Epileptic by David B.
Reading this comic really made me wonder what the hell is wrong with North American comics? I like Super-hero stuff and I like some indy stuff, but this was just so freaking good it made everything I remember reading a bit crappier. This book made me want to follow it into battle. It was a rallying cry and a heavy totem that should be used to beat the heads of anyone thinking of making autobiographical comics. Why? Simple. It’s a personal story that doesn’t feel trite or extremely mundane and trying to make something bigger out of mediocrity and suburbia.
This comic doesn’t have the answers. It knows there isn’t one. It’s about understanding. It’s about how something so innocent and beyond the control of anyone can have such a profound affect on everyone around.
I thought this would be a story about two brothers and how epilepsy affects them or one of them. This is sort of the story but the main thrust of it is how the parents try to deal with this situation as much as the children. And boy do they try a lot. It’s extremely fascinating to experience all the various new age “cures” the family adopts or gives a shot.
After a few episodes you start to feel they’re fooling themselves. That they’re gullible and willing to be taken for a ride by anyone with a quick fix that doesn’t involve surgery. As the story hits its denoument I realized they weren’t being gullible or holding onto false hope they were trying to keep everyone together, to distract themselves from how bad things could go. The side effect is that all these distractions mean that Jean-Christophe’s epilepsy does become the focus of their entire existence. Everything they do is to try and distract them from this one condition. Basically, by not talking about it, by not dealing with it, the silence becomes louder than anything else in their lives. When there is constant noise, silence becomes more powerful, and is given a sharper focus.
David B’s art is simply amazing. It reminded me a lot of Mayan or Aztek inspired totems. The various demons, especially Jean-Christophe’s epilepsy, are shown in a style that is reflective of “primitive” art. It’s not exactly South American Indian anymore than it is Australian Aborigine. What better way to represent a primal, unknown force than to return to an art-form used to explain a primal, unknown world. Just as “primitive” art is used to represent myths and legends that explain the world, it fits perfectly with they myth and legends of this epileptic family. They don’t all have epilepsy, but their lives are focused around it.
The sharp lines, the dark and harsh inking really give a lot of this story a sense of foreboding in parts. There is an evolution from childish moments with fun art to nightmarish images of death and reflections on anxiety. This story feels as much like a confessional as it does an autobiography. It needs to be studied not copied. We would all be better for it.
This is simply one of the best comics I’ve ever read.