Graphic Novel: New creator turns tragedy into sympathetic human story

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King of King Court: A Memoir is the autobiographical first graphic novel from Travis Dandro.

Not since 2013’s Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez has there been a comic that captures so perfectly the point of view and sense of time of a child.

Although it runs nearly 500 pages, King of King Court — published by Montreal’s Drawn and Quarterly — can be read in a single sitting. This book announces Dandro’s presence on the comics scene with authority and I can’t wait to see him tackle other subjects now that he’s got his own childhood out of the way.

Dandro comes of age in a small town in Massachusetts in the 1980s. His life would be idyllic, packed with play and Star Wars figures, except for one complication: his drug-addicted and sometimes incarcerated biological father, whom he refers to as Dad Dave at his remarried mother’s urging.

The book unfolds at a languid pace. What I appreciate about Dandro’s storytelling is how he approximates the perception of the passage of time of his six-year-old and then teen selves. Days bleed into one another; years pass without the boy noticing.


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Dandro shares not only his own dreams, but also the dreams of other family members.

Some dreams go on page after page, long past the point of making logical sense, an ambitious strategy that I applaud.

The point of view likewise shifts.

Dandro puts himself in his father’s shoes by showing how the man acts at work and in his criminal ventures. But the reader is never quite sure which sequences are real and which are functions of Dandro’s young imagination.

Dandro takes his time setting scenes and filling in the details of the family unit, which both frame how Dandro perceives his own story.

That said, readers will have to square how such a carefree boy could turn into a bitter high-school student.

It’s to Dandro’s credit that he takes what is essentially a tragedy and makes it a sympathetic human tale.

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