Friday, December 21, 2012

For Thursday: Thompson's Blankets

 Remember, we have no class again until next Thursday, December 27th!  During the break, read Craig Thompson's Blankets and answer the template questions (your last ones!).  Also, remember that if you have not posted on-line yet, this is your last chance to do so (it's a required part of your participation grade).  Start thinking about your 6th graphic novel as well...e-mail me if you have any questions or concerns.

For more information about Thompson, check out his personal blog, where he discusses his latest projects and his past works:


  1. Blankets Response-Jess Wolfe

    1. The illustration in this novel is more cartoony than some of the others we’ve read, but it is still very detailed. There are also more frames without captioning, so the pictures are what tell the story and keep the reader’s interest. I feel that the lack of words makes this novel more somber in a way. Pictures allow you to read more into what’s going on, whereas a thought bubble or caption box tells you a limited story. I think this style works great, because there is a lot going on behind the scenes in this story that could be missed if you focused too much on words.

    2. Well this story is told more in the pictures we see than in the words we read, so to translate it into a novel or short story would risk losing the whole story I think. A film could work I suppose, but with film you have a dialog between actors, and once again I think all the words would just take away from the story. I just feel like this book allows readers to make their own inferences. You’re not told so much what to think or how to feel, all that it left up to the reader here, and I just can’t see how that could still be possible if this story was told in another format. A novel would tell you exactly what to think and feel, and I think a film version would ultimately be the same way.

    3. The story is narrated by Craig. He goes back and forth from the present to the past. As he tells one story, he is reminded of another from when he was younger. Perhaps these moments of reminiscence are to show readers the reasons behind the way things are and the person he is now. The flashbacks that he has often involve his younger brother, Phil, and though readers never really see Phil’s point of view, we can see the feelings that Craig had in those moments and those that he has now, and they are often a little different from one another.

    4. The series of frames that stood out the most to me starts on page 136 when Craig’s Sunday school teacher asks what he will do in Heaven. While snowmobiling and playing football are completely acceptable answers, drawing for all eternity is completely ridiculed. And I feel like this is kind of where Craig’s faith in a lot of things is shattered. You can go to Heaven and play football, and that’s fine because it’s not like God has ever played football, but drawing is something that God has done – in a manner of speaking. People always go on about how beautiful and picturesque sunrises or sunsets are, and more than once I’ve heard someone say that God has drawn or painted another masterpiece, so I guess trying to attempt something that God has already mastered is a joke. So I feel like in this series of frames, Craig learns that all his ideas are just “jokes.” And I think this is what leads him to feel so lost throughout the novel.

  2. Blankets has a cartoony art style with tight lines. The black and white left me feeling a little empty. Something was just missing. However that dose fit well with theme of the story... Parts towards the end started to get really weird and super artsy. It felt like out of body experiences almost and again with the touchy subject during these panels it fit well. Had this graphic novel been done in a more realistic art style I feel that it would have been to much for any audience to take. It was graphic enough as a cartoon. Also had there been color it would have changed to mood and lost the somber empty feeling.

    I think it was written as a graphics novel to soften to blow. I read it was written for s parents to let them know he was not longer a man of faith. Not only that but the abuse he suffered, it makes not allusion to the parents knowing about it so the graphic novel gave him a way for him to put it all out on the table and it not be totally overwhelming. Also the back and forth between child hood and present day would not lend its self well to another median. As a book, it would come off as sad and sup depressing, as a movie, no one would want to watch the graphic scenes of his child hood and they would never be able to lighten it up like they did with they art style he used.

    Craig, he uses first person narrative to talk to us throughout the novel. It give inside to his mind and how he handles things like his brother, the guilt he feels, and his falling out of his parents beliefs. It gets a little weird when he starts spitting off bible verses towards the readers and it takes over the panels and it overwhelming. However knowing what it feels like to have a crisis of faith and pulling away from parental beliefs I feel it works well. When you are trying to figure out what you feel the same thing happens, with everything you do you have a verse looming over your head. Like a curse. Despite the overwhelming feeling, I feel it was perfectly narrated at those points.

    A important scene starts on page 291 were he is battling his guilt of not helping his brother and also reliving the abuse he suffered. He said he was to weak to help out his own brother and this guilt is worsened by the fact he feels Raina helped out her adopted brother every chance she could. It was also shocking union the next page to learn the baby sitter was a boy... That was shocking... The person from the start was just ambiguous to me and due to a stereotype I tend to assume babysitters are female. To discover it was a man made the glances at their abuse worse to me. I'm not sure why, but it did....
    This abuse has effected him and he feels so guilty about not protecting his brother from it. That is enough to shake any ones faith. He was a child and really could not do much to protect his brother without it become worse for them but the guilt from it is still something that will take him along time to fully deal with.

