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- The Bleak Brilliance of Nick Drnaso’s Graphic Novels | The New Yorker
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Drnaso was not offended. In , Drnaso took a class taught by Brunetti. When Brunetti asked his students to draw someone they remembered from childhood, Drnaso surprised himself by attempting to capture, in ink on paper, his assailant, and what he had done to him a decade earlier. The man later pleaded guilty to one count and spent three years in prison. Drnaso gave a photocopy of the cartoon to Brunetti, and asked him to destroy it after reading.
Brunetti, stunned by its content, quietly disobeyed, folding it up and storing it someplace secret. He still has it. At one point, Brunetti, hoping that the shy Drnaso would feel emboldened by seeing his work in print, invited him to contribute to a student anthology. In response, his student drew a twelve-panel comic, in his then frenetic counterculture style, about a businessman who barely catches a flight, only to die a few panels later, when the plane crashes.
But as he worked on the project he realized that there was something else he needed to draw. Earlier that week, he had been taking a cigarette break outside the school, and had failed to help a fellow-student whose wheelchair was rolling off the sidewalk and into a busy street. A parking-garage attendant nearby rescued the girl. He cut out from a magazine banal images, some of them depicting kindhearted acts—a man opening a bus door for a woman, Mickey Mouse sharing a meal with Minnie Mouse on an airplane—traced them, colored them in, and accompanied them with a regret-filled monologue.
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He was pleased with the result: he had found a way to express his hot shame beneath a chilly veneer. By the end of college, Drnaso knew that he wanted to record the world around him, rather than satirize it.
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Brunetti encouraged the shift. Most young cartoonists focus on either the far away fantasy or the immediately at hand memoir. Drnaso was unusual in being attracted to the subject of the traditional realist novel: imaginary people experiencing the small conflicts and successes of ordinary life. He was also deeply interested in the working-class and middle-income world he came from.
Drnaso has held jobs ever since he was a teen-ager, and finds stability and gratification in manual labor. He told me that, in , soon after graduating from college, he was asked to paint a mural for an art opening in Chicago.
That month, as a member of a maintenance crew at a local concert arena, he was also staining a fence. The impact sent him to the emergency room in an ambulance, with a broken clavicle, but the upshot was that he got a car he could not otherwise have afforded. The story never resolves whether the rejection is deserved. Nothing dramatic happens to the boy, but Drnaso interweaves the ordinary details of a family trip with half a dozen panels in which Tyler fantasizes scenes of brutal revenge and outlandish orgies. Soon after high school, Drnaso had had a serious girlfriend, but after they broke up he avoided anything that might lead to rejection or a date.
They began to chat, and Leitten noted that she liked to draw. They also exchanged their own comics. Drnaso was excited to meet someone so cheerful and candid. She soon told him that she had been abused as a child, but he did not reveal what had happened to him. Soon, they were seriously dating. The relationship brought Drnaso joy but also worry. How would he manage without her? Partly in an effort to sublimate these fears, he began working on a story about a young man whose girlfriend, named Sabrina, vanishes while walking home from work.
Two of the first panels he drew were of the young man, Teddy, in closeup. Worry was now an affectless despair. Drnaso also severely restricted his color palette. The blue sky that originally accompanied Teddy and Calvin on their drive through Colorado Springs became the toxic yellow of a washed-out sunset. The only characters who had vivid features were those shown in news clips or online, as if people came to life only onscreen. He felt excited by his visual choices. An attuned reader will notice that, in a corridor at the base where Calvin has a confrontation with a scheming colleague, there is a tiny gray square where a wall meets the ceiling.
In , Drnaso had watched videos that Elliot Rodger had recorded before going on a shooting rampage at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Drnaso had also followed the Sandy Hook massacre and the appalling conspiracy theories it had spawned—in particular, the idea that the shooting was a fake event concocted by gun-control activists. The words of Jones and his guests were repellent, but they told a story, and he could imagine how even their distorted world views could provide listeners with a perverse consolation.
