June 14, 2018

Review: DADDY DAY by Samuel C. Williams

There are life-affirming, life-changing, life-defining moments that occur in all of our lives, powerful in their arrival, profound in their intensity. Memorable. Momentous. Monumental. Often these are the moments to which we reach back in order to make sense of who we are, where we have been, where we might go. When we meet new people, these usually become the stories we tell.

But then there are the quiet moments. Those small, day-to-day affairs that we often breeze by on our way to something else. There are those who claim that it is the aggregation of all these little points in time that truly claim ownership of our identity -- that these small, seemingly inconsequential experiences are really the ones that make all the difference. Sometimes it is the moments which we thought were trivial or not worthy of notice that end up being the ones we miss the most when things change.

Parenthood is something that encapsulates both of these ideas -- combining both the momentous and the inconsequential. DADDY DAY, Samuel C. Williams’ new mini-comic from UK-based micropublisher Good Comics, encapsulates that encapsulation.

In his introduction to Daddy Day, Williams lets the reader know that the strips making up the book acted as “a form of therapy” for him as he dealt with the breakup of a serious relationship and having to transition “from being a full-time parent to mostly seeing [his children] on the weekends.” Both of these things challenged his identity, forced him to reassess how he envisioned life and his role in it, and compelled him to understand the importance of the little moments he had. In this 28-page series of vignettes, Williams is able to grant his reader access to the fruits of that process.
Combining both joy and sadness, Williams takes the time in the components of Daddy Day to not only chronicle each particular moment that he cherished with his kids, but, through his cartooning, register its emotional weight as well. There’s a real grasping in Williams’ work in this book, as if he is trying to both hold on to the enormity of his responsibility while at the same time being fully conscious of the impermanence of each moment.

There’s a couple of pages that are particularly striking in this regard. The first consists of a seemingly simple sepia-washed sequence of four panels in which his daughter plays on a swing. Here, Williams uses the power of the medium to create motion and time out of static images. The final panel of his daughter leaping off the swing with a smile on her face is indicative of so much -- Williams’ hopes, his pride in his daughter, his amazement at the young woman she is becoming. But it also points to the fact that each of these moments, precious though they may be, are just part of a cycle, a continuum of growth and change that no one can control. The small moment writ large.
The same sensibility can be found in a strip devoted to Williams’ son asking his father to “measure how much I’ve grown.” Once again, Williams celebrates his son’s development and, just through the act of documentation, points again to the vicissitude of each moment, that these little snippets of acknowledgment can carry as much weight as the major upheavals do and that both deserve attention and understanding.
Daddy Day is slight but deeply personal. Affecting in a quiet way, Williams expertly uses the medium of comics to transmit ideas and convey an emotional state. While it is one man’s story of healing, it ends up being a reminder to all of us to embrace life for what it is, not what we want it to be, and that every moment is an opportunity to create memories and to move forward.

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