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CanvasReview - Canvas
by Alex Fellows
Fantagraphics, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jul 6th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 28)

Canvas is a graphic novel about a fourteen-year-old girl called Canvas who goes on a summer camping trip with her parents and has her first sexual experience.  While not exactly dark, it does depict the experience as basically meaningless, part of the random and unpleasant life of an adolescent.  It starts out at a costume party in a large middle class house where the guys are crowded around a computer and other people are standing around while rap music blares out and one boy wearing a Spiderman costume stands at the snack table munching on potato chips.  After the party Canvas and her friend Alison hang out with two boys they met, and Canvas comes home with a hickey.  The next morning her mother spots it but does not freak out; she just explains that she wants Canvas to be open and honest with her and her father, so that they know what is going on.  Canvas gets on the phone to Alison who says that she and the other boy fooled around more, and she gave him oral sex but it was no big deal.  Canvas says it sounds gross.  The following day, Canvas goes with her family to the camp ground and meets up with Alison who is also staying there with her family.  They hang out with other teens and there are all sorts of tensions and weird dynamics, and Canvas gets into trouble for coming back to the tent drunk and vomiting.  She spends time with an older boy and they end up fooling around.  But it's not like they are actually dating. 

Canvas and her friends are drawn with blank eyes and mostly blank expressions on their faces, as if they were zombies.  Even stranger, Canvas' mother and father are drawn as being a pig and a frog with a huge mouth that goes all the way around his head.  It emphasizes the feeling that there's a huge gap between Canvas and her parents, and that the girl doesn't really know what she is doing.  The drawing style is strong; even though there are clear parallels with the quirky and disturbing stories of teen angst in Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve comics, Fellows' pages are busier and rather messier.  As a portrayal of the confusion and experimentation of adolescence, Canvas is powerful and memorable. 

 

Links:

·        Fantagraphics

·        Blank Slate by Alex Fellows

·        Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adrian Tomine

© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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