Monday, October 15, 2007

Paul Has a Summer Job by Michel Rabagliati

I've been looking at this graphic novel for a couple of years now, but never actually bought it. I finally read it on Thursday after getting it from a library. (Have I mentioned how much I like libraries these days? Ever since I was sacked, I've been all about the libraries.)

To start off with: Rabagliati is a roughly forty-ish Quebecois with a wife and daughter...and so is "Paul," the main character of this story. So it's not pure autobiography -- I expect the details are changed -- but it's clearly based on and drawn out of Rabagliati's own life.

Paul is seventeen at the time of the main story; he dropped out of high school after an angry run-in with the principal and works briefly at a print shop before taking a job as a camp counselor. At the camp, he has the expected experiences -- learns more about himself, becomes part of a group of friends, and finds true love. It sounds like a string of cliches, but it's all rooted in specific events and narrated with utter conviction. A story doesn't have to be new to be special; it just has to be real.

Rabagliati's character drawing reminds me of the classic UPA cartoons: hair defined in a few lines, clean outlines, cartoony faces. His backgrounds are a bit more detailed some of the time, but generally are on the same level of abstraction. This isn't a story filled with action, but there's a sense of motion in his panels and real anatomy underlying the cartoony figures.

Paul Has a Summer Job is a very impressive graphic novel; it has a depth of feeling and economy of line rarely found together. It also was published in 2003, so I can hope that Rabagliati either has another book out now...or will have very soon.

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