The making of Habibi
January 28, 2012 3:00 PM   Subscribe

It took the graphic novelist Craig Thompson seven years to complete Habibi, his epic exploration of child slavery and sexual awakening in an imaginary Middle-Eastern kingdom. Here he charts its creation from first thoughts to finished pages.
posted by Artw (23 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
That's a great gallery, and some amazing art. I've been intrigued by the book but not read it yet; this moves me towards picking it up next time I go to the comic shop.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:11 PM on January 28, 2012

Not very fond of the fake arabic script on the cover and actually calling this work Habibi - talk about worn-out clichés. The sketches are very beautiful, though. Having read the Wikipedia page, its depiction of Arabs seems problematic, but I would still like to read this.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:12 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Previously, including this.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Any new work from Thompson is cause for celebration!

The Guernica piece on the book is worth a look as well:
Guernica: Did your writing have anything to do with 9/11 and how the U.S. reacted to it?
Craig Thompson: I wanted to focus on the beauties of Islam while it was being vilified in the media. At the same time there was this upsurge of Islamophobia in the United States, I was reaching out, making Muslim friends for the first time and recognizing that—you know—they had far more things in common with my upbringing than differences. I was inspired by Arab calligraphy, Islamic art, geometric design, ornamentation, and architecture—all of these things that evolved because of a supposed prohibition on visual interpretation.
posted by RogerB at 3:17 PM on January 28, 2012

I enjoyed the book very much, although I don't think it's as good as Blankets. All else aside, it's entirely gorgeous.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:25 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love everything Craig Thompson has done; still, since I heard the concept of this one I've worried that it would veer off towards exoticism and cultural appropriation. Any of you folks who've read the book want to comment?
posted by wayland at 4:56 PM on January 28, 2012

My initial impression was that the bits that threatened most to seem like exoticism managed to avoid it by intentionally mirroring the 1001 Arabian Nights-- it's a lot more mythic/fairly-tailish than you might expect.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:15 PM on January 28, 2012

This looks great. It's about $20 on Amazon.
posted by Nelson at 5:18 PM on January 28, 2012

Very beautiful artwork in this book! I wish I could get a print of most of the full page panels he did in there, they were so detailed and dreamlike.

That being said, the story was really not very good, and offended nearly all of my (not so delicate) feminist sensibilities. Not just the cultural stuff, but the Stockholm-syndrome sexytimes.
posted by zinful at 5:37 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah there's a really weird sexuality in the book but I'm holding off until a second reading before deciding what I think the book thinks about it.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:51 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Searching around, i found this post contrasting Habibi with Ramadan, #50 of the sandman. It's on Hooded Utilitarian, which has been on MeFi before (though that link is broken; here's the one that works.).
posted by wayland at 5:55 PM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also on Hooded Utilitarian (and linked too from that last link, heh), is this excellent article weighing the orientalism of Habibi.
posted by wayland at 6:01 PM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

(that last link is nsfw, by the way)

apologies for the triple-post...
posted by wayland at 6:08 PM on January 28, 2012

The Hooded Utilitarian essay linked to a couple times in this thread is really good. As a follow up, Nadim Damluji actually interviewed Craig Thompson on the topic.
posted by Corduroy at 6:40 PM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Darnit, The Comics Journal is offline right now. I wanted to point out this roundtable on Habibi, and especially this essay on how Thompson’s previous book, Carnet de Voyage was better by being less preachy, less ambitious, and more down to earth than Habibi, but those links aren’t working for me at the moment.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:30 PM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Related: in November 2003, as Blankets was garnering attention (but, I think, before the book tour) I interviewed Craig on the phone. The conversation went on for an hour and a half, got pretty deep, and left me with a lasting impression, a positive one, of Thompson.

I transcribed and posted the whole thing, about 15,000 words, in December of the same year.

I failed to pursue the sexuality theme in as much depth as I should have. I think Thompson deserves a great deal of respect for his fearless determination to pursue the theme despite its' taboo status in our culture.

I have read Habibi, and like shakespearean, I found it not as good a Blankets. I have previously seen the first Hooded Utilitarian piece, which I thought was an excellent response, but had not yet seen the followup interview. I don't think we have yet seen the true extent of Thompson's capabilities and ambitions, which I find tremendously exciting.
posted by mwhybark at 8:40 PM on January 28, 2012

Whatever his storytelling powers, I think Thompson is foremost among his peers in terms of illustration and pictorial imagination. I'd rank him alongside Chris Ware.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:51 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

shakespeherian, sorry for the name misspell. iOS 'fixed' it for me.

I think the Ware comparison is very worthwhile. Both creators have a profound interest in and grasp of structure in their material. I sometimes think Thompson's personal aesthetic objective of keeping the work engaging at a surface level - or what he hopes will serve that end - inhibits his work from reaching full potential.

I skimmed the CJ round table stuff but don't recall if this came up there - Ware and Clowes, both artists who Thompson must know, devote long sections of their work to the paralysis of self-awareness, in some cases directly related by the creators to the experience of art school. I don't think Thompson is interested in joining them in that practice.
posted by mwhybark at 11:28 PM on January 28, 2012

Corduroy, thanks for the link to that interview. It definately explained the sexual aspects of the book, and why I found them disturbing.

On a related note, it makes me so sad when anyone says that men can't be "real feminists" due to "animalistic sexuality" or what-the-fuck-ever. Ugh.
posted by zinful at 2:13 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nice find.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:01 AM on January 29, 2012

On a related note, it makes me so sad when anyone says that men can't be "real feminists" due to "animalistic sexuality" or what-the-fuck-ever. Ugh.

I think that I'm willing to cut Thompson a lot of slack w/r/t sexual issues because of where he comes from (i.e., that terrified Evangelical kid in Blankets). That's probably not fair of me.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:20 AM on January 29, 2012

Looking forward to reading this, finally. I used to be the chef at a sake bar in Portland, and Mr. Thompson would come in at least once a week and was always a really nice guy (I'm sure he still comes in and is a really nice guy, but I've sadly moved on).
Blankets was how I got our floor manager to finally read comics--it helped to call them "graphic novels--after a long period of her wanting to, but feeling like they might be an intellectual waste of time. I was like: "This is that guy that comes in every Tuesday. Read it. Trust me."
posted by kaiseki at 11:02 AM on January 29, 2012

Thanks for the post. I'm reading Habibi now and it's great. i really like the mix of art, the beautiful decorative Islamic work, the calligraphy, and then the simple pencil cartoons of the people. It's not really fair to dismiss this as "orientalist". He certainly appropriates a lot of Arabic culture, but he respects it and treats it as his own. Reading his comments in Guernica he seems pretty clear what he's doing. It ain't chop suey.
posted by Nelson at 4:00 PM on January 31, 2012

« Older Read twice, pass to your left.   |   South Korea's Pop Wave Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments