Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Daddy's Girl

Debbie Drechsler
My first impression of Debbie Drechsler's art when I picked up the graphic novel Daddy's Girl, was that it reminded me quite a bit of Lynda Barry. The fact that Daddy's Girl is made up of little vignettes presented in an autobiographical fashion didn't hurt either. Daddy's Girl follows a young girl who is abused sexually by her father as she grows up, an abuse that shapes her self-image and the encounters she has with other men later in life. This graphic novel was originally published in 1995, and I honestly think that it would have been more shocking if I'd read it at that time. Reading through it over a decade later, it seems full of stereotypical scenes of sexual abuse, even in how it affects her reactions to men as she matures, although it is hard to ignore the visual aspect of the book when it comes to a man forcing oral sex on his teenage daughter. But beyond the visuals, I would have liked to see more interesting things done with the material. In light of so many accounts of sexual abuse available in other mediums (particularly television dramas and biographical novels), this seems pretty standard, as horrible as this account is, which I understand is at least partially auto-biographical. I feel kind of callous to have that reaction, but like I said, if I'd come across an account like this in 1995, I probably would have been utterly shocked at the details Drechsler depicts in Daddy's Girl. But as is, I find the more interesting vignettes the ones that turn the focus away from the abuse, like in a story where Lily's family visits a low-income family with food, or when Lily meets a shy, smart friend in school. Subject matter of this kind make it difficult to review a story negatively, but I do feel like the impact of Daddy's Girl is lost with time, and if Drechsler were to write these stories today, she would need to reach a little beyond the same things that others who've suffered abuse from within their families are describing. But I am glad to see that this is back in print, as it was surely a staggering, impactful book upon its initial release, and as such, will probably remain an important piece of art in the comics medium.

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