Terribly Important

Most people make the mistake that comics are a genre. They are a medium, a way to convey a story or message, just like any newspaper, book, or film. For the most part, people seem to think that the only stories comics tell are tales of super-powered beings in tights and a cape. Most people don’t realize that the best-selling works of artists like Kate Beaton or Raina Telgemeier are just as fine an example of comics as any Batman adventure.

Every so often, a work comes along that breaks the barriers of the industry proper and captures the attention of “the outside world” beyond the four-color pages. A work that reminds us that the potential of comics is greater than just a simple escape from the real world. A work that reminds us that comics can be therapy and catharsis. A work that reminds us that when one person shares a personal tragedy, we all become stronger.

SOMETHING TERRIBLE is just such a work. Dean Trippe (Project: Rooftop, Butterfly) has presented a pair of moments in his life that for years defined his life. Events that were kept in check for fear of reawakening the demons in such a way as to cause Dean to become that which he had survived.

Trippe’s story of survival – first from the abandonment of his father, and then from childhood abuse – is one of courage. He shares these moments of cruelty and abuse, and the subsequent fear he fought for years, opening himself up for all to see. His use of the medium makes the story all the more powerful with a revelation he finds in Trippe’s favorite comic book character, Batman.

Much like any other comic book hero, Batman’s behavior changes with each creative team that tackles the character, but at his core, Batman is a symbol of strength and rebirth for any child who has endured a great trauma. This watershed moment in Trippe’s life took on a greater significance when, years ago, he took pencil to paper to tell his story. One of the final images in the story is not just a moment of enlightenment for a young Dean, but a message to anyone, young or old, who has been a victim of violence or exploitation.

Trippe is a very talented artist, with an economy of line and a style that lends his work to a broad audience of all ages. However, if you will forgive the aphorism, this comic isn’t for kids, which is oddly unfortunate.

I spent a great deal of my life working in the criminal justice system, and a work like this would have been invaluable, for people on both sides of the scales. One of the key ways in which we cope with tragedy is learning that we are not alone…that we will be safe. SOMETHING TERRIBLE is the kind of work that should be shared with everyone. Even younger readers, once it is felt that they can fully comprehend the subject matter. The more people exposed to this story, the more people can be helped by it.

This is not an easy story to read, but that pales in the difficulty and courage overcome to share it. Even if you have not experienced such violence in your life, it is important to read this book to be able to help those who have.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have known Trippe for some time, and I consider myself lucky to call him friend. He is a bright, affable fellow whose love of comics is endearing and infectious. Reading SOMETHING TERRIBLE was an eye-opening glimpse into a dark moment in his life that he was in no way obligated to share with anyone.

But the fact that he did share it, in such a wonderful and accessible way, is remarkable, courageous, and encouraging.

More people than we know or want have experienced something terrible, and Trippe reminds us all that no matter what has happened there is a place of safety and hope out there for all of us. Even unexpectedly, in the seemingly innocuous pages of a comic book.

Thank you, Dean.

A sample of SOMETHING TERRIBLE can be read here (http://www.tencentticker.com/somethingterrible/).

Please consider purchasing a digital copy, or pre-order the physical version here (http://deantrippe.bigcartel.com/product/pre-order-something-terrible-hardcover).

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