The conversations that we have with ourselves in our heads are fascinating. We're engaged in this never-ending dialogue about our insecurities, judgments, bewilderment, justifications, and reassurances. This constant interior tête-à-tête is rhythmic and heated, roaring and hushed, the soundtrack to our day-to-day. Its function is the preservation of self, or at least the ego, and Spencer Hicks' comic Inspiration Point gets this better than most of the comics I've read in the last few years. In its pages, while we shake our head at the delusions and denials of the protagonist's consciousness, we are forced to confront these same aspects in ourselves.
It's easy to dismiss Inspiration Point as another navel-gazing autobiographical black and white comic, Artists Alleys in small town comics conventions are filled with them, but if you spend the time with this book, you can see that Hicks is doing quite a bit more. I think it's his storytelling that first clued me in. There's a surface level obviousness to Hicks' panels, but there is also this subtlety therein which is where the thick emotional power of the comic vibrates. The small moments tell a larger story. It's the kind of storytelling that is only possible in comics too, in that intersection between words and pictures that everyone is always going on about.
You have to be an active reader when reading Inspiration Point, as the subtext of the story is the key to its heart. A close up of a clenched fist when featured in a panel with the words, “If anyone should apologize it's HER” gains enormous emotional power through the pairing; a close up of a face raised to the heavens underneath a text box reading “Not like anybody gives a shit” vibrates with existential and religious heft. This is the kind of thing that pops up all over Inspiration Point, these muted moments demonstrate Hicks' understanding of his medium as much as he understands each one of us.
Even the title of the book points to something larger here. While the titular Inspiration Point is the destination for Hicks' hero's morning jog – the place he is running to as he runs from so much of his life -- each moment in his journey serves as the source of new interior commentary, each point along the way triggers him to define himself and his place in the world. What is inspired isn't necessarily inspirational, but it is the act of creation, the thought before the deed.
Hicks' narrator is the everyman in the sense that his actions echo in the lives of others while he is also constantly ignored. He serves a special place in his limited sphere, but in the larger circle he is, like us, nondescript. And yet he justifies and judges, reassures and condemns. In his head he is the center of the universe, just as much as he is you and you are me and we are all together.
Spencer Hicks knows how to use the unique properties of comics to convey these ideas. I can't wait to see what he says next.