The recently-released Sweet Meloncholy graphic novel is simply amazing. I had very high expectations for this project when I heard about it initially, and of course, all of us melonheads got to see snippets and previews along the way that assured us that this was going to be a quality project. But I really had no idea just how cool it would be. Now that I have had some time to dig in to this book, here are some of my thoughts. . .
First of all, I would like to say congratulations to Brad Weitz and Csaba Mester. This is the culmination of a long-term project. Both of you worked many hours to make this book a reality. You can see it in the illustrations, lettering, color, layout, and even feel it in the weight of the book itself - this was a huge undertaking. Not only was there a lot of work that happened to produce this graphic novel, but one can also tell that this book was put together with a love & respect for the band, their music, and the community of Blind Melon fans who will most assuredly appreciate their efforts. But it's not just your efforts that are to be commended. The final product itself turned out to be amazing - something that is more than just the sum of its parts. This is a chronicle of the complete story of Blind Melon told through a specific vision and narrative.
Before reading any further, it should be noted that I am a graphic designer with a love for printed publications, and I grew up with comic books. So excuse me if I geek out for a bit during this review. As a designer, I was actually taught to judge books by their covers, and this graphic novel has a very strong, impactful image to represent the entire book. It is immediately recognizable to Blind Melon fans as an illustration of Andy Wallace from the cover of the Soup album. And before I get into the guts of the book, let me just say - that is one healthy spine on this publication - 163 pages wide, to be specific!
There is a foreward by Nel Hoon which gives additional credibility upon first opening the book. And the Table of Contents shows that the story is divided into four chapters.
The narrative is heard in three different ways: (1) 3rd-person narrator, (2) Dialogue between characters/people, and (3) song lyrics. The narrative is displayed visually by Csaba Mester's amazing illustrations and Brad Weitz's skillful use of typography and color. Those elements and methods combine into a situation where the reader can believe in the integrity of the story-telling itself and then fall into the experience. The manner in which the entire story shifts in and out of the songs in the Blind Melon catalogue is somewhat trippy, and very appropriate.
In the same way that an author might choose to vary his/her sentence structuring to create a more desirable narration, a designer that lays out a comic book makes decisions about the cadence and rhythm of the story in regards to the sizes of boxes to one another and how many per page. This was done to great effect in Sweet Meloncholy. Without even mentioning the content in the frames, it seems like each page is unique in its layout of the boxes. And throughout the book there are powerful, full-page images that make you stop and just say, "Wow!"
This book's identity is tightly wrapped up in the illustration style of Csaba Mester, and we are all very fortunate for that. I can't say enough great things about his artwork. It's not like the comic-book art of muscle-bound men in spandex that are overly laden with cross-hatching. It is art with feeling and emotion. You can see his attention to detail such as the difference between the thickness of lines, and his awareness of the characters in relation to one another in each scene. I also have great respect for Csaba's vision of thinking of how to visualize a scene. Because it's not just an artist's execution of the concept, it begins with their ability to perceive the concept in their mind first, and he has done a superb job at thinking how to visualize each part of the story.
And of course, Csaba's work is complemented by Brad Weitz's coloring. The colors in this book are vibrant. They really give contrast to the artwork and add lots of life to the story. The text is the common thread that stitches all of the elements together and gives the entire story the context in which to exist. Brad's skilled use of typography makes that text fit with the illustrations (instead of as an afterthought or dual elements competing with one another). In addition to the coloring and typography, Brad was also the editor who put all the pieces together and was steering the ship. The endeavor of self-publishing is not always easy, and I commend Brad for not only creating the content for a really cool graphic novel, but also for navigating the waters publishing this book.
I would like to say thank you to Brad & Csaba for having the vision, drive, and follow-through to make this idea a reality. The final product is truly a work of art.