  3. Art Style
    Pretty heavy on the cartooning. I don't think it any point it seems "realistic" in style, but by playing with and overlapping cartoon elements he's able to achieve some surprisingly lifelike, almost internal-thought-like transitions. I think that plays into this graphic novel to the greatest extent, panels are rarely meant to be taken literally, and have heavy levels of symbolism. This is certainly not a 'cartoon', but picking this format allows him to nicely exaggerate elements and pick artistic ways to show how characters are feeling at certain times.

    Why Graphic Novel
    I think it would be hard to portray this same story in any other medium, as it is so steeped in the visual medium. Panels where the words fill the background or though balloon dominate the foreground, morphic scenes as characters transition from reality to inner-thoughts and back again, forward and backwards in time, and alterations like the picture of Jesus turning away all would be very difficult to translate into more "solid" mediums like a live action film or a novel.

    All Craig, all the time. Which is to say you get a very expansive view from Craig's viewpoint. Whether it is a literal narration, switching into Bible verse, or bits of internal monologue, Blankets is really all about capturing this time of Craig's life. While you do see events from a sort of second narrator's perspective sometimes, the text narration is always Craig himself.

    I have not read into the later half yet, so I don;t want to pick a less significant scene from Parts I-IV. I will finish this before Friday.

  4. Blankets, by Craig Thompson
    Review by Marissa Hinton

    Blankets is drawn, if anything, in a more comic-strip style. It comes closer to something like Calvin and Hobbes or even Zits than any other comic we've read, and the comparatively more mundane content (it's not about gangsters, superheroes, or the Holocaust...) adds to that, both with the fact in and of itself, and the way the art only has to capture mundane things; Thompson is free to focus on the curve of a limb or the tilt of someone's eyes, much more than Miller or Spiegelman might have been.

    Blankets was written as a graphic novel because some of its best scenes are wordless, or rely heavily on pictures for their impact. The comic draws evenly from words and art, but the artwork definitely carries more weight, and so the graphic novel format was used to make sure both get their due in the final story.

    Narration in Blankets goes primarily from the elder brother as a first person point of view. However, the story begins in his younger brother's point of view, then switches over. The majority of Blankets is a sort of autobiography of Thompson's childhood, and in fact this is a feature many like about the book—that its narration is realistic and reminiscent of a memoir. The drawings are also matched well to the boys' stages of life, at least the drawings they make, which populate the strip every now and again, a nice detail to pay attention to.

    Personally, I think the first scene in Blankets is important. The helpless, trapped feeling that pervaded the boys' childhood features heavily in the entire work, and nowhere is it put in a purer form than in that first gut-wrenching scene, which echoes throughout the rest of the book. Without it, the emotional stage would be far from set, and the story's seriousness and weight would be affected as well—both adversely.

  5. 1. The art work is rather cartoon-like, but detailed just enough to make it less cartoony. I would have liked a more realistic art style, simply because i feel that it would have made the tone stronger. Also, I'm not sure the black and white color scheme was the correct choice. I would have like a wider range, even if it stayed with darker colors.

    2. I believe that Blankets would fail as another type of medium. A "typical" novel would lose an abundant amout of information because it relies so major on the images. We would have to read an overload of details just about the scenery, which can lose the readers attention very quickly.

    3. Blankets is narrated by Craig. This character shows us through the narration what he feels, sees, and goes through. Although at times, he states multiple bible verses toward the reader. I do not believe that that was the right thing to do. I feel that it was too much. Maybe calm it down some. I understand why he did it (sort of), but you don't need to overwhelm the reader. But of course, it worked for the story, apparently. Over all, Craig as a narrator, worked perfectly.

    4. In the later part of the work, the reader sees a scene where Craig says that he is scared of being "lustful". Raina asks him which is worse, lust or temptation. This scene is the forbidden forest. She is Eve, and he is Adam. Eve tempts Adam with the apple: "Here, take a bite." This scene is important because he says that shame is easier when you have someone to share it with. He wants to share his shame with Raina.

  6. 1. Thompson uses a really cartoonish art style, I think, that is comparable to Maus. But not only is it cartoony, it's also really artistic, in that there's a lot of detail, and there are pages devoted totally to the artwork. It fits this kind of story, because on some level, Craig is always a kid, and a cartoon style can best show how he sees the world.

