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Invisible Ink: My Mother's Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist

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2016 Eisner Award Winner for Best Writer/Artist

The renowned underground cartoonist and creator of the Zippy newspaper strip has written and drawn his first long-form graphic story — a 200-page memoir that poignantly recounts his mother’s secret life in the 1950s and ’60s.

Fifteen minutes after Bill Griffith’s father died from a bicycle accident in 1972, his mother turned to him and said, “If I don’t tell you this now, I’ll never be able to tell you. I had a long and happy relationship with a man you knew slightly.” Thus began Griffith’s journey to reconstruct this hidden relationship between his mother and a deeply cultured jack-of-all-trades cartoonist and crime novelist.

Invisible Ink unfolds like a detective story, alternating between past and present, as Griffith recreates the quotidian habits of suburban Levittown and the professional and cultural life of Manhattan in the 1950s and ’60s as seen through his mother’s and his own teenage eyes. Griffith finally discovers the holy grail of his mother’s past: her diary, an ecstatic evocation of her sexual liaison, and an eloquent testament to her deepest feelings; and an unfinished novel that parallels the trajectory of her own life. Griffith puts the pieces together and reveals a mother he never knew. 

Pages:
208
Colors:
black & white
Format:
Hardcover
Dimensions:
6.5" x 9.5"
ISBN-13:
978-1-60699-895-3
Year:
2015

 "The fact that our parents are real people with lives of their own is hard to come to terms with. Bill Griffith does more than that in this deeply engaging graphic memoir about his father, his mother, and his mother's long-term affair with a man who happens to be, of all things, a cartoonist. It's also about a mid-20th-century, middle American past: suburbs, cafeterias, newspaper comic strips, World War II, and much more. On top of all of that, the drawings are truly spectacular." Roz Chast

"A breakout and poetic memoir that uses words and pictures to their ultimate effect. Bill Griffith explodes out of his daily four panel comics ghetto to weave an elaborate, complex, compelling mystery that brims over with wonderful imagery and quiet emotion. But not so quiet that I didn’t tear up on the last page. Wow!" — Jules Feiffer

"I found Invisible Ink profoundly interesting and satisfying ... a great story in its own right, and wonderfully told. One of the best uses to which the art of cartooning has ever been put." — Jim Woodring

"A lifetime of great Protestant-work-ethic daily sketch-booking in Zippy has paid off with a remarkably rich dividend. The drawing and layouts in Invisible Ink are downright magisterial ... Griffith's mother's life and his oedipal quest now sit in my head as if they were my own memories. Amazing what comics can do even if they usually don't." — Art Spiegelman

"Invisible Ink is the crowning achievement in the career of Zippy the Pinhead’s creator ... this deeply researched family history is much more than an account of maternal marital infidelities. Griffith amazingly reconstructs the details of the affair from his mother’s journals ... The art is a tour de force of craft, with mind-blowing images and brilliant composition." — Miami Herald

"Griffith's wonderful art and charmingly bemused perspicacity would make Invisible Ink a treat even if it stuck to the narrow topic of the affair and its effect on his childhood. But he goes far beyond that. In his deceptively meandering way, he pursues a whole web of issues: Art vs. commerce, the constraints women faced before feminism, the double-edged sword of the Google search. Always, he returns to the theme of the simultaneous fragility and force of human connections ... It may be an account of hidden passion exposed, but Invisible Ink winds up being a story of the unknowable, not the known. That's not too surprising, though. After all, it's about family." — NPR Books

 "This autobiographical story by the creator of Zippy the Pinhead will ring true to anyone who has ever watched their parents’ marital misery around the dinner table and wondered what was really going on ... Weaving a tapestry of family dysfunction and clandestine liaisons set against the backdrop of the 1950s and ’60s, Griffith’s journey of discovery and uncovering of long-buried truths depicts the deterioration of his parents’ relationship, and his mother’s problematic discovery of sexual fulfillment in an extramarital affair ... An evocative portrait of postwar America." — Publisher's Weekly

"Invisible Ink is a graphic novel masterpiece. I don't use this term lightly. I read hundreds of comics/graphic novels a year. Mr. Griffith has created the most powerful graphic memoir since Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. ... Invisible Ink is in my Top 10 list of graphic novels of all time!" — Pittsburgh Toonseum

"Framed by conversations about a medium-distant relative with an older uncle, Invisible Ink is presented as the story of Griffith’s parents’ miserable relationship and his mother’s 15 year affair with a then-famous cartoonist ... Griffith’s cartooning is stunning, particularly his landscapes. The last few pages especially are staggeringly gorgeous. They serve to punctuate a funny, melancholy, honest, emotional story." — Village Voice Online

"Griffith's intricate drawing style, which exploits a range of backdrops, from blank to near-photorealistic depictions of architecture, complements the richness of his verbal narration and the veracity and particularity of the dialogue he creates for the many relatives and family friends he portrays ... Absorbing and moving."  — Booklist

"Invisible Ink is a deeply personal and moving memoir ... But even more than that, it’s Bill’s own story about the discover of his mother’s hidden secret, and his ongoing attempts to undercover the details and understand the dynamics of a family life now long behind him ... In all, it is a narrative that is Faulknerian in scope." — Comics Alternative

"Superbly applying the techniques of fiction to the discipline of documentary, Invisible Ink is a wonderful leap forward in the growing genre of comics memoirs and one no serious reader can afford to miss." — Now Read This!

"Bill Griffith's Invisible Ink is a tour de force that combines a love story with betrayal and expose resulting in an emotionally compelling remembrance and insightful  personal history of comics. Its a serious contender for one of the best graphic memoirs ever." — Steven Heller

Listen to the Pictures Within Pictures podcast about Invisible Ink.

 

2016 Eisner Award Winner for Best Writer/Artist

The renowned underground cartoonist and creator of the Zippy newspaper strip has written and drawn his first long-form graphic story — a 200-page memoir that poignantly recounts his mother’s secret life in the 1950s and ’60s.

Fifteen minutes after Bill Griffith’s father died from a bicycle accident in 1972, his mother turned to him and said, “If I don’t tell you this now, I’ll never be able to tell you. I had a long and happy relationship with a man you knew slightly.” Thus began Griffith’s journey to reconstruct this hidden relationship between his mother and a deeply cultured jack-of-all-trades cartoonist and crime novelist.

Invisible Ink unfolds like a detective story, alternating between past and present, as Griffith recreates the quotidian habits of suburban Levittown and the professional and cultural life of Manhattan in the 1950s and ’60s as seen through his mother’s and his own teenage eyes. Griffith finally discovers the holy grail of his mother’s past: her diary, an ecstatic evocation of her sexual liaison, and an eloquent testament to her deepest feelings; and an unfinished novel that parallels the trajectory of her own life. Griffith puts the pieces together and reveals a mother he never knew. 

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