This month, I’ve been revisiting my favorite comics to rediscover the reasons I fell in love with them to begin with. First up was Angel: After the Fall, then Y: The Last Man. My plan was to do the same for Craig Thompson’s graphic novel/kinda-memoir Blankets, but when I began to think more and more about my experience with the book, I thought I’d do something different this time: a story of collection, and discovery.
First up, I wrote a review of Blankets years and years ago when I first read it, and those words still stand, though I am a vastly different person than I was when I first read the book at my childhood home in bed. I wrote: “Blankets is a literary achievement, and probably one of the top five graphic novels of all time. It’s a story so fulfilling and so immensely – almost staggeringly – beautiful that it, like first love itself, almost aches to experience it. But, again like first love itself, is something that I’d recommend to any and everyone. As a man very much like Craig – a Christian who doesn’t find everything the church teaches to his liking as well as a person who had a bittersweet first love – I found this book to be so full of poignant truth that I was brought to tears many times over.”
I’m not going to talk much about the plot or go on and on about how brilliant it is, because you can find praise about Blankets pretty much anywhere. When I think of Blankets, I think more of the life I’ve lived around the book – and that isn’t to take away from the book itself, but rather the opposite. I love reading and always have but, realistically, considering the amount of books, comics or otherwise, that I’ve read in my life, precious few books have been so affecting that they’ve become actual markers of change and forward movement in my life. Blankets is one of those books, so I thought I’d look back on some personal memories of reading and experiencing Craig Thompson’s opus.
NEW YORK COMIC-CON
At NYCC a few years back, I was dismayed to learn that I’d narrowly missed a Craig Thompson signing. At that show, I was busy scoring an invite to pitch for Angel at IDW — my first ever gig – so I hadn’t been paying attention. Normally, I wouldn’t mind, but the opportunity to meet the man who wrote and drew Blankets made my chest swell with the words I wanted to say. The woman I was dating at that point told me about it, and that I’d missed it, but not to feel too badly.
I felt pretty badly.
Two months later, on Christmas morning, she presented me with a gorgeous hardcover copy of Blankets that had been signed by Craig Thompson. She’d crept off while I was busy networking to secure a copy, and though I didn’t have the opportunity to tell the man to his face how grateful I was, I now held something that was a tangible connection to a writer whose words and brushstrokes had changed my life. That was something.
Years later, I gave a girlfriend my first copy of Blankets, which I’d told her – this is true, and might have been as corny as it sounds here, but hell, it’s honest – was speckled with my tears. It was one of the most important gifts I ever gave, and was treated as such.
BURN THE MEMORIES
Now, here’s the big one. There is a scene toward the end of Blankets where Craig burns all of his memories of Raina, letting all physical evidence that she’d ever been in his life burn to ash. I didn’t understand it for years and, as I read the scene, every time I wanted to reach into the pages and save a memory for Craig. “You’ll need these,” I thought. “Don’t you understand that you’ll need these?”
Years later, after I’d gotten my hardcover, signed Blankets and after I gave away my tear-stained Blankets, I found myself changed. I was a different person, with a different life, taking a different path… and yet, I kept a box of memories that I had initially thought of as respite, a reminder of who I used to be. However, as I packed up my essentials and prepared to make the biggest move of my life, I picked up that box and felt nothing but its weight. I asked one of my closest friends to come with me and we walked out to the nearest dumpster. As we walked, I thought of Craig and his memories, and I finally understood.
There was no fire, but things can’t always be perfect.
And finally, an anecdote about Blastoff Comics. I’ve been writing for Blastoff for years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever shared a story about Blastoff. I don’t live near the shop, but the first time I had the pleasure of visiting, I was reminded of something that I knew, just from the way Scott Tipton spoke of the shop. He wanted to make Blastoff more than just a place where you come and get your pulls and debate the latest comic book movie casting news. I say this not because I am writing for Blastoff, and not because Scott is a friend, but because it is true, and is important to me – Blastoff is a haven of discovery.
After having read Blankets countless times, and seeking out every bit of Craig Thompson’s work I could, I walked into Blastoff Comics and, while chatting with Scott, found a CD on the shelf with Craig and Raina embracing on the cover. I was stunned to learn that it was an album by the band Tracker, recorded as a soundtrack for Blankets. Of course I bought it, took it home, and found myself enjoying Blankets in an entirely new way – something I thought, after all this time, was impossible.
I have changed in the time I’ve read Blankets and, each time, the meaning of the book and the way my life shaped around and adjacent to it has changed as well. When I read Blankets again, with a span of years between now and then, I can only wonder what new stories it will tell.