I often think about how I wished my grandmother could have been here to meet my son. She would have loved him, his sense of humour, his grumpiness, his little dance he does as he moves his torso from left to right with his arms up. My grandmother, Marguerite, passed away in 2006, it’s been more than 10 years and I still sometimes think of what she would do or say in different situations. I pause to think about her when i see my son. We had a complicated history and the last few years of her life were difficult. I wish I could have done more for her back then. I wish we could still talk to each other.
Kiku Hughes’ The Ghosts We Are and the Ghosts We Will Become understands something important about family, about the handover of love and care between one generation to the next. We follow the story of Kiku, a young girl in 1970’s America who’s haunted by the ghost of an old woman speaking to her in an unknown language. She knows it’s real, though her brother remains quiet, having been bullied in the past for proclaiming his belief in ghosts. Kiku is also made fun of at school because of this. Her mother knows about the ghost in the house, this benevolent force lookingafter their family. We learn her mother can see the ghost and speak to it, pleading it to stay away until Kiku can understand.
Hughes plays with the idea that some bonds transcends life and death and that family affects us in more ways than we can even begin to understand. It addresses the legacy of family members over time. The main theme focusing on the struggle of the recently landed immigrant and how it differs wildly from that of their children, grandchildren and each subsequent generations. In spite of these major differences, there’s a commonality to it all, the hope that things will be ok, that the kids are going to be alright, happy. Using ghosts and apparitions is an imaginative way to illustrate that point.
The Ghosts We Are and the Ghosts We Will Become is beautifully illustrated and coloured. The black pages allow to give the figures more depth and genuine emotional impact. The ghosts appear more clearly, as if the page is giving them a bit more depth. Hughes art has a very fluid quality to it, conveying motion and emotion equally well throughout the comic. The choice of colour and style also helps tell the story.
I was happy to discover this comic via Shortbox. Some of the comics offered by Shortbox are available for purchase, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kiku Hughes made her comic available on Tumblr. You can read it in it’s entirety for free should you wish to, but do consider getting a physical copy if you can. It’s a delightful comic. As a reviewer, I find this comic to be quite good. As a father, I find The Ghosts We Are and the Ghosts We Will Become exceptional and beautiful. I wish my grandmother, Marguerite was still around to see this work too. She would have loved it and praised it probably as much as I just did.
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.