. Wilson might be the biggest one yet, though the chicks from Ghost World were pretty bad too. But I guess what saves this one and all of his graphic novels is the sad fact that the things Clowes writes into his characters’ minds are all things we’ve thought at some point.
Wilson is about Wilson, “a big-hearted slob, a devoted father and husband, an idiot, a sociopath, a delusional blowhard, a delicate flower.” Essentially, he’s a jerk who might not have been a jerk if he’d gotten some love along the way. He loves his dog and tries to love his ex-girlfriend and daughter and new girlfriend, but he never quite understands the concept of loving someone the way they need to be loved.
Only one more day in this project, and then I will disappear into the MFA world once again.
Look at this cover. Big, angry, green-eyed cat, smoking a cigarette and a blurb from Stan Lee himself “as good as it gets!” Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido is a comic re-envisioning of the hardboiled detective novels of the past. Re-envisioned with animals as people. Blacksad is a good-looking cat detective with a man’s body and a way with ladies and bad guys and the top-tier scumlords who fuel crime in this animal-alternative version of American history. Blacksad is broken up into four albums, each a self-contained mystery story, though each has enough suspense and intrigue and sad but foxy ladies to fill a Tarantino film.
And the art. This book is worth it just for the art. Cats, dogs, deer, roosters, each character is drawn with a personality and a humanity that is absent in graphic novels with humans as characters. The art is sexy and gritty and involves its reader in the plot and the world like all good comic art should do.
If you like detective stories, or animals as people, or comics, please read this one. I hope this pair of authors continues to create such high-caliber comics. I’d be truly disappointed if they did not. A similar disappointment to the one I would fill if Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez stopped building their Locke and Key series. Another one you should unquestionably read.
Previously in the project, I noted that Fun Home by Alison Bechdel was not a downer. Well, here’s one that is, Special Exits by Joyce Farmer. Special Exits is a graphic memoir about Farmer’s care of her elderly father and step-mother. The couple begins as functioning but with certain quirks like a violent cat named Ching and an over-stuffed garage that the father must push their car into. The two realize their deterioration, however, and note that they “either have to make some big changes or make the best of it.” They decide to make the best of it. Over the course of the memoir, their health and lifestyles jump off a cliff, yet they refuse the help of home health care nurses and rely completely on their daughter to lend the hand they need. But nothing improves, and the memoir’s narrative arc is actually a steady downhill. This is truly a sad but (at times) touching story.
The art here is unique, but the pages feel cramped with too many frames per page and with word bubbles that take up far more space than they need to. I wish these two flaws could be fixed to improve the flow and readability, but overall, the art does well to communicate the story, especially as the couple begins to lose their mental faculties and what they say is not necessarily what is happening.
Truthfully, I found it difficult to pick this book back up after I’d set it down for a day. The downward plunging spiral of the couple and the inability of the daughter to curb the situation and the inevitable ending inferred from the title didn’t push me to return to its pages. This project did, but without it, I might have let this one drift back to the library unfinished. Of course, as with Fun Home, I’m glad to have finished it.
Almost done with 30 graphic novels in 30 days. Tomorrow, Blacksad.
- MFA Year 1
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: Duncan the Wonder Dog and Wrap-Up
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: Wilson
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: Blacksad
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: Special Exits
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: Weathercraft
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: Hereville
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: Refresh, Refresh
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: Creature Tech
- 30 Graphic Novels in 30 Days Rnd 2: A Contract with God