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Fleen Book Corner: SMILE

Yep, been there.

Will this be the last time I feel the need to talk about Raina Telgemeier‘s stellar new graphic novel, SMILE? Maybe! I mean, there’s the launch party next week at Rocketship in Brooklyn, and it’ll certainly be making the rounds of the awards at shows for the next year or so. But it’s out now, I’ve gorged myself on it, and you should too.

Here’s the deal: I know Raina personally. I met her as an adult, I never knew the sixth-grader who when through a nearly five-year ordeal to repair a busted set of teeth. I know firsthand that things turned out okay, but I still found myself flipping pages in the grips of the story, wondering if it would all turn out okay. I winced with Young Raina, hurt with her, triumphed with her, and around the corners of memory of my own dental dramas, tasted way too much blood with her as I read along.

SMILE is more than the tale of one person, it’s a Hero’s Journey from gangly still-a-kid to almost-adult; the teeth are the hook that the story hangs on, but it’s really about the pain and effort to grow up. It’s telling that at times, Telegemeier draws herself as still looking like her 12 year old self, while her friends seem to already be grown women — have any of us at that age not wondered why we seem not to be as at ease with ourselves, not as grown-up as those around us?

SMILE is also the book that’s destined to put a stake in the heart of Highlights for Children, which has haunted every pediatric dentist’s and orthodontist’s office since the Truman administration. It struck me as awful, ugly, insipid, and insulting when I was 7, and I was desperately convinced that some day, somebody would come up with something better to read while waiting for the guy with the drill to call my name. If there’s anything on this planet that would improve trips to the dentist than a story that says, “Yeah, I was sitting where you are now, I went through the pain, and the headgear, and the teasing, and it turned out okay, promise”, I can’t imagine it.

A few side notes before we wrap up today:

  • What The Hell?! Con is scheduled for Greensboro, NC this weekend, but a major storm system looks like it might smack the area, at least peripherally. As NC native Otter puts it:

    [P]lease check the main page and the weather reports before you [head to the show]. North Carolina has a Zero Tolerance policy for snow and since a minor dusting of flurries is expected, there’s a chance the convention might be canceled. Check, check, triple-check, and save yourself the gas!

  • Good couple of comments in the followup to yesterday’s story of Karl Kerschl’s woes. ComicPress is a terrific product, but as a dominant player, it runs the risk of monocultures everywhere — susceptibility to disease. As Rob Tracy (also mentioned in yesterday’s dispatches) notes, Webcomics Community is working up some ComicPress alternatives, which can only be a good thing.
  • Finally, nice pro-tip at Wapsi Square today: when causing a supernatural event, convince the cops that nothing happened by babbling about flying saucers. Works every time!

Looks like one of our members has a beta version of his comic hosting software (he’s calling it Comic Reef) ready to go and we’re going to post a feature story about it on Monday.

[…] we brought you word last week of a new CMS for webcomicking being developed by some of the habituĂ©s of Webcomics Community. Rob Tracy informs us today that […]

[…] Moving up to the Teens (or Young Adult, if you prefer) list, again in graphic novels, one each from Raina Telgemeier and Hope Larson — the justly-famous SMILE and Mercury, about which much has been said previously in these parts. […]

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