This graphic novel is based on Lincoln’s battle with depression. The debut graphic novel from Noah Van Sciver follows the twentysomething Abraham Lincoln as he loses everything, long before becoming our most beloved president. Lincoln is a rising Whig in the state’s legislature as he arrives in Springfield, IL to practice law. With all of his possessions under his arms in two saddlebags, he is quickly given a place to stay by a womanizing young bachelor who becomes his friend ...
This graphic novel is based on Lincoln’s battle with depression.
The debut graphic novel from Noah Van Sciver follows the twentysomething Abraham Lincoln as he loses everything, long before becoming our most beloved president. Lincoln is a rising Whig in the state’s legislature as he arrives in Springfield, IL to practice law. With all of his possessions under his arms in two saddlebags, he is quickly given a place to stay by a womanizing young bachelor who becomes his friend and close confidant. Lincoln builds a life and begins friendships with the town’s top lawyers and politicians. He attends elegant dances and meets an independent-minded young woman from a high-society Kentucky family, and after a brisk courtship, becomes engaged. But, as time passes and uncertainty creeps in, young Lincoln is forced to battle a dark cloud of depression brought on by a chain of defeats and failures culminating into a nervous breakdown that threatens his life and sanity. This cloud of dark depression Lincoln calls “The Hypo.” Dense crosshatching and an attention to detail help bring together this completely original telling of a man driven by an irrepressible desire to pull himself up by his bootstraps, overcome all obstacles, and become the person he strives to be. All the while, unknowingly laying the foundation of character he would use as one of America’s greatest presidents.
Van Sciver’s psychologically astute examination of what might be termed Abraham Lincoln’s “lost years” (1837–1842) is as gripping and persuasive as the best historical fiction. Despite success in the Illinois state legislature, Lincoln finds it difficult to adapt to life in Springfield, where he knows few people and struggles to maintain a law office with partner John Stuart, through whom he is introduced to Stuart’s cousin, Mary Todd. A tentative engagement to Mary is broken by Lincoln, who is plagued by her family’s disapproval as well as his own demons. Coupled with the dissolution of his law practice, this plunges Lincoln into a deep depression he calls “the hypo”—short for “hypochondriasis” and certainly a misnomer in Lincoln’s case. Van Sciver’s heavily researched story and artwork are executed in a straightforward style. His drawings have a freehand looseness, while his use of language has an authentic period sound. This characterization of Lincoln is thoroughly human and identifiable, tracking a shadowy but formative period in the very uneven life of a man who shows little signs of becoming known as one of the greatest Americans. A thoroughly engaging graphic novel that seamlessly balances investigation and imagination. (Oct.)
Perhaps our most beloved president, Abraham Lincoln threatens merely to disappear into sainthood for most of us. Van Sciver has made him real by portraying one of the most difficult times in the future leader's younger life. Confronting professional and personal setbacks, Lincoln becomes paralyzed by depression (which he calls "the hypo," thinking himself a hypochondriac), breaks his engagement to his beloved, and crashes into a full-fledged mental breakdown. But with the help of friends, he weathers the storm to recoup his losses, wed Mary Todd, and go on to a revered career. Gritty, eye-opening period details include widespread slumlike living conditions, casualness toward prostitution, ignorance about mood disorders, barbaric medical treatments like blood-letting, and pretensions of the wealthy gentry. It's rather like an American version of Dickens infused into a Jane Austen love story, and Van Sciver's moody cross-hatching works exceedingly well in showing these lesser-known facets of Lincoln's nonpolitical life. VERDICT An excellent choice for compelling leisure reading as well as for use in classrooms. Fantagraphics plans to do a study guide. Teens up, with caution owing to sexual issues.—M.C.