Though autobiographical comics have been around for decades, the more recent phenomenon of the "graphic memoir" is a slightly different animal: rather than a running chronicle of the artist's existence, it seeks to distill some broader truth about that existence into a novel-length story. Which isn't to say that the former is in some way less literary or meaningful; the distinction between Harvey Pekar's American Splendor and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home isn't one of quality, but simply one of approach. In his memoir Stitches, out now in trade paperback, David Small looks back on his unhappy childhood for a compelling exercise in the latter.
The narrative is driven by family secrets and unspoken resentment. Small divides the greater part of it between his six-, 14-, and 15-year-old self; he pieces together the lies and coming tragedies gradually, so the reader really gets a sense of what it was like to grow up without knowing what was so deeply wrong but without any doubt that something was. The somber ink-wash artwork suits the tone perfectly and the writing is stoic and restrained, often letting the pictures speak for themselves. Stitches comes highly recommended from your friends at the Laughing Ogre; though it's not exactly the sunniest comic on the block, it's brilliantly executed, and there are glimmers of hope and redemption in the end. Give it a look!
The Laughing Ogre is a comic shop located at 4258 North High St. Columbus, Ohio. Originally opened by Gib Bickel, Daryn Guarino, and company in 1994, it was acquired by Phoenix Comics and Toys of Virginia in March of 2006.