Before Coast cartoonist Mike Holmes started turning all your stories into comic gold, he drew his own true story, This American Drive. The serial comic about Holmes’ road trip with his now ex-girlfriend Jodi first appeared in The Coast in 2007 and is now available in graphic novel form, through Invisible Publishing. The Halifax book launch is Thursday, October 15, 5-7pm at Strange Adventures.
Holmes did a lot of additional writing to beef up the comic to novel size. “It was a bit tricky—-I’m not totally confident expressing things using only words, and I’m not the most articulate person on Earth,” he says modestly. “The story had already been told with pictures, and I didn’t want the text to make the pictures redundant, or vice versa. Luckily, I remembered quite a bit more than what was in the original comic strip, and the larger format allowed me to flesh out thoughts that I didn’t have room for the first time around.”
During the trip, which took the couple from Halifax to Jodi’s family’s home in Texas, Holmes started making notes in his sketchbook: “Every event, meal, song and goofball non-sequitur that happened on the trip went down on paper.” Going back in time wasn’t an issue either. “At certain points in the book I drew a cartoon-y, exaggerated version of things, but mostly I refer to actual experiences and filter that through my observation of them,” he says. “If I can’t remember something (such as, say, the name of Jodi’s father), I’ll either do some fact-checking or just call myself out on my poor memory.”
This American Drive, guaranteed to give you a hankering for a deep-fried pickle, mixes illustration styles, jumping back and forth between a more realistic aesthetic, to a simple look reminiscent of early Charles Schulz. “I don’t like being held down to a single style of illustration, although I have a lot of respect for cartoonists who have a solid, easily identifiable body of work,” Holmes says. “I don’t know if I’ll ever have that.”