Have you read Craig Thompson yet? And I swear I’m not cheating by putting the name of an artist here instead of a list of comics. It’s not like I don’t have a list. Pfft… How could you even think that? It’s just that the list is two specific books by Craig Thompson – Blankets and Habibi. In that particular order.
Thompson’s work, I believe, exemplifies comics as an art. I don’t know where to start talking about it – the exotic stories or the art that merges seamlessly into words. The ink splattered goodness is so heavenly, you can literally tear off every page of the comic (if you have the heart to), get them framed and hang them on your walls. I have lost count of the number of seconds (err… minutes) I have spent lost in a single page while reading the book. And not just while reading, but afterwords. Like googling a quote you’re itching to remember, I’m often stuck looking for a particular page from one of the books, or trying to replicate it by drawing it myself when I can’t get enough of it.
Books are supposed to teleport us into worlds different from our own. Most do it through stories and in novels, the writing style makes all of it happen. Comics, on the other hand, become a double-edged sword. While the images might complement the story, they might even be distracting for the reader, because there is a lot of input to the brain, the flashy images, the stills, the dialog boxes and the words themselves. Craig Thompson executes the style perfectly; so that you feel like the protagonist is holding your hand and leading you through all the confusion that is their story while still have time to swoon over the art.
Then their is the story. Or stories. All of them. The ones I have read till now and the ones I am saving for later, all of them justify the beautiful art they are soaked in. Be it Blankets, where Craig weaves you a story of his first love, each thread spun with nostalgia, or Habibi, a story of slaves and sheikhs as bitter as folklore. If the art is beautiful, the stories enchanting, and tempting you to peak into the future by turning just a few pages.
Even if you don’t read comics, I would urge you to make this one author an exception. If you’re looking for a comfortable spot to edge into the comic world, this is a good way to ease your foot in the door. For starters, I’ll recommend Blankets. And only of you absolutely love Thompson’s style, move to Habibi.
While Blankets is at the end a story – a fond remembrance of Thompson’s first love, Habibi is more of an artistic expression. At many places, it feels like a peak into the author’s mind and his drawing style rather than just a story. I liked the book, but a huge reason behind it is my admiration for Thompson’s art, which made occasional expansions and digressions in the book interesting as it let him expand on how he draws. But for readers who are just interested in the story, these diversions just put them off. In Blankets, the pace of the story is more suited to the readers.
So the verdict is, read Blankets for sure. And if you feel like you start craving more of Thompson’s style, give Habibi a shot.