Fans of independent publishing and comics certainly (or certainly should be) aware of Noah Van Sciver for his work in Blammo! and Fante Bukowski. His latest effort, One Dirty Tree, cements him as one of the premier comic artists of his time.
We’ve been a fan of Van Sciver since his days interviewing indie bands for a recurring strip in Denver’s alt weekly Westword. While nobody would paint his four question comic interviews with local bands vital music journalism, it was a fun, fresh take on stilted local-music scene coverage. While Van Sciver’s no longer a part of Denver’s indie rock community, moving to Columbus, Ohio, a while back, he’s still a formative piece of the Colorado independent authors canon.
An Independent Author’s Biographical Graphic Novel
His latest, One Dirty Tree, only cements that. Alternating between a reflection of his life as a youngster growing up in a house on 133 ____ street in New Jersey, a home one of his brothers dubbed “One Dirty Tree,” and a look at the unravelling of a major relationship in his adult life. Van Sciver flips between both timelines seemingly at random, though he assembles the vignettes cleverly, ordering them to provide a collage of depressing bits of life. Whether it’s relating a scene where discussing his status as a professional comic artist – where he slowly mutates from man into a monster to reflect his girlfriend’s mom’s views of him – or telling tales of the pressures put on his father by his Mormon faith, Van Sciver unflinchingly examines milestones in his life.
Where lesser writers’ stints at autobiography slip into sophomoric self-aggrandizement, Van Sciver hits on nearly every beat. While his latest will inevitably draw sidewards comparisons to Alison Bechdel or Harvey Pekar, Van Sciver never comes off as self-constructed as the first, or as a heel like the latter. It’s a marvelous balancing act that makes One Dirty Tree a great read from one of the finest (and sadly departed from) Colorado independent authors.