Matt Madden: “Drawn Onward” from One Story #182, 8/11/13

One Story hyped this issue: “Our First Graphic Short Story!” I didn’t expect much. Yes, I’m an old fart who still thinks “graphic novel” means smut.

I have been schooled. Thank you, One Story, and thank you, Matt Madden. Thank you very much.

If you’re an admirer of interesting narrative structure, and, yes, of discovering a new world of technique that has more depth and intricacy than you ever realized as you sat smugly back and sneered at an entire genre, you’ll love this.

Madden describes it as a “star-crossed love story” in his One Story Q&A. Once I “got” it (which took me longer than it should have, but that’s what happens when you underestimate), I thought, if Borges wrote graphic stories, this is one he would’ve written (I’ve been obsessed with Borges lately; my grocery list makes me think Borges). Then I thought, Möbius strip; I was very happy to see a reference to that last in Madden’s interview.

I should’ve been clued in to the palindromic structure by the title, but I wasn’t paying that much attention. Shame on me. Madden explains why storyboarding (the graphic version of a first draft) took so long: “every page and panel had to be plausible and more or less natural in four different contexts.” The drawing style, the lettering, the layout on the page, the composition of each panel – who knew it was so complicated, other than everyone under 40?

If you’ve read a lot of graphic novels (I’m getting to the point where I can use that term without quotes), it’s possible this is all old hat to you. Still, you’ll enjoy the Easter eggs; Madden enumerates them in the Q&A for those of us who are clueless, but the serious aficionado will no doubt want to discover them for herself.

For a novice, it’s a complete revelation. I now know how Van Leeuwenhoek must’ve felt when he first saw all the wee beasties in his drop of pond water: there’s a whole world in there, an amazing world, a world I just wasn’t able to see before.

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