One of the most promising young talents in cartooning makes his debut with a dazzling collection–part freakish dreamlife, part quirk-o-rama autobiography, all genius.
Long a fixture in comics anthologies, David Heatley's deceptively crude, wickedly observant drawings have begun showing up on the New York Times op-ed pages and the cover of the New Yorker, introducing him to a vast new audience, Now, in My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (title courtesy of the Ramones song), we are treated to the full range of Heatley's remarkable, wildly unique voice and vision.
My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down is Heatley's life story told in six different but connected narrative threads. "Sex History" describes every sexual encounter dating back to kindergarten, with details that would make a therapist blush. "Black History" is an unflinchingly honest meditation on his own racism. "Portrait of My Mom" and "Portrait of My Dad" are beautifully paced vignettes, skewering and celebrating his lovably dysfunctional parents. "Family History" tells the story of his family from his great-great-grandparents' lives and closes with the birth of his own children. Woven in and around the larger pieces are "dream comics" that expand on the same themes with a baffling unconscious logic. Every inch of My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down is filled with visceral art and emotionally resonant storytelling at once stunning, truthful, and uncomfortably hilarious. Amazon Exclusive: David Heatley's My Upside Down Brain
David Heatley's book is on Amazon...but what does David Heatley think about that? See Heatley at ages 8, 15, and 33 in this comic, My Upside Down Brain
, drawn exclusively for Amazon.
Autobiography, particularly of the self-lacerating variety, has been a staple of alternative comics since such groundbreaking 1970s and ’80s works as Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Heatley presents his life thematically. He opens with his entire “Sex History,” from prekindergarten explorations to postmarital attempts to kick his addiction to masturbation and including vividly disquieting pages from a dream journal. Subsequent sections depict a life’s worth of encounters with African Americans and relations with Mom, Dad, and other kin. From it all, we acquire a comprehensive portrait, from mildly troubled youth and conflicted sexuality to recent religious conversion and fatherhood. Like Chris Ware, Heatley uses postage-stamp-sized panels to cram a massive amount of narrative onto each page. But his naive, slapdash drawings couldn’t be farther from Ware’s neurotically meticulous style; their lack of sophistication implies an unshielded honesty. Although more conventional prose memoirs may be the ones ensconced on best-seller lists, it’s hard to imagine Heatley’s story being told as effectively in any other medium than comics. --Gordon Flagg