Thursday, April 24, 2014

REVIEW: Epileptic

Creator: David B.
Review: Art Bee

Take a moment to reflect on the past events of your life. What has defined your existence? How would you tell your story? The graphic novel Epileptic by David B. has made me think about those very questions. Some people would be able to answer these questions fairly easily, but many people would be challenged. One of the greatest challenges of writing an autobiography is presentation.

People as a whole are more interested in their own existences than others, so writing your own story in such a manner as to create interest in your life and experiences is the hurdle to clear. For a few this hurdle is only knee high and easy to get over. Presidents, royalty, professional sport stars, and other celebrities are already interesting to many, so creating interest about their journey to their status is mostly done by merely placing the letters of their name on the cover of the tome. For insignificant people such as myself, the hurdle can be much higher.

The Hammond Comics Blog founder, William R. Davis Jr., suggested the graphic novel Epileptic by David B. for me to read and review. At just over 360 pages, this was a decently sized task to undertake. I must admit that my interest struggled to stay afloat while reading this autobiography, but about the middle of the novel, the story clicked and became much more interesting.

David B., Pierre-François Beauchard, is a French comic book artist and writer, and one of the founders of L'Association. He tells the story of his childhood and his family dealing with the severe epileptic seizures of his older brother, Jean-Christophe. Through his own story, David B. shows us how epilepsy and other such disorders do not just affect the person with the disease. These disorders are debilitating to the entire family.

The story of David's life in Epilepsy is braided page by page with history, artwork, family tales, and characters. David's life cannot be told without focusing on his brother's condition, which caused up to three grand mal seizures a day.

As he progresses through his story, David uses his rich interest in French history, particularly the wars in which France took part, to propel the story of him and his brother. On pages 22 – 28, David B recalls the actions of his grandfather in World War I and delivers a fantastic and unique position on the trench warfare that was so dominant of that war. David's other grandfather fought in World War II, and it was quite humorous to learn that his squad was commanded to defend a bridge that was already seized by the enemy.

Pierre-François and Jean-Christophe are described as “full of rage”. David's rage spills into his stories and drawings of medieval battles featuring Ganghis Khan and other great warriors, while Jean-Christophe's rage explodes into seizures.

Along with the French history presented, David B. also describes his families struggles with epilepsy as his parents lead their family around looking for a cure or a successful method of treatment for Jean-Christophe's disease. Their quest takes them from medical research to new age medicine and holistic treatments. As I read these parts, the family almost seemed ridiculous in their efforts, but as a father myself, I can't be too harsh. A parent’s love for their child will lead them to do some very ineffable things in the attempt to help their child.

The artwork of Epileptic is very different from anything I have read before. It is black and white utilizing thick black lines and black shading, and even though the art felt bland and unattractive at the start, my appreciation for it grew as progressed through the novel. There is real genius in David B's work.

My favorite artwork in Epileptic is located on page 277. The page features Pierre-François (below) laying on a desk and drawing with a collage of his artwork layered throughout the image. It is a fantastic piece, and I am going to add it to my collection of background images on my laptop (a very high honor I must say).

Another great image in this novel is located in the larger panel at the top of page 11. This features Jean-Christophe and his parents surrounded by quack doctors. It is whimsical and hilarious to see how David B. allows his true feelings for the lab coat donned physicians to shine in his depiction of them as they dance in a circle around the trio.

Throughout the novel you can tell whether David B. liked or disliked a person based on how he drew them. The more exaggerated the features the stronger the feelings. For instance, David seems to have a lot of respect for Master N, since he is drawn in the image of a venerable cat person. Master N showed the whole family a better way of life and was accredited with halting Jean-Christophe's seizures for a time with the utilization of specialized diet, massage, acupuncture, etc.

It was a great circumstance for Mr. Davis Jr. to suggest Epileptic for this review. As I stated earlier, this graphic novel was hard for me to read at first, because history and biographies have never really interested me. Fortunately, with dedication and persistence, the story opened my interest and became a wonderful read. I have already read this novel twice and am looking forward to reading it again.

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