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#75 [Aug. 2nd, 2008|09:57 am]

100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)

#75 BLANKETS – Craig Thompson
(Top Shelf)

“Let’s begin by rocking out for Jesus!”

There’s an entire subgenre of Christian rock called ‘Jesus is my girlfriend’ songs. On the surface they sound like typical pop songs about love, but a scan of the lyrics shows that all the love and devotion and yeah, baby is being directed at Jesus. Blankets is an autobiographical story about growing up in the ’90s, but it’s also a bit of a ‘Jesus is my girlfriend’ song and like the better class of pop songs it’s bittersweet.

Young Craig Thompson and his brother are raised by somewhat strict Christian parents, shown as oversized giants when angry, who box in and tower over the young narrator while chastising him for drawing a naked woman or not being able to share a bed with his brother without fighting. As Thompson grows older and more distant from his family and everyone else around him he focuses on two things for solace and security – both depicted in imaginative, hallucinatory sequences where angels sing and snow falls in elegant swirls – the girl he’s falling in love with and the religion he slowly begins questioning.

Although these burning and fevered obsessions result in a lot of time spent in Thompson’s internal world the people around him aren’t short-changed. Blankets breaks one of the rules of autobiography by showing events Thompson is absent from, private moments that are nonetheless captured believably and add to a sense of a world going on around the narrator even when he’s being too self-centred and adolescent to notice it. Pulling back from the author gives Blankets a depth more monomaniacal autobiographies often lack, distancing us so that when the focus pulls in on the personal moments they feel more intimate for it. It’s those intimate moments that are the heart of the book. While Thompson spends a chunk of the book losing his religion, in the closeness of a shared blanket – whether with a brother or a lover – he portrays moments that feel truly sacred.