I just read Craig Thompson's "illustrated novel," Blankets. I was going to take it back to the library yesterday when I returned the Judy Garland Show videos. (What a treat those are. Lena Horne, Mel Torme, the Count Basie Orchestra, all up close, not to mention Judy who blows me away every single time. She sings "Old Man River" -- "Old Man River"?! -- and you just think her heart is going to explode. Nobody comes close to Judy.)
But I decided to keep Blankets for a few more days, to savor the drawings. The story is so moving -- and moves so swiftly -- that it's easy to miss the beauty of the illustrations.
Blankets is the first graphic novel I've read. I just hadn't come across one that drew me in. J. read it and loved it so much, I thought I'd try it. (And his recommendation coincided with my discovery of some gay erotic comics that I loved, so I'd been exploring that whole world. Sex and drawing are two of my favorite things.)
I'm a big fan of good drawing, and Craig Thompson's book is relentlessly full of beautiful drawings, pages and pages of them. It's almost overwhelming.
It dawns on me. Maybe everybody but me already knew this. Sometimes I'm late to the party. But it seems to me that the comics world is where good drawing is happening now. It's not happening in the contemporary art world. Not that it doesn't exist there, but it's not the rule.
I'm basing my theory on a dilettante's understanding of comics. I've barely skimmed the surface. And I don't keep up with the art scene as thoroughly as I used to. But it's pretty stunning, a work like Blankets, with hundreds of pages of really fine drawings compared to most of the sloppy, ugly stuff you find on contemporary art gallery walls.