As we’ve mentioned here several times, there have been no more important graphic novels published in this century than PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi and FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel. Both found large audiences well beyond the traditional ones for comics, and both have become oft-imitated — but never duplicated — by book publishers trying to cash in on the “graphic novel” trend. (The number of graphic autobiographies exploring ethnic roots alone is staggering.)
2012 will see the debut of Bechdel’s followup — ARE YOU MY MOTHER? As FUN HOME dealt with Bechdel’s difficult relationship with her closeted father, ARE YOU MY MOTHER? is about, well, her mom. Here’s the blurb:
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel’s childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter goodnight, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It’s a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers
While this book has received scant attention in the online comics world, while we were working on another project we noticed that it has a 100,000 print run planned by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. That’s a pretty daring number for a sophomore literary writer, and one of the biggest ever for a GN. Dark Horse famously had a 100,000 print run for their Janet Evanovich project — a number that didn’t turn out so well and resulted in tons of returns. Dav Pilkey’s OOK ‘N’ GLUK had a print run of 1 million, however, and that did just fine. We’re sure that Torsten will be along in the comments presently to supply any examples we have forgotten.
Whatever happens, it’s an impressive number for a graphic novel and shows a lot of faith in Bechdel’s ability and readership. Of course, given her evocative writing style and clean, keenly-observed cartoons, it’s a faith that should be merited.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.