Noah Van Sciver’s latest graphic novella drops in on the life of the self-styled, aspiring young writer, Fante Bukowski, as he delusively makes his way to literary fame and fortune, one drink at a time. Living in a cheap hotel, consorting with the debased and downtrodden, searching for that golden idea that will rocket him to the success he yearns for as the great American novelist, and to get respect from his father once and for all. But, there’s just one problem: Fante Bukowski has no talent for writing.
The debut graphic novel from Noah Van Sciver follows the twentysomething Abraham Lincoln as he loses everything, long before becoming our most beloved president. Lincoln is a rising Whig in the state’s legislature as he arrives in Springfield, IL to practice law. With all of his possessions under his arms in two saddlebags, he is quickly given a place to stay by a womanizing young bachelor who becomes his friend and close confidant. Lincoln builds a life and begins friendships with the town’s top lawyers and politicians. He attends elegant dances and meets an independent-minded young woman from a high-society Kentucky family, and after a brisk courtship, becomes engaged. But, as time passes and uncertainty creeps in, young Lincoln is forced to battle a dark cloud of depression brought on by a chain of defeats and failures culminating into a nervous breakdown that threatens his life and sanity.
This sophomore graphic novel from Noah Van Sciver may seem like a left turn from his critically acclaimed debut graphic novel biography of Abraham Lincoln (The Hypo), yet upon closer reflection, it showcases Van Sciver’s preoccupation with pathos and the human condition. Saint Cole depicts four days in the life of a twenty-eight-year-old suburbanite named Joe, who works at a pizzeria to support his girlfriend Nicole and their infant child―and then Nicole invites her troubled mother to move into their two-bedroom apartment until she lands on her feet again. Joe reacts by retreating into alcohol: he wants out, and he's angry. He’s in a position to act rashly―and he does.
This graphic novella catches up with aspiring young writer Fante Bukowski one year later; he’s attempting to establish himself in a new city’s literary scene, self-publishing his first zine, and coming to terms with his feelings for an old friend. Fante Bukowski yearns for success as the great American novelist, and to get respect from his father once and for all. But, there’s just one problem: he still has no talent for writing.
John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, made himself the stuff of legend by spreading the seeds of apple trees from Pennsylvania to Indiana. Along with that, he offered the seeds of nonviolence and vegetarianism, good relationships with Native Americans, and peace among the settlers. He was one of the New World’s earliest followers of the Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. The story of John Chapman operates as a counter-narrative to the glorification of violence, conquest, and prevailing notions of how the West was Won. It differentiates between the history and the half-myths of Johnny Appleseed’s life and work: His apples, for instance, were prized for many reasons, but none more so than for the making of hard cider. He was also a real estate speculator of sorts, purchasing potentially fertile but unproven acres and then planting saplings before flipping the land. Yet, he had less interest in financial gain―and yes, this is an accurate part of the mythology―than in spreading visions of peace and love. Johnny Appleseed brings this quintessentially American story to life in comics form.