Review: Blankets by Craig Thompson

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Can a graphic novel be called a classic?  A coming-of-age epic?  A bildungsroman? Because I would fight you to the death to prove that Craig Thompson’s Blankets is all of the above.blankets_02
I had never reach much in the way of comic books.  My brother was more into superheroes than I was, though I would buy the G.I. Joe comics when 7-11 used to stock them every now and again, I was never an avid reader.

I was flipping through an anthology for a class in Advanced Prose (a technical term for non-fiction writing) back in 2012, and I found an excerpt of Blankets.  I ordered it shortly after.  It’s a graphic novel that has stayed with me over the last few years, and I can’t help but pull it out and page through it, as much for its art as for its story.

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Having never been too familiar with graphic novels before, I often dismissed them as simplistic or just relatively uninteresting.  I know, I know…I was wrong and ignorant.  Graphic novels are very much works of literature.

Blankets is the story of author Craig Thompson’s formative years, including his wrestling with religion, sexuality, the question of what to do with his life, and relationships (familial and otherwise).  Much of the novel is centered on Craig’s first love, Raina.  Thompson’s art style is terrific–a mix of caricature and realistic art, if such a thing makes sense.

Thompson’s panels keep you as hooked as a good novel, full of teenage wisdom, questions, blankets3and poetics without ever feeling derived, silly, or forced.  Quickly, you come to feel like you know Craig personally, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who can identify with his experiences.  The themes are universal.  If you’ve been a teenager, you’ll understand.

Looking at certain panels out of context, the writing may seem silly, yet this is where I find the ultimate difference between poorly-written teenagers and well-written ones.  Thompson writes,

“Maybe I’m sad about wanting you. I’m not too comfortable with wanting someone.”

I’m tumblr_mr9yoiky5j1qky4uyo1_500sure we can all recall saying something of the sort about a first love.  Thompson is able to vocalize (well, write and draw) how we all felt about our first romances, the first person we felt strongly for and the ensuing turmoil in approaching such feelings.

Blankets absolutely exudes realism without ever crossing into parody, and I think Thompson’s authenticity is a large part of what makes Blankets such a compelling and endearing read.

I fully believe Blankets is the kind of work that’s a game-changer for a genre, the type of work that influences a new crop of writers and artists to reach new heights.  It’s a graphic novel that adheres to the fibers in your muscles and doesn’t let go.

How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement…

no-matter-how-temporary

In the case of Blankets, the mark is anything but temporary.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Blankets by Craig Thompson

  1. Much like you, I’ve ignored graphic novels for years, but that all changed when I read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Then I read V For Vendetta by Alan Moore, which was incredible, and now I’ve realised my mistake. Graphic novels/comics can be really great if the right people work on them.

    Blankets has been a book I’ve been meaning to read ever since I became interested in graphic novels (which, admittedly, was only a few months ago). I’ve heard tonnes of great things about it and you’ve just reaffirmed that for me. The writing seems pretty great, and the artwork looks beautiful. Unfortunately graphic novels are pretty expensive, but I think I’ll try pick this one up when I can afford it. It doesn’t exactly help that I recently got into vinyl too. Anyway, great review and I’m glad to see that you’ve come around on graphic novels too. I’d really recommend V For Vendetta, it’s far better than the movie and I really enjoyed it.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. Persepolis is one of those that I’ve heard a lot about but haven’t yet gotten to for whatever reason. V for Vendetta I haven’t read or seen the film, so it’ll be cool to go in without any preconceived notions.

      I think a paperback edition of Blankets was released recently, though I imagine it’s still not particularly cheap. The price of quality, I suppose?

      I totally hear you on the records. For a while, I spent entirely too much on vinyl, and I’d check out garage sales and thrift stores for more. I had gotten some good deals, and it’s a great feeling when you finally find a record you’ve been searching for.

      To me, vinyl just sounds warmer and makes for a more enjoyable listening experience. The required interaction of flipping a record over brings listening music back as an activity and not as something you out on in the background.

      Best of luck with the new vinyl addiction. Let me know if you get your hands on anything good.

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  2. This sounds wonderful. Like the commenter above, Persepolis was my gateway drug to graphic novels. 🙂 I will look for Blankets at the library.

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