    2. There's a lot to Blankets that can only really work in a graphic novel. Like before, Craig is a kid, so it would be hard to show how intimidating he sees adults, or religion, or how full his imagination is in only words. While I think it -could- be done in a movie, it would have to be animated, and I think that in the context of film, either some of the meaning of the art would be lost, or it wouldn't be taken as seriously.

    3. Craig Thompson is the narrator, as well as the main character. But the narration does a weird thing in that it switches between Craig as a little kid, and Craig as a teenager, and eventually as an adult towards the end. In a similar way to Batman, Craig has the narration, which acts as both his thoughts and an omniscient voice, and the dialouge. I think it works well in a graphic novel because it shows how Craig thinks about what's happening from different angles, both personal and (less so)objective.

    4. One of the most important panels, I think, is on Page 550. After Craig talks about some of the contradictions in his religion, there's a full page of a "big bad wolf" (who I think looks kind of scary, even if cartoonish) blowing over the pretty little house the religious dog/pig/bear thing has set up. Craig is coming to the realization that his religion, which had dictated his life so far, is so easily blown over under the face of logic and the views of an objective and "adult" world.

  7. How was the work illustrated?
    Blankets is drawn in a cartoony style that allowed the author to express characters’ thoughts and feelings in pictures rather than descriptive words. This style wouldn’t be as possible in realistic illustrations without seeming out of place. Like on page 337 we see Craig watching Raina typing while in bed, then the following frame we see Craig drawn in a world where he’s almost worshiping her at a shrine. Another example of how meaning is conveyed through this style is the way certain characters take on ominous, dark appearances when discussing things that frighten Craig, like the Church lady discussing hell at the beginning of the story. The Characters in crowds and other places were also drawn well in a caricature-like, cartoony style pointing out interesting aspects of the people.

    Blankets is narrated by our main character, Craig, who is growing up in a home with a heavy emphasis on church and in a small town where he doesn’t fit in or relate well to others. He is engulfed in a church-themed life at home, bible school, and at church camps, and we see him dealing with his personal beliefs and religious fears as he struggles to work out his own ideas of the world. More prominently in the story, Craig is a young man dealing with his first love. The comic does a great job of illustrating emotions and showing the reader the personal thoughts of the characters.

    As a Graphic Novel:
    The graphic novel is the perfect format for Blankets. The drawings illustrate the emphasis and weight of Craig’s feelings, passions, and fears. At times we see him surrounded by crowds and we can visually see his feeling of being out of place, while other times we see him feeling overwhelmed and surrounded by daunting, overshadowing figures. A typical novel format would lose these great illustrations and a generic explanation of his feelings would not compare to the drawings in Blankets.

    Specific Scene:
    At the end of the book, on pages 504-510, we see Craig having returned home and the snow is melting. I think this is a cool detail and a good way to begin a conclusion to the story. The snow had been a dominant theme throughout the book and was maybe symbolic of Craig’s pure, child-like, and naïve attitude going into his first love. The snow had previously hidden features of the earth which are revealed in new forms as the snow melts. The melting of the snow is representative of our character moving on, fading away from his first love and from his childhood, and seeing the world in a new way.

  8. [1] Blankets is a very cartoony and stylized work. Cartoony as it fits our accepted ideas of what people and things should be but does not capture the individuality of people, of humanity. Almost all of the panels are full and busy, similar to what we see in Road to Perdition, but with neat lines and designs that stay in a similar style throughout. This works for the story though, it tones down and lightens the mood of the narrative.

    [2] This story would lose the depth that it has if it was written as a “novel”. The emotions that the images evoke would not have been as powerful if they were merely represented by words—how can you describe the looks of terror represented on Phil’s face when his daddy locks him in the cubby hole. There are some things that you just can’t show with words.

    [3] Craig is the narrator of the story, which is fitting as it is primarily his story. He does only tell his story though; he brings in the stories and events that happen in the lives that intertwine with his. The narration is through his voice—is adult voice telling about the experiences that he had, “We were LUCKY it was MOM who came upstairs that night.” (330) This is not a completely unique way of tell a story but it does keep the flow of the images and the story in order and allows the reader to follow quite easily.

    [4] The scene that I would like to focus on is on pages forty-five through forty-seven—the scene that focuses on the boys playing with the animal bones that they find while playing outside. The panels that capture my attention the most are the two where the boys put on the skulls and transform into something else. The human bodies with the animal heads—the arrow shooting above them. They are becoming something different, something almost apotropaic, mirroring the transformation of Craig’s life but offering protection in some small way. Craig didn’t protect his brother, or so he believed, but this scene shows that there were small things that did offer protection and comfort—to both of them. It rounds out how he felt about things years later when he was looking back—the comfort he took then and the comfort that felt looking back.