Tag Archives: teen

Family Reunion

american salvage 7 family reunion

I wasn’t sure if I was really going to draw that final panel, but I drew it.

As I recall, there are a couple of pieces of American Salvage that appear in Bonnie Jo’s second novel, Once upon a River, which is apparently being made in a movie even as we speak, and the events of “Family Reunion” are a big part of Once upon a River, which I guess means that in short order we’re going to have a feature film in which a teenage girl shoots off the tip of her rapist’s weapon.

I guess America is seriously ripe for this kind of honesty in cinema. If more rapists got their dicks shot off, maybe there would be fewer rapists in the world.

It’s really only a couple of pixels, but it did seem like a kind of far-out thing to draw. Then again, so are gutted deer and spit roast pigs. And this is the 4th comic in a row that features a gun.

In the story, Marylou finally recognizes the violence that was done to her through the metaphor of a gutted deer. The word “rape” doesn’t appear in the story, and there’s no particular recollection of the actual event, although she describes the details of the moments before and after. The pig makes a vile, but apt metaphor as well.

Selective mutism is a not completely uncommon response to trauma among children. There’s a certain degree of power in willful silence. The way Marylou experiences the world, jumping back and forth between current and past events, is also a result of trauma. In illustrating the story, I jumbled up the images, quotes, and captions, too. Everything is mixed up. But Marylou has a moment of clarity at last. It’s a satisfying ending, the kind of justice that we so rarely see in the real world.

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The Trespasser

american salvage 1 trespasser_edited-1

Can’t imagine what Google must think of me after some of the queries I ran to get source images for this comic. The worst part is that I didn’t get any relevant results for “cum stained mattress” and had to improvise anyway. 

When I told the Fox that I was gearing up to write volume II of Bonnie Jo Campbell Comics, he told me that after I finished the first one I swore I would never do anything like that again. I literally have no recollection of saying that. It’s probably like having a baby, where your brain blocks out the level of pain you experienced so you’re not too terrified to do it again. I’m not terrified at all. After spending 300 hours drawing 8 pages for Linda Addison, an estimated 56 hours to draw 14 pages sounds like a cakewalk.

It seemed important to keep the style consistent between the 2 books, meaning I’m back to hand-lettering, which is very time consuming, but didn’t take as much time as I remember it taking. At any rate, I realize that even reverting to conventions like drawing most of the lines with a massive weight of 4 pixels and making people’s eyes look like tiny dots in any face that doesn’t take up the whole panel, I can’t revert entirely to the style in which I draw last year, because I learned so much in the process of drawing the first book that no matter what I do, the drawings are going to look better.

Another thing I noticed as I wrote the text was that my brain let go of the idea of summarizing. I’m not telling the story the way I did with “My Dog Roscoe.” I think this is Linda Addison’s influence, because everything she does is about poetry, including her prose. This comic seems to have more poetry to it than the early comics in the last set. It’s about “The Trespasser” but it doesn’t exactly tell you everything that’s in “The Trespasser.” It seeks to communicates the feelings and theme of “The Trespasser.”

To my mind, it’s a story that functions through juxtaposition. There are 2 girls who never meet in person, but who are heavily influenced by the artifacts of each other’s lives, and we’re forced to compare and contrast the characters while they are comparing and contrasting themselves, so that dictated the layout of the comic. This story is really rich in symbols, too, and it was hard to choose which ones to use. In particular, Bonnie Jo spends a lot of time describing the objects moved by the 16-year-old, but I think the portrait of the 13-year-old with her gymnastics trophy surrounded by bronze animals gets at the heart of it. I didn’t realize that bronze figurines of dinosaurs and farm animals were common things to collect, but according to Google Image Search, they must be.

A lot of people think of American Salvage as being a more androcentric book, but this story feels connected to the themes of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the plethora of dudes who don’t understand women soon enough.

When We Were Very Young Part 1

This is the oldest drawing of mine I can lay hands on; my mother probably has something older. It's dated 1986, so I was 11 and in 6th grade.

This is the oldest drawing of mine I can lay hands on; my mother probably has something older. It’s dated 1986, so I was 11 and in 6th grade.

I spent a lot of time drawing as a kid and, at age seven, declared my intention to be an artist when I grew up. My parents bought me some acrylic paints for my birthday, but warned me that they were expensive and that I shouldn’t waste them, because I wasn’t getting any more. As a result, I painted one picture, was unhappy with the results, and never used those paints again, sticking to crayons and water colors (which my parents also would not replace when I asked; when the blue, green, and purple was gone from my paint box, my mother’s response was, “Paint something red.” In fact, my blue period lasted about thirty years, and my mother never understood why I couldn’t just use the other colors) and later, when I was a teenager and rolling in babysitting money, I began investing in more expensive colored pencils.

Flowers, 1987

Flowers, 1987

Even as a very little kid, verisimilitude in my drawings seemed very important. It was frustrating when what appeared on the page didn’t match the image in mind, but in middle school my sketches finally began to feel a little closer to life.

The Human Heart, 1988, Based on this image, my parents began to encouraging me to seek a career in medical illustration. I was only in 8th grade, but it was already becoming clear that getting me excited about their idea of a professional future was going to be an uphill trek.

The Human Heart, 1988, Based on this image, my parents began to encouraging me to seek a career in medical illustration. I was only in 8th grade, but it was already becoming clear that getting me excited about their idea of a professional future was going to be an uphill trek.