Ends beget origins in Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions, so it’s proper that we learn about the book’s genesis in its afterword. The author-illustrator tells us the 600-page graphic novel began 15 years ago as a workshop exercise meant to incite new illustration tactics. The assignment required that the artist draw an object 60 times on 60 separate sheets of paper in one hour. In Nilsen’s case, a narrative hatched while he moved through his 60 iterations (of what he doesn’t say). He reveals that the emergent events were about “a lost soldier in a barren landscape, a group of birds, and a plane crash.” And though the characters, landscape, and frames all become more complex and more thoughtfully wrought as the book assembles itself around you, much of the narrative stays as it was when it sprang from Nilsen’s workshop piece. Big Questions in completed form houses a fable-like tale, told in discreet scenes, about finches who eat seeds and ask questions; a flat-to-rolling landscape that’s unpeopled except for a grandmother and her probably slow grandson, the idiot, both of them ostensibly mute; things that go missing; a bomb that explodes and occasions more questions; a plane that crashes (yes, more questions); and a mysterious, somnolent pilot who emerges from that plane.
March 19th, 2012 / 1:00 pm