Comic Books, For Reals

When people ask what I do, I tell them I'm a student. The invariable question after that is, "What's your major?" I say, "Art." The invariable question after that is, "What will you do with an art degree?" The sarcastic-but-true answer is my previous answer repeated: "Art." If I get my way, what will I do with an art degree? I want to do what Craig Thompson does. I've heaped praise upon Blankets before, and his travel journal/sketchbook/comic Carnet de Voyage was the major inspiration for my own "wildly popular" China journal/sketchbook/comic.

I think it's just the coolest fucking thing ever that Thompson actually makes books. He's not doing monthly magazines like most comics artists - he's doing books. Big, blocky things with spines and extended page counts, y'know? Call them "graphic novels" if you must. I call them comic books. He is not a slave to the demanding structure of a serialized story. Nor is he a navel-gazer. Blankets is autobiographical, but it's a story, one with a beginning, middle and end, complex themes and symbology, the whole nine yards, not the shambling, self-absorbed, "I'm poor, I have lots of weird friends, isn't my life so interesting" bullshit that so many "alternative" comics artists put out there.

I'm not saying that Thompson is the greatest and all others suck. There's plenty of autobiography that's really well-done - Raina Telgemeier's thoroughly charming Smile is one of my very favorite webcomics, for example. What I'm trying to get at is that I admire Thompson's ambition. He's dedicated to the idea of using comics to tell long and complex stories. He's hard at work on his next book, Habibi, and says that he'll have it ready for a 2009 release if he works on it every day. If you click that link, you'll see that the art is characteristically gorgeous. I think it's a safe bet that the final product will be well worth the wait.