TIME ZONE D, by Julie Doucet
FLUNG OUT OF SPACE: Inspired by the indecent adventures of Patricia Highsmith, by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer
Thank God: Julie Doucet has released a new graphic novel! This is shocking news. Renowned since the 90s for his brutally frank and aggressively complex Dirty Plotte, as well as many other books, Doucet quit drawing more than 20 years ago. This long period of silence naturally gave him an astounding prestige in the world of comics. Last month, she became the third woman to receive the Grand Prize for Lifetime Achievement at the prestigious Angoulême International Comics Festival.
Unsurprisingly, his new job, TIME ZONE J (Drawn & Quarterly, 144 pp., $29.95), is about memory – specifically, a particular cluster of memories from when she was still making comics. She digs up and spreads her memories of a love affair she began in 1989, when she first drew “Dirty Plotte”. In fact, she literally spreads them out: she completely fills each page, tracing the page boundaries and even smudging the uncut edges of the book, as if working on a single long scroll. It’s one of the many ways “Time Zone J” establishes its space on the sidewalk. With dense compositions rendered in thick black ink (Doucet still draws like she did in the 90s, as if trying to stab your skull and imprint her emblem on your brain), this is a book that will not be ignored or denied.
It’s a bit sad, then, that it dropped on the same day as another, somewhat less impactful, feminist book – this one by two relatively young kids. Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer FLUNG OUT OF SPACE: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith (Abrams ComicArts, 199 pp., $24.99) does not deserve to be eclipsed by the spectacular resurgence of an icon. It’s a skillfully told, funny and sad story of a great lesbian writer’s struggle to find herself in the midst of the collective psychological confinement of the late 1940s and 1950s. Before selling “Strangers on a Train” to Hollywood and creating “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, Highsmith wrote comics (some for the great, pre-Marvel Stan Lee) to afford conversion therapy. “Flung Out of Space” is practically an anti-“Plotte”. Drawn with a stylus, his lines are crisp and smooth, not jittery and barely leashed like Doucet’s. It is a biography rather than a memoir, impersonal rather than egocentric. Even the fact that it’s the work of a team of writers and artists sets it apart from Doucet’s ’90s auteurism.
Templer’s alternate lines may not be as emotive as Doucet’s, but they’re ideal for this mid-century story. It eliminates the grotesqueness that would have characterized places like Marie’s, the gay bar visited by Highsmith; its barren spaces reflect Highsmith’s alienation and physical deprivation. Templer seems influenced by Annie Goetzinger, whose “Girl in Dior” also had a clean mid-century look and setting. Templer’s work is more stylized than Goetzinger’s, and she infuses her characters with more idiosyncrasy and energy. When Highsmith meets the woman who will inspire her lesbian novel “The Price of Salt” – a goddess in full 1950s female drag, radiantly filling a full page – well. No one could have done better.