When I entered my graphic novel course this semester, I was looking forward to all the novels we would be reading. Graphic novels have always been one of my favourite genres; they carry a mysterious aura and leave many things unsaid. As a result, it’s up to the reader to discover their own meaning.
One of the first books I analyzed in class was Seth’s It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken. Seth is the pen name for Gregory Gallant, a local Canadian artist from Guelph who creates cartoons for The New Yorker. His art consists of decaying buildings, similar to the buildings found in southern Ontario, where he grew up. He uses shades of black and grey for colour. Seth’s ghost-like pictures tell a profound story of self-discovery and a contemplation of the past, showcased through his muted art style.
It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken follows Seth, a cartoon enthusiast who perpetually lives in the past—whether it’s collecting old cartoons, or returning to places from his past. He attempts to trace the origins of an obscure Canadian cartoonist from the 1950s, named Kalo. As Seth pieces together Kalo’s story, he searches for happiness in a world that seems to get worse every year.
As Seth uncovers the story of Kalo, he learns that nostalgia and memory shouldn’t be viewed as things that need to be fixed. If he accepts his life-altering actions from the past, he can release himself from his emotional burden and move forward. As Kalo’s best friend tells Seth, “You look back and you wonder, ‘Could I have changed the course of my life?’ Maybe you could’ve… But it would have taken a tremendous force of will.” Sometimes it’s better to have no expectations, live your life, and await the small surprises life offers you.
Gallant creates a hauntingly beautiful story that draws stunning conclusions about nostalgia, memory, and fate. Overall, It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken is a terrific read that continuously makes the reader question everything they know about these topics. His novel compels readers to examine their lives critically.