Drnaso finished his draft in the spring of He had created a comic whose drab tonalities and deliberate slowness challenged a genre that leans toward the overheated. Most of the panels have only one character in them, and are subtle in their virtuosity. One scene is presented from the point of view of laptop cameras, as Calvin and his daughter, who is in Florida, have a video chat.
When his daughter loses interest and walks away, Calvin sits back, and looks literally deflated. Sometimes it takes several pages before you apprehend how a new section fits with those which came before.
It never condescends to its characters—to their unfashionable haircuts, soft bodies, and modest ambitions. But he suddenly became overwhelmed by the thought that the story was irredeemably lurid. He had recently come back from a writing retreat—his first time without Sarah in more than three years—and felt destabilized. He had depicted the murder as a four-page sequence. On the fourth page, the man methodically stabs Sabrina to death, with a detachment consistent with the rest of the book.
He resumed smoking. His domestic happiness felt false. During this period, his memories of being molested came flooding back, overwhelming him. He contemplated suicide. I just sat there and ruminated for eighteen hours a day, and she just waited it out.
The Bleak Brilliance of Nick Drnaso’s Graphic Novels | The New Yorker
Finally, he went to a therapist. He had no health insurance, and so after his Medicaid ran out she gave him a discounted rate. He started taking the antidepressant citalopram, and began to feel more stable. Drnaso finally told Sarah and his parents about the abuse. They were all supportive. His crisis lasted more than a month. During that time, he saw the isolation and the shame of his characters in a more autobiographical light.
Drnaso decided to give his royalties from the first printing to a few charities, including Camfed, a nonprofit that provides education to girls in rural sub-Saharan Africa. He modified the curve of her mouth and gave her eyes an alert look, so that she seemed more like a deer sniffing danger. The wall labels echo the tweets that accompanied the drawings. Obama 'Hope' artist: Trump is 'dangerous'. As a highly subjective document of a fraught political moment, it's a fascinating timeline, mainly depicting the president as a clown, a cyclops, a pig, a witch and a kinky ice cream-eater among other unflattering personages, alongside more flash-in-the-pan political figures.
From Churchill to Trump, Gerald Scarfe captures the ugly side of politics.
One drawing from early this year disfigures Trey Gowdy, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, as a slack-jawed rat set against a background of red and blue scribbles, alongside the caption-tweet : "Another RAT leaps from the sinking ship! Swim Willard! Other sundry figures that briefly burst into headlines over the past two years are similarly subject to the invective of Carrey's colorful cartoons.
The show feels less like a critique than a reaction to -- and some ways an enactment of -- the disorienting political circus that sparked it. It is about weird sides and misinformation and this strange pseudo structure we're living in, where half the people believe a completely different story. The world of Jim Carrey's political cartoons, where an Ace Ventura avatar gleefully rides atop an elephant with Trump's sons impaled on its tusks, relates only loosely to the history of art, or even the political cartoon itself. The latter is often a finely tuned metaphor, turning drawing into a narrative infographic.
The reactionary force of "IndigNation," which has been the source of much of its praise, produces something different: revenge caricatures and revisionist fantasies. But it's not a different line of work to me. It's true.
Carrey's staggering talents as a comedian, actor and entertainer are undeniable and seemingly impossible to disentangle from any critique of his work as a visual artist. Stripped of the context of his celebrity aura, the drawings and paintings resemble much of what can be found stacked on the blankets of any street artist hawking their wares on Venice Beach, or hung on the walls of a college town coffee shop or inked in the pages of an angry teen's notebook. Which makes "IndigNation" more compelling as a case study in the ethics of attention than anything else.
Americans are sorting through the aftermath of the most significant midterm elections in recent US history, where many high-profile figures attempted to leverage their charisma, their celebrity and their platforms to support specific causes and campaigns. Will Ferrell, Tiffany Haddish and Oprah, among others , traveled to Atlanta to rally support for gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, the Democratic challenger whose refusal to concede the very close race amid a flurry of uncounted and provisional ballots could spark a special runoff election against Republican Brian Kemp.