Books and Talks

Collateral Damage: The Comic

Cartoonist Carol Tyler probes her family’s inner war wounds in words and pictures, and shares the results at Fantagraphics.

By Eric Scigliano September 6, 2010

From A Good and Decent Man, the first volume of Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know graphic memoir. A show of art from the new second volume opens with a book signing this Saturday at Fantagraphics Books.

"Greatest Generation" hoopla will never seem the same after You’ll Never Know: Collateral Damage, book two in Carol Tyler’s sprightly but relentlessly honest "graphic memoir" (new from Fantagraphics, with an author reception this Saturday and a show of art from the book through October 6).

This volume both revisits and picks up from the first one, in which Tyler recounted the wartime adventures and ordeals of her father, a G.I. in the long slog to victory over Hitler. Dad’s the classic taciturn, can-do, don’t-want-to-talk-about-it WWII vet, drowning combat horrors and every other emotion in an unending bustle of activity. Decades later he starts looking back, prompted by a forgotten wound he now wants compensation for. This Rosebud leads Tyler to re-examine her own messy life and relationships—youthful neediness, neglected husband, rebellious, self-destructive daughter—and slavish but resentful devotion to her bullying dad. All lead back to a war that ended before she was born; this is the story of not just a family but a generation, or two or three. And all are told with a saving dash of humor.

Tyler’s form, a mix of scrapbook, diary, and cartoon panels, is likewise messy and eccentric, but it pays off in layered textures and viewpoints. Two famous precedents, Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, seem almost one-dimensional by comparison. What’s most unusual is Collateral Damage’s raw, diary-like sense of immediacy: It feels as though Tyler is sharing each discovery and deepening insight as it unfolds. Which just might be the case.

Carol Tyler, You’ll Never Know
Book signing and opening reception Saturday, September 11, 6-9pm
Exhibition continues through October 6.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
1201 S. Vale Street, Georgetown

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