Today in Books: Courtney Crumrin

Posted: July 22, 2009 in Braak, reviews
Tags: , ,

Actually, these are graphic novels, and they came out several years ago.

A While Ago in Graphic Novels:  Courtney Crumrin


So, Ted Naifeh’s got this comic series, available in digest form from Oni Press (here on Amazon).  This series has got to be the best fantasy comic series centered around a kid that I have ever read.  I am including Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic in this (I actually think Books of Magic is kind of boring).

Courtney_CrumrinAnyway, the story follows Courtney Crumrin, a (naturally) social outcast and misfit, ignored and unloved by her parents, dismissed by her peers, and just generally unable to fit in with anyone.  She goes to live with her uncle Aloysius (pronounced “Allowishus,” in case you’re wondering), discovers that he is a warlock, and that she is also part of a long line of warlocks.  Then the baby that she’s babysitting gets kidnapped by fairies.

Actually, I’m not sure if that’s quite the order that it happens in.  There are four books so far, and they present a story that is exhaustive in its development of Courtney and her uncle’s characters.  It really presents an extraordinary contrast to other, similar “learning magic as a metaphor for coming of age” stories–Courtney embraces magic and being a witch, fairly easily, but there’s no moment of “coming to terms with yourself,” which somehow magically imparts self-esteem and self-confidence and contentment.  Courtney’s got confidence in spades, but still feels like an outcast, still has messy relationships with the people that she loves, still doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.

We’re given a detailed, genuine, and beautiful character arc that, at the time of this writing, is still not complete–Courtney and her uncle both gradually learn to trust each other, and likewise learn to live without each other.

It’s really very grand, and I’m saying this as someone whose primary interest is in scary monsters.  I mean, I love monsters of all shapes and sizes, and particularly unusual monsters.  Fortunately, Ted Naifeh provides these in spades–the very fist graphic novel is chock full of weird, beastly goblins with an intricate and impenetrable social history.  Other stories include one of my old favorites, Rawhead and Bloody Bones, as well as fascinating twists on werewolves, vampires, ghosts, warlocks, and cats.

To complement all of this, Naifeh’s got a neat, clean, abstract style that’s well-suited to black-and-white.  About the only problem with it is the fact that Courtney Crumrin does not, in any of her pictures, have a nose.  This is a peculiar thing that I once asked him about; he said something about Understanding Comics, and how he was striving for an effect like the Bone brothers in Bone.

All of which is very admirable, but don’t be surprised if, despite all that, you are overcome with the urge to take a pen and just draw her nose in in every picture, and don’t let that deter you from enjoying what’s really a remarkable series.

  1. Amanda says:

    So is it a graphic novel, then? I do love graphic novels…Hmmm….

  2. braak says:

    It’s four graphic novels, technically.

  3. Hsiang says:

    Noses are HARD! I read that story with the changeling and really liked it. I might pick the rest of these for the kids (well, and me). I met Naifeh many years ago here in SF. I thought he was a bit of a jerk so I knew he would be a successful creative type.

  4. Megan says:

    Hmm… one of the things I like about possibly moving to PA is I’ll be able to break out my own comic collection. Because I move back to my parents me dad gave me a room with no room for my own stuff and had me clean out my stuff in the room I use to occupy. I hope I can check out the series you mention.

  5. Jeff Holland says:

    On the noses subject, now I want to dig out my run of “Mr. Blank,” an indie from the mid-90’s featuring Sam Smith, an everyman character drawn so plainly as to lack any facial features, particularly a nose.

    Gorgeous, weird series. Might just buy the big fat trade so I can finally read the first two issues I missed way back when.

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