Thomas Thorhauge is a Danish cartoonist with a regular spot in the major newspaper Politiken. His Graphic Novel Come Home won the “Best Danish Cartoon” prize at comics festival Komiks.dk. Here he gives you an alternative book tip: if you need a break from reading heavy books this semester, why not take a look at a European masterpiece in graphic form…
It is both ironic and completely unsurprising, that as paper-borne media are slowly smothered, creativity burgeons. A similar thing was evident with silent films in the late 1920s when talkies were taking over. During this period, some of the most unforgettable silent films were made, possibly as a self-conscious swan song.
Something equivalent is happening in comics. In the previous ten to fifteen years, print runs have plummeted but at the same time it has never, I repeat, never been as exciting to follow visual literature as it is now. In their roughly 180-year history, comics have primarily offered a platform for humour and adventure, and despite countless tentative efforts, it is as if the medium only recently realised itself as a fully developed, personal form of expression. In Europe, the US and Japan the scope is virtually exploding, and on this background choosing just one work for you, dear reader, is extremely difficult.
But then, after all it isn’t all that difficult. If previously you haven’t read many comics and you spend your life on other exciting things, I think you should read the most ambitious, the most relevant and the most virtuoso work one can find. And that is L’Ascension du haut mal by David B., available in English as Epileptic.
Quite simply Epileptic tells the story of the author growing up in the shadow of his older brother’s struggle with epilepsy, though it is by no means a story of illness. Rather it depicts beautifully how we all struggle to establish an identity, both on a fundamental level and on a concrete one: how does it influence a young person that their family travels all over the country in their search for strange, alternative forms of treatment; escape into old journals about war and occultism; ghosts in the backyard and much more.
David B. is one of the key figures on the modern French comics scene, and although he has signed a large number of other fine comics, ‘Epileptic’ towers above them. Characteristic of this masterpiece is not only its great existential scope but also the utterly original and astounding way in which he handles complex and compelling imagery, which takes his accomplishment to the highest level.
If you read only one comic in your life, let it be this one.