Crossing Over (Into Comics)

Last week I did a couple of reviews of verse novels that worked pretty well as crossover (from YA to “adult”) fiction. This week I want to introduce two comics that suit the crossover theme, except this time when I say “crossover” I mean that I’m pretty sure these were marketed for older audiences but could have appreciative teen readers as well.

The first book, just like one of the books last week, was a gift from the lovely Megan Harrison. Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá was published in a serialized issues in 2010, and since then has won an Eisner award, a Harvey, and an Eagle award. The story is about Brás de Oliva Domingos …

The miracle child of a world-famous Brazilian writer, Brás spends his days penning other people’s obituaries and his nights dreaming of becoming a successful author himself—writing the end of other people’s stories, while his own has barely begun. But on the day that life begins, would he even notice? Does it start at 21 when he meets the girl of his dreams? Or at 11, when he has his first kiss? Is it later in his life when his first son is born? Or earlier when he might have found his voice as a writer? – [X]

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This comic is possible one of the more unique ones I’ve encountered (though admittedly I haven’t read all that many)- it reads like a series of short stories that all follow the same man- Brás. Each story begins with an incredible new possibility or opportunity for him, and each story ends with the exact opposite of this idea of potentiality- death.

Every time I flipped over to a new story, I couldn’t help but empathize with Brás and hope for the best. I was acutely aware of where his story was leading- even if Brás is not- and when the story reached an un/expected end, I was disappointed, sure, but I also couldn’t help but marvel at how cleverly Brás’ many lives were portrayed. Each chapter or short story deals with a different aspect of his life (though it really could have been anybody’s life)- his friends, his childhood, his father, his loves, his wife, his kids, and so on. And strikingly, more often than not, his life’s successes are measured by the people he encounters thanks to the chaos of everyday, mundane life. But I guess that description is at odds with the way the story is told and the art is presented … life is everyday and mundane at times but the gorgeous art and the (famed) “silent moments” reminds us of its magical quality. And if that doesn’t work, well, we are reminded of it every time Brás’ life comes to a screeching halt. I can’t help but repeat myself- it’s just all so cleverly done!

The second book I wanted to talk about is Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi:

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From the best-selling author of Persepolis comes this gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women. Embroideries gathers together Marjane’s tough-talking grandmother, stoic mother, glamorous and eccentric aunt and their friends and neighbors for an afternoon of tea drinking and talking. Naturally, the subject turns to love, sex and the vagaries of men. – [X]

I don’t really have much to say about this one, except that I really enjoyed it. It does exactly what it says on the tin- Marjane’s family, neighbours, and friends get together and gossip about the nature of love, sexuality, and gender expression. You get a total spectrum of stories- “As the afternoon progresses, these vibrant women share their secrets, their regrets and their often outrageous stories about, among other things, how to fake one’s virginity, how to escape an arranged marriage, how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery and how to delight in being a mistress.” It’s a fun stand-alone set in the Persepolis universe and if you enjoyed those, you’d probably enjoy this one.

So, honestly, I can only see two reasons why Daytripper and Embroideries are not explicitly marketed to young adults. The first is that teen and young adult presence in both these books are rare- something that hasn’t really stopped teens and young adults from exploring different kinds of books, I feel. The second reason is the depiction of sex or (like in Embroideries) the discussion of sex and sexual expression. Obviously, I couldn’t recommend these books to every teen ever. But if a teenager were to like novels such as American Gods by Neil Gaiman, I’m pretty sure reading Daytripper or Embroideries won’t scar them for life- that awkward privilege would go to Neil Gaiman for writing American Gods and to the readers themselves for forging on with a story they might not be ready for.

What I am saying is, there are many merits to observing the way sex and sexuality is promoted and policed in the literature and media we surround ourselves in- especially, the way these expressions are culture and age specific. If you would like to explore these themes (and many others) then graphic novels like Daytripper and Embroideries will welcome you with open, erm, covers.