A Gift From The Not-So-Distant Past : Noah Van Sciver’s “Slow Graffiti” #3

Believe it or not, good things still happen in this world — as evidenced by the fact that cartoonist extraordinaire Noah Van Sciver recently came across 50 unsold copies of the long-out-of-print third issue of his self-published mini, Slow Graffiti.

Released back in 2017, the no-doubt small print run of this comic was originally allocated entirely for its Kickstarter backers and the cartoonist’s own Patreon subscribers, but this unexpected discovery means that you can — provided you’re quick — finally procure a copy for yourself, at long last. And John Porcellino recently came across some in his stock, as well, so there may be a bit of cosmic-level serendipity at play here. Why, it’s almost as if the universe itself wants you to read this comic.

And why shouldn’t it — hell, for that matter, why shouldn’t you? There are some intriguing sketchbook entries to be explored here, but the “meat” of the publication is Van Sciver’s diary comics produced between November 2015 and April 2016, when he had a gig as a visiting instructor/lecturer at CCS in White River Junction, Vermont. He famously — or infamously, take your pick — constructed a partially-fictionalized (to what degree is up to you to determine) story around these events, and this same time period, in the pages of Blammo #9, but whereas in that strip he portrayed himself as being hopelessly behind the times and out of step with his students and the world at large (hell, some might argue he even came off as a bit of a curmudgeon), herein he shows himself to be far more eager, even desperate, to forge some sort of connection with the young people he was ostensibly teaching, as well as to maybe, kinda, sorta, on some level, win their ever-elusive acceptance. No comedy-of-errors series of misunderstandings here that leads the kids in class to to quietly (and ,in some cases, not so quietly) take umbrage to everything he says or does — just a guy looking to find his place in a new and unfamiliar environment, charged with a responsibility he’s not entirely sure he’s capable of shouldering.

In other words, real life.

Yeah, of course there’s plenty of fairly gentle whimsicality to be found in this slim 24-pager, but there’s nothing so obvious as self-deprecating humor, even if Van Sciver does poke fun at his own anxiety without making light of it — in a humane touch, though, it turns out that one of his own students takes note of his fraying nerves and offers him support should he need it. This, in turn, inspires Van Sciver to take his teaching in a new, more collaborative direction as he joins in and assists his students with a series of specific assignments he gives them. Smart move. And it means that at the end of the day, yup, it all works out. Mostly.

As you may — okay, damn well should — expect, this is a bit more rough and raw than Van Sciver’s usual cartooning, given it was all done “on the fly,” but what it lacks in polish it more than makes up for in terms of sheer immediacy. Noah’s never been one to shy away from mapping out his own emotional and experiential geography, but here he’s doing it without the filter of self-editing, and the end result? Well, I think you’ll agree (assuming that you missed out on it the first time around, as was the case with yours truly) that it was certainly worth waiting three years for.

******************************************************************************

Slow Graffiti #3 is available for $5.00 from John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half distro at https://www.spitandahalf.com/product/slow-graffiti-3-by-noah-van-sciver/

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my ongoing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse