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Blankets

Page history last edited by Matt Clarkson 8 years, 3 months ago

Creator: Craig Thompson

Originally Published: July 23, 2003

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

 

Blankets is an autobiographical “illustrated novel” about Thompson’s coming-of-age, his first love, and his outgrowing of Christianity.  The relationships shown in most detail are those between Craig and his younger brother, Phil, and between Craig and his first love, Raina.

 

Plot Summary

 

Blankets deals primarily with Craig’s adolescence, it begins and is interspersed with flashbacks showing moments from his childhood.  In these past sequences, the relationship between Craig and his brother, Phil, and the character of their parents are seen.  Craig and Phil are seen drawing together, playing imaginary games in the bed they share, exploring outside, and having numerous ridiculous sibling conflicts (one which ends on the brothers peeing on one another).  The mother is shown to be religiously overbearing and the father to be harsh and overly authoritative. 

 

The scenes of Craig and church and certain things said to him by Christians in his childhood are shown to shape his understanding of God, life, and love.  From early on in his experiences in the church, he struggles with the “doctrine” that art is “ungodly” and leads inevitably to sinfulness.  At the same time he is compelled to express himself through art he is burdened with the desire to please God, and his perceived opposition between the two is a source of turmoil in his adolescence.

 

 As a teenager his is often picked on because of his looks and family’s financial status.  Though he can justify his being picked on at school as persecution because of his faith, he is baffled by the abuse while at church camp, among “Christians.”  Between his junior and senior year of high school he finds refuge with a group of “misfits” that include and enchanting girl, Raina.  They become inseparable for the remainder of camp, often skipping events to spend time away together. 

 

They send notes and packages back and forth and plan to spend two weeks together over the following Christmas break.  Craig goes to Raina’s house, where he meets her family.  Raina’s parents are going through a divorce, Raina’s adopted siblings, Ben and Laura are both mentally retarded, and Raina’s biological sister is recently married with a child, who she often ignores.  Raina often watches her niece, Sarah, and is the protective caretaker of her mentally retarded siblings, especially because of the divorce.

 

Over the two weeks Craig spends there, he and Raina spend much of the time talking, and as they get closer, start sharing Raina’s bed at night.  Towards the end of Craig’s stay, as Raina begins to feel the burden of yet another relationship on her, she seems to distance herself from Craig.  Craig is frustrated the mixed signals he receives from Raina: the arms-length distance she keeps him at during the day and the skin-to-skin intimacy she performs at night.  After his stay, Craig and Raina’s relationship weakens and Craig eventually calls to break up with her.  He burns everything she ever gave him with the exception of the quilt she made for him before his visit. 

 

After graduation he packs up all his things, namely his bible and Raina’s quilt, and stores them in his parents attic.  He leaves his home, and his Christianity, to experience life on the West Coast.  He returns for his brother’s wedding and for Christmas one year, and rediscovers his bible and Raina’s quilt.  He finds comfort in both and ends the book with a hopeful understanding of himself and his faith.

 

 

Significant Features

 

Blankets is in the form of most alternative comics, black and white and done entirely by the author, but is much more subtle and less cynical than most alternative comics.  The style Thompson uses often varies throughout the work and aligns with the mood of the moment.  When dealing with anxiety the artwork does become more harsh and jagged.  When dealing with ideas or spiritual struggles, the artwork becomes more abstract. 

 

Though told chronologically and narrated entirely to the reader, Thompson does strategically place his childhood flashbacks to give weight or explain his associations or understandings of the story’s “present.”  There are also a few references to his first work, Good-bye, Chunky Rice

 

Reception 

 

As soon as it was published in 2003, it received tremendous praise.  Time magazine named it #1 in Comics in its Top 10 Everything 2003 column stating, “Fluidly told over 582 pages, "Blankets" magically recreates the high emotional stakes of adolescence. Thompson has set new bars for the medium not just in length, but breadth.”  In 2004 Blankets/Thompson won the Harvey Awards for Best Artist, Best Cartoonist, and Best Graphic Album of Original Work, the Eisner Awards for Best Graphic Album and Best Writer/Artist, and the Ignatz Awards for Outstanding Artist and Outstanding Graphic Novel or Collection.  It has since been published in numerous editions and translated into fourteen different languages. 

 

 

References 


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blankets_(graphic_novel)
  2. Heater, Brian. “Interview: Craig Thompson Pt. 1 (of 2).” The Daily Cross Hatch. 2007-05-07. http://thedailycrosshatch.com/2007/05/07/431/
  3. Hoashi, Lisa. “Fluency in Form: A Survey of the Graphic Memoir.” The Missouri Review 30.4 (Winter 2007): 159-174.
  4. Wolk, Douglas, “Craig Thompson and James Kochalka: Craft Versus Cuteness,” in Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, 203-213. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2007.

 

 

 

 

Further Reading

 

http://www.craigthompsonbooks.com/

http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v5_1/stevens/

http://culturemagazine.ca/books/sexuality_art_and_religion_in_craig_thompsons_blankets_.html

 

 

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