I'm Crazy by Adam Bourret
Adam Bourret has a lot of interesting life to work with in his autobiographical comic I'm Crazy. Bourret won the Xeric Grant this year and he used the funds to put out a more polished version of the book. He's also serializing it online. Unlike many autobiographical comics I've recently read, Bourret has problems way beyond being a mopey, shy cartoonist as he suffers from various mental issues (primarily it seems to be OCD that afflicts him) that profoundly affect his life.
Bourret is not a great artist, but he is an imagative one and his artwork is consistent and expressive enough to not detract from the book. The imagination is really important here as Bourret is trying to visually convey the mental activity that largely defines the drama of his life in the book. He does at times rely on anthropomorphizing his inner demons as crazy looking imps and monsterous creatures talking to him, but not all the time. One of the most powerful visual images in the book is Bourret's description of "the root" he feels inside that rips him apart and overtakes him. That seems to me more evocative of the force of specific thoughts that are ever-present to Bourret than his conversations with cartoonish representations of his inner self.
Bourret has made some interesting choices in setting up his book. One, is the episodic nature of the book. It does largely follow the timeline of Bourret's relationship with his boyfriend Alistair but even that is not entirely presented in chronological order. There are also many detours in the book to incidents that happened earlier in Bourret's life. It helps to give a broader overview of his life as it cover stories of his family, his school life and his boyfriend but it also dilutes the potential for drama that a more shorter timeframe might have created. Bourret does inject a bit of overarching drama by letting the reader know he has a darker secret and than withholding that from the reader until later in the book. Whether that was a conscious decision by Bourret or simply a result of how it happened in his own life, it does provide a significant punch at that point in the book that sums up and reminds the reader of how difficult this condition has been for Bourret.
One of the tougher aspects of reviewing biographical comics is the question of whether you are reveiwing the comic or the life? I think you're always trying to review the comic of course, but one can't help think about the larger life that the comic is about. Fundamentally this book is about Bourret and his state of mind, not his relationship to his boyfriend or family and I kept thinking I wanted more conventional narrative drama about these various characters. While I think the comic is worthwhile and worth one's time to read, the book is not as tightly woven, or as dramatic as perhaps it could have been. But does Bourret's comic convey his "craziness" - this major theme of his life? Yes, it does so very strongly and no question it's successful on that level. It's reads as a plaintively honest book and leaves you with a better understanding of his experiences.
The author provided a free copy of this book to ComixTalk for review purposes.