Friday, January 22, 2016

Guest Review - Invisible Ink

   We have a Guest Review for you today from our pal David Wright, with a look at a graphic novel by one of the biggest names in the industry:

   Invisible Ink is the newest graphic novel by Bill Griffith, more famously known as the syndicated daily creator of Zippy the Pinhead.  

   He came out of the underground comix movement.   He is not a household name like Charles Schultz, Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, or even Garry Trudeau.  He's more fringe.  But his newest graphic novel comes off more down to earth, and it's better for that.

   This new graphic memoir deals with Griffith's family and life, and an affair his mother had when he was growing up.  Although the story might seem a bit lurid or tabloidish, it actually transcends that. 

   Born in 1944, and like a lot of baby boomers, Griffith grew up in a fairly conservative atmosphere.  His father was in the military, and his mother a housekeeper. In 1972, after the death of his father, his mother wanted to get something off her mind and reveals that she'd had a long and happy relationship with a man Bill had only slightly known. Oddly and a bit of coincidence, the man was Lawrence Lariar, a cartoonist and a crime novelist.

   After Bill's mother dies, he becomes interested in this secret part to his her life, and using her notes and files (she was also was a writer) reconstructs her past 16-year love affair with this man he hardly knew, which takes the reader on a journey not only into her life, but his as well.  

   It's one part detective novel, another part memoir, which sheds light on his growing up in the '50s, his coming to terms with the mystery of his real dad, and the culture of the '50s and '60s, among many other things.

   After his mother's death he goes to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to his uncle's house who gives him many old clippings and artifacts about his family's history. I enjoyed these insightful interludes with his uncle.

   Bill grew up in Levittown, New York. His neighbor was sci-fi artist, Ed Emshwiller, better known as EMSH. Just another one of those anecdotes in the book. It was sometime in 1957 that Griffith's mother takes a part time job in Manhattan working for Lariar, which is where they eventually meet.  She was always interested in writing, and perhaps since he was a writer as well, she thought it might make for interesting work.

   From there Griffith's goes into a bit of history about Lawrence Lariar's life as a cartoonist. During Lariar's early career, the stock market crashed and everybody was on hard times scrambling for money, you can imagine publishing was a pretty lean paying job at that time. Yet Lariar continued to make cartoons and strips, none of them ever really catching the public interest.

   At any rate, between these three or four plots the book skips around, from his mother and father's life, to his own personal life, to Lariar's life, they all form the story to this memoir.  

   Griffith's cartooning is not slick, but a little more rough hewn, or individualized. I actually like that aspect of his drawing style. Overall  I enjoyed Invisible Ink. It was one of the better graphic novels I'd read this past year. 

   His craft at drawing city scenes, landscapes and buildings and such is spot on.  If you are looking for an interesting read, I'd say check it out.    

Grade: A


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