Blankets, a graphic Novel

Blankets by Craig Thompson was my first introduction to graphic novels thanks to a former work collegue who is an avid follower of this medium, and advised me on what to read.

I had expected something like a comic strip, some light-hearted entertainment and perhaps some satirical twists. However I was wrong. Instead, Blankets is a captivating and heart-renching tale that draws on experiences and emotions that we can all relate to. Blankets is inspired by Thompson’s rural Wisconsin childhood in a fundermentalist Christian family, his first love, and his early adulthood.”I wanted to tell a long, breathable story about an emotional experience and I wanted that experience to be what it’s like to sleep next to someone for the first time,” Thompson says.

Perhaps the realism was too much for some; In October 2006, a resident of Marshall, Missouri attempted to have Blankets removed from the city’s public library in view that it was unappropriate for children and could be percieved as ‘pornography’.

Graphic novels distingish themselves from comics (which are usually collections of short unrelated stories) with a stand alone plot that usually focuses on one or more, related themes. And they often lend themselves to adult audiences.

However what struck me the most about Blankets, was the extend to which pictures could tell the story. 592 pages is a lengthy read, however the words and illustrations flow easily and are perfectly balanced to captivate the reader. Thompson uses perspective and intricate weaving patterns to draw attention to the inner thoughts of his characters. Rather than repeating a standard six or eight panel format, Thompson skillfully varies his compositions in shape and size, and often oversteps the borders of the panel. Each page is a surprise and is capitivating to look at. His illustrations seem to centre around the emotion he is trying to convey at that time and he relies on pictoral means to emphasis the most poinient moments. ‘A picture can tell a thousand words’.

Graphic novels are as disparate from books as is a play or a movie. It’s a different experience entirely. Pictures carry another kind of information than words. What is most exciting is that a picture language and a word language can interweave, which can’t be done by either one alone.”
–Will Eisner

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