Richard McGuire | Pantheon | $35 | 304 pp | Indiebound
In 1989, Art Spiegelman (author of the Maus series) and his wife Francoise Mouly published Richard McGuire’s Here in their avant-garde comics magazine Raw. What began as a modest, 36-panel, black-and-white comic has become the full-length, full-color graphic novel Here, published by Pantheon on December 9. Even in its earliest state, McGuire’s Here was recognized as a groundbreaking piece that began to push the limits of comics into another dimension of narrative expression.
Here is a story that travels through billions of years without leaving the corner of one room. McGuire bounces back and forth through time; he pictures the room from a new vantage point with the turn of each page—a classic living room in 1989, a snowy forest in 1573, a glacial landscape in 500,000 BCE or even an underwater future in 2113. Not only does time change page by page but within each individual page. Inspired by the “new” operating system, Microsoft Windows, McGuire’s first version of Here used pop-up frames to indicate the simultaneous overlapping of time in one single space. He continues to use this format in his full-length novel, and with intensified effect as the human experience becomes the constant ringing and answering of various devices.
Imaginative and ingenious, Here transcends the canon of traditional graphic novels. McGuire discusses the inconsistencies of memory, a central theme of Speigelman’s Maus series. He readapts the labyrinthine quality of Alison Bechel’s Fun Home and focuses on the small moments of everyday experience, similar to parts of Craig Thompson’ autobiographical graphic novel Blankets. However, Here retains almost no qualities of a novel: It is non-linear, there are no distinct characters, apart from the space, and there is no plot. Despite these seemingly large hurdles, McGuire produces a reading experience that is emotional, thought-provoking and interactive. He creates impossible conversations across centuries and records the small, timeless “rhyming events” of life: people dressing in costumes, dancing all night, playing Twister, mothers caring for their children and people losing their things and their minds.
McGuire’s style is also unique, combining watercolors with vector art done on the computer. He uses watercolor to paint the landscapes of the past and future and vector art for many of the scenes inside of the house during the 20th and 21st centuries. Although his book is labeled a work of fiction, McGuire uses a number of real source materials from his personal history and found photos that he scanned into his computer and digitally texturized and colored. A brisk and brilliant read, Here combines genres and styles in a meditation on impermanence and the processes of memory.