Qulture – WEB EXTRA – Graphic Novelist Craig Thompson discusses 'Blankets'

the comic strip Peanuts and then you get these little tiny little paperbacks the dime-store paperbacks and i was obsessed with Charlie Brown and Snoopy and and that's where I learned to draw really so for like the first you know 10 years of my life every character I drew looked like Charlie Brown just bawled like me now and a round head and a somewhere around second grade where a teacher pointed out to me like oh you should probably draw hair on characters you could differentiate one from another that's when I learned to draw hair but before that everyone looked like Charlie Brown I don't know if I ever thought of thought of it and that sort of I knew I wanted to work in comics I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist and there was a time when I fell out of love with the medium of comics when I was in high school I really distanced myself from comic books and role-playing games and all these nerdy obsessions of my youth and but I realized I would love cartooning I wanted to pursue a career in animation at that time and and then became kind of disillusioned with that medium because I realized to have a career in animation I mean there are people that just do things on their own but it's very difficult even more tedious than making comics usually you're part of an industry which of course hundreds of people you know and best-case scenario you're a keyframe animator but I wanted to do it all I wanted to design the characters and write the stories and do the acting and create the backgrounds and then that's when I kind of rediscovered comics and realize like well one person can do it all this is a really great mode for self-expression basically I had to go through this shift where as a kid it was all about escapism for me the the fantasy world of comic books and then as I rediscovered as an adult it became something about communication my first book was I think blankets actually yeah I mean I did I did a book earlier that was about 120 pages I wouldn't call it a graphic novel you know it was a novella maybe which sounds even more pretentious but basically like it was a you know short story in in the format of comics and blankets was the first one that I would it was I don't know a little bit more novelistic in scope so for people who have not read it could you please describe blankets it's a coming-of-age story about growing up in rural Wisconsin the snowy landscape I think a lot of Canadians would relate to the landscape it's about my relationship with my little brother growing up we shared a bed together and then a sort of coming-of-age romance I think a lot of people could relate to to and falling from growing up and falling from the Christian faith I resisted the auto bio element for a long time so initial my first draft of the book I was trying to change everything so it didn't resemble my reality it was based off of it but I was changing everything and as I got deeper and deeper into the writing process I realized it just made more sense to stick to the actual events my actual experience and to make it more real an autobiographical but it was definitely influenced by some Canadian cartoonists like Chester Brown did a book called I never liked you that was probably the biggest influence on the book which it which was about his adolescence growing up no you know actually grew up more in a suburban atmosphere but there's sort of like melancholy and I don't know it was a into very intimate book and that's the kind of thing I wanted to create to it was very surprising it was an instantaneous hit and when I was working on the book I didn't think anybody would see it I mean I that was part of that worked for me I think I was very naive and I was also like no one's gonna see this book so I can just tell whatever I want to tell now I'm more guarded I think as an author now that I'm aware of audience but then I was like well maybe a couple hundred people will see this you know and and I don't know if they'll be able relate to it because I had such a specifically sheltered upbringing in this sheltered community in rural Wisconsin but in fact then I found that you know all these universal themes of family and first love and faith kind of cross over a lot of boundaries either the weirdest thing that's happened to me at a book signing event is that a couple proposed to each other in front of me and he had carved out a copy of my book with the ring embedded in that and then got down on his knee in front of his you know girlfriend at that time at a book signing event yeah so I was the witness so so yeah that happens all the time to write my sightings okay no idea so that's that's the most amazing event probably that's I spent a year just writing the book before I started drawing it so there was two years spent drawing it one year spent writing it but I wasn't paid anything to make the book so I was earning a living I was working full-time as an illustrator which was a pretty cushy gig actually it was a great flexible way to make a living so I was able to figure out a way to balance half of my time was doing paying illustration gigs and then the other half was doing my personal work so comics were purely my mode of self-expression it wasn't there's no money involved I think what surprised me is that blankets when I was working on it was like my refuge from all the chaos of the rest of my life because I think I think my life was terrible then yeah ie on money and money many levels like I was very poor I was taking care of people I was living in a really terrible apartment in Portland Oregon that was complete chaos it was just full of the most terrible scenes every day drug dealers and abuse so I do think of that time in my life is utter chaos and the book itself was my refuge so I could go into that space and and and feel a certain shelter comfort which are themes of the book too I'm always writing visually there's several actually layers to the way I write so at first it's just doodles in a sketchbook and I see what emerges out of that they're sort of like hazy dream images and then I start maybe creating an outline chef around note cards and start putting together a narrative around sort of the images I've accumulated in the sketchbooks and then my first draft is drawn straight in the sketchbooks and it's like a quickly drawn like ten pages a day loose version of the book and then I edit that and I will draw hundreds of pages and discard hundreds of pages I never knew the ending of the book so I I worked on that for a year and never reach that point of feeling a confident in the ending but knew I just had to start drawing so I just started from page one chapter one and as I got closer to the the ending still feeling unhappy with the last chapter I'd written I realized actually had to live the last two chapters of the book before I could write them so those were happening in real time while writing the book there were some trips that I went back home to Wisconsin as an adult that I wrote into the book and those summed up they then you know finale of the story I don't know if I have regret but I couldn't tell a story for instance that depicted my family that intimately now because I feel more protective of them in older age now I was 23 when I wrote that book so and and all those experiences of my childhood were still so close then too so in a way they were still pure that I don't know if I could access memory in that same way no the book is dedicated to my family so I was thinking of my family while working on the book and it was meant to be quite reverent to them and it was my only mode of expression to communicate things with them we didn't grow up in a in a really communicative family a very Midwestern stoic Midwestern family where you don't have any intellectual or emotional discussions you know you talk about the weather at best and so this was my my vehicle to to come out to my parents about all kinds of different things you

5 thoughts on “Qulture – WEB EXTRA – Graphic Novelist Craig Thompson discusses 'Blankets'

  1. Great interview. Watch it completes the experience of reading the book, I think, because, when I closed his pages, one hour ago, kinda felt like, as Holden Caulfield says in "The catcher in the rye", that I wanted to be an old friend of the author, just to calling him and talk about the life, the universe and other stuff.

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