An Open Letter to Ray Fawkes, Graphic Novelist and Creator of One Soul

Introducing Explicitly Graphic, a new column from Cynthia Clark Harvey (who's working on a graphic novel of her own). From time to time, Harvey will review graphic novels, talk to artists, and dive into the scene of all things explicitly graphic. Today, she writes a letter to writer and fine artist Ray Fawkes.

Dear Ray Fawkes:

I don't know you, but you've pissed me off royally. It's an envy thing: you created a book, a comic book, One Soul, that makes me wish, no, ache, to have been the one who'd done it. The rub being that I don't guess I'm capable of having thought it up. 

And now that I've found One Soul and read it, or viewed it, or experienced it, or whatever the hell you call it, at least two dozen times -- two dozen of the infinite variety of ways to read, view, experience, have this book come at one -- I want to copy it, mimic it, do my own riff on the magic square in ways that "borrow" from what you've done in One Soul.

Pride won't allow me, not just yet anyway, to figure out my own way to use simple, black and white, nine-panel grids in two page spreads, to tell eighteen disparate, yet somehow unified (you did title it One Soul, after all) stories. 

I followed each life, short or long: temple priestess, gold prospector, WW II vet and fifteen others, spread across time and the globe, from the darkness before birth through the darkness of death. I felt diminished each time the rectangle went black on the character I was following. I hate being played, yet admire your ability to saw me like a bow does a violin.

​Until I've completely internalized a few of the more transparent techniques, I won't attempt a page splash like the one that has nine left eyes and nine right eyes staring up at me. You placed this about one-third of the way through the book, a point where the action turns for each of the characters. I tracked one story at a time; these two pages had the stunning effect of making me feel as if I was looking for a dear friend in a crowd. 

Most likely, I will someday steal this idea. (I hopefully will have forgotten where I first saw it, thereby retaining a shred of artistic dignity.) I'm still busy parsing out the repetitions of images, of words, of phrases and I believe I will be for a long time.

Though I'm filled with petty, irrational jealousy at your achievement in One Soul, I also have to thank you, Ray Fawkes. Thank you, because you've created a book that really can't be properly experienced in any way other than as an actual, physical book, one that can be flipped thorough backward, forward, reading only the left hand column all the way through, read only the top row of each page, read only the two panels in the exact center of the grid, etc., etc. (see above: infinite variety of ways to read).

So, Ray Fawkes, you've created something that gives hope to the future for objects of my affection: books. Who would ever have believed that comic-books might possibly save book-books from electronic annihilation? I do now, sir, I do.

Wishing you many, many copies of One Soul sold,

Cynthia Clark Harvey

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