Remember when reading comics was considered uncouth by the literati. Well, I do and I know that it wasn’t that long ago, and that it took Maus and Batman: the Dark Knight to bring the light of day to the rest of the world on comics as art that is now upon us.
I bring this up after re-visiting Chester Brown‘s biography, Louis Riel, which absolutely blew me away a few years ago. I was already a fan of I Never Liked You from years back (having discovered him via Drawn & Quarterly‘s Julie Doucet. Louis Riel, the graphic novel, is actually a reprint of work he did back in the early 90’s, which makes it all the more impressive. Thoroughly researched, deftly edited, and drawn with the sparse clarity of Japanese manga and condensed dialogue, Brown makes quick work of a folk hero from what is now Canada who is both lauded and unsung (and easily mentionable to any Canadian as a quick ‘in’ if you drop his name).
To bring this up, however, at a children’s book store with adults brought an unexpected surprise: we all shared in a love of graphic novels, secretly. We’d never truly own it out loud (except via a blog, right?), but we all loved to talk about what really made us fans. Was it the artwork of the incomparable Steve Ditko who inspired us to think in other dimensions about the reasons behind good and evil? The mastermind of marketing of Stan Lee in our early years? Or our affinity for the bleak altruism of Frank Miller? An affinity for the sparse, beautiful ennui in Adrian Tomine’s youthful protagonists? We loved them all under the “Graphic Novel” display one evening and wondered if anyone else in the room knew we’d found each other.