Hippo Manchester
August 25, 2005

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A happy graphic novel

Rabagliati draws up a simple, ordinary, nice little life

By Lisa Parsons

Paul Moves Out, by Michel Rabagliati, Drawn & Quarterly Books, 2005, 104 pages.

Not every graphic novel is gothic, dark or scary. It is possible to have well-thought-out stories, beautiful artwork, great attention to detail and loads of talent all wrapped up in a happy and ordinary domestic tale. Such is Paul Moves Out, the third in a series by Canadian graphic artist Michel Rabagliati.

The first two installments were Paul in the Country and Paul Has a Summer Job. You see the trend: Paul has a life and we are watching it. The books are said to be essentially autobiographical. (Like much good fiction, this book and its characters had me thinking “I like these people; I wish they were real and I could go visit them.” Then I remembered they are real, pretty much.)

Each panel invites you to dive in and look around. It is the early 1980s, Culture Club is on the radio, Dynasty is on TV, John Lennon’s death is breaking news. Not only are these real people; this is the real world. Amidst career angst and new love on a shoestring budget, Paul endures all the quirks that make a life unique: his inscrutable professor, his Amtrak trip to Boston, the challenges of graphic art (it’s as hard as you’d think), his girlfriend’s ignorance of the meaning of “flageolet” at an important moment.

I don’t know why this book is so nice, except that it takes our lives and renders them small, holds them still so we can look at them – literally look at pictures – from all sides, and allows us to see ourselves as, for once, not hypocritical selfish savages (like on “reality” television) or hopeless depressives (like in most literature) but smiling simply-drawn people. The art is black and white but the story is not.

Drawn & Quarterly (based in Montreal; www.drawnandquarterly.com) publishes comics series and anthologies and is distributed in the U.S. by Farrar Straus & Giroux.