Someone to Talk To cover detail by Greg Panaccione
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“Someone To Talk To”: Your Younger You Has Some Tough Questions

A man picks up a phone, makes a call to his childhood home, and gets an answer — from his 10 year old self.

That’s what we call a high concept.

It’s also what I call a great comic. It made my Top Ten list for 2021.

One Ringy Dingy Credits

Someone to Talk To cover by Greg Panaccione
Original Title: “Quelqu’un à qui parler”
Writer: Cyril Massarotto, Greg Panaccione
Artist: Greg Panaccione
Translator: James Hogan
Letterers: Cromatik Ltd.
Published by: Lombard/Europe Comics
Number of Pages: 258
Original Publication: 2021

What’s Going On

Samuel alone on his birthday

This 258 page comic is an adaptation of a novel of the same name written by Cyril Massarotto in 2017. It follows “Black Water Lillies” as a great example of a novel being transformed into a graphic novel.

In this story, Samuel is a 35-year old single man who’s lonely, has a job he hates as a designer of pet clothes, and generally looks to be getting only sadder and more despondent as he grows older.

The book starts on his birthday, which he “celebrates” alone in his apartment by getting drunk and calling an ex-girlfriend from eight years ago.

Then he breaks open a bottle of champagne that completely floods his cell phone.

Like all of us, he can’t remember any phone numbers anymore. They were all on his cell. So he picks up his landline and calls the only number he can remember — his own home phone from when he was growing up.

And, sure enough, his ten-year-old self answers the call.

Is it the alcohol talking? Is he having a mental crisis? Or is there something else at work?

Samuel meets Li-Na

At work, his career is going well, his boss is a jerk, and a new friendly, cute rep from China catches his eye. But it could never work out with her, could it? They work together, she’s only here for a short time, and he can’t seem to spark any proper conversation with her. He’s as awkward as you can imagine, often picturing himself drowning after he talks to her. It’s just that bad.

Samuel's ten year old self is a wiseacre

Meanwhile, repeated phone calls back to his younger self are causing him to face his issues head-on. How does it feel to tell your younger self that all your dreams don’t come true and that, in many cases, it’s your own fault? It’s a hard pill to swallow but there are, of course, reasons. Real Life is not made of the stuff a ten-year-old’s dreams are.

It goes beyond that, though, to certain events the older Sam knows are about to happen to his younger self that will emotionally (and physically) scar him and turn him into the man he is today. Can he pre-empt that for this poor kid? Will that change his life?!?

And what about his dream to be a writer? Is it too late to write the Great French Novel?

Space and Pacing

Gregory Panaccione draws the city streets of Paris

That’s a lot of questions, but don’t worry — the book runs 258 pages. It has plenty of space to answer them all, and Panaccione uses those pages well.

This is a book that breathes. It’s not that things are stretched out or decompressed. Panaccione purposefully chooses when to take a quiet moment or to show the daily grind of life or work in an extended sequence.

This book is about the place in the world that Samuel is currently stuck in. Seeing some of the more mundane moments helps cement that image in the reader’s mind.

There are silent pages of Samuel going through life between work and home and everything in between. They’re not eventful pages, but they do have points. Often, they’re establishing patterns that might be broken later to help show the changes that happen later in the book.

Samuel dreams of killing his boss

Panaccione also has a knack for knowing when to mix things up completely and move to a less literal style in his art. Samuel’s thoughts get balloons with little drawings in them. His chats with his younger self turn into the two playing at a park together to represent what they’re talking about, instead of being another back and forth between two talking heads. It’s thoughtful and creative stuff.

Samuel talks soccer with his younger self

On top of that, he moves away from the strict panel grid of storytelling, as the conversations winds across and down the page in a very natural way without the help of any of the formal structures the rest of the book uses.

But he breaks that routine and those patterns repeatedly through the book at the perfect moment. There’s a major turning point in the book that is punctuated by two blank pages and then a double-page spread with a blank background. It’s an earned moment. It’s a moment that deserves the “bigness” of the comic book conceit, even to this ludicrous degree. I laughed and cheered all at the same time.

It’s a fun story that’s exquisitely told in Panaccione’s ink brush-heavy style. Characters emote and act in every panel. There’s a certain looseness to the art that maintains the energy of the page. It’s not like he perfects every line with precision in the inks. Background lines are often incomplete or blacked in to suggest forms where none is drawn. Panaccione knows how much he needs to put on the page and it works.

It’s far from “cheating.” He draws backgrounds when the story calls for it, particularly in a few great establishing shots that are filled with detailed Parisian architecture.

Watercolor style of the rooftop

The coloring of the book is a watercolor style that’s fairly simple. There are a lot of solid colors, but he does a good job at mixing things up slightly to create textures and patterns where they’re needed. The roof of his apartment, for example, is a solid greenish/gray color, but has barely visible highlights across the top and some darker splotches at the bottom to indicate the dirt and grime.

He also sketches in some shadows to better indicate lighting position in many scenes this way, but he isn’t hung up on that.

On the lettering side of things, the word balloons are hand drawn in and the lettering uses a font that’s very much going for a hand-lettered style to go along with it. It all fits together, though I can always nit-pick a crossbar-I or two…

Another example of using the wrong crossbar I at the beginning of a sentence

It’s there. You see it, don’t you? (“In a bar”?) The script used mixed-case lettering, and the letterer copied-and-pasted from that, so the capital-I was used at the beginning of sentences where it doesn’t belong.

You can see other examples of previous excerpts, too. Maddening.

Does That Name Ring a Bell?

Does Gregory Panaccione’s sound familiar?

A Sea of Love cover by Panaccione and Lupano

He was the artist on one of my favorite books of 2019, “A Sea of Love.” Written by Wilfrid Lupano, it’s the 224 page silent book where the old fisherman is lost at sea and his wife sails to Cuba to look for him. It’s done in a completely different style from this one, but just as well.

It’s available in print now from Magnetic Press.

Recommended?

Someone to Talk To cover by Greg Panaccione

Yes. This is a great book combining a good story with strong storytelling. I don’t want to give away the ending, so I’m not going to say anything else. The epilogue was great, and it ties directly back to something at the beginning of the book that, hopefully, you’ll still remember.

Buy It Now

It’s only available digitally, though I imagine a self-contained book like this would be a good pick-up for a publisher looking for material for the book market. It doesn’t have nearly enough alternate covers for the Direct Market.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are Amazon affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

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