Quick Comic Recs: Blankets by Craig Thompson

Emma Solis, Staff Writer

If there’s anything Keystone students could use more of, it’s books. I know that sounds pretty judgmental (and incorrect), but I think we’ve all heard “I haven’t had time to read since middle/elementary school!” at least a hundred times by now, and have probably said it at some point, too. And to be honest, how awkward is it when your English teacher asks what you’ve been reading for fun for the past four years, and you can only come up with one or two titles? That’s why I think our newspaper could use a section that not only shares (relatively) undiscovered art, but suggests dramatic, relatable, and visually impressive books that can be read super quickly (even a 600 page novel can get done in a couple hours). Graphic novels are, to me, some of the best books out there right now, especially for those interested in both writing and art. It can be tedious, though, to sift through the mass of “undiscovered art” to find the gems—so I’m planning on doing it for you.

My first recommendation (and it is my first because it’s a strong recommendation) is Blankets by Craig Thompson. This illustrated autobiography follows the author’s painful childhood raised in an evangelical, repressive community, to his teenage years striving to be a good Christian, to his final struggle with his beliefs and discovery of love with an independent thinker. Thompson’s intriguing personal 

experiences with religion are likely the main cause of this book’s existence, but the romance eventually becomes far more prominent to the storyline. One of my favorite surprises about this book is Craig’s eloquent internal dialogue; he sees the world in such a pure and romantic way that while the religious discussion can get heavy, the romance more than makes up for it in pure innocence and emotional investment of the reader.

What helped me to buy into Craig’s saccharine worldview was the gorgeous (and sometimes gorgeously unsettling) artwork, which contrasts harsh geometric shapes representing demons with huge, sweeping, rounded designs filled with angels and trumpets. While the work is fully done in ink drawings, no two pages look the same in style; Thompson knows exactly how to subtly tweak his art to represent the emotion of a scene, whether it be increasing the sketchiness and visual chaos in one to represent anxiety or greatly increasing the visual depth and realism in another for a more romantic image, as shown in the image to the left.

Blankets isn’t academia, but it won’t leave you intellectually bored in any way, especially if you like to mull over the sorts of religious and existential questions brought up in this book. It was also received very enthusiastically by critics, winning five major awards for creative achievement in comic books—two Eisner and three Harvey awards; The Guardian even called it “one of the best graphic novels of all time.” I can’t think of another graphic novel out right now that would be enjoyable to every teenager I know. Blankets is pretty much a must-read.