GNF 5 – Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary and Bryan Talbot

Something that has helped me find new comics to read this month has been really paying attention to the publishers and imprints. After reading and loving Friends With Boys, I immediately requested a bunch of new titles from First Second, the Macmillan imprint that publishes the book. If you’re at a loss for what to read next with comics, look at who published your favorite graphic novel or one you’re particularly interested in and look at their backlist. You’re bound to find books either by the same artists or with similar art and storytelling styles. I think the publishing industry has a long way to go before there’s imprint recognition in the general public. I know that I for one never paid much attention to imprints or publishing houses before I started working in publishing. But I think publisher recognition is more prevalent in comics. Think DC vs. Marvel. Starting with this post, I’m going to start including all the imprints/publishers on here, in case you want to keep track, too.

dotter cover

Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse, 2012)

I had no idea what Dotter of her Father’s Eyes was about before I started reading, but for some reason it definitely wasn’t what I expected. Author Mary Talbot tells the story of her childhood with a distracted, angry father, who also happened to be a Joycean scholar. She parallels the story of her life with the life of Lucia Joyce, James Joyce’s daughter who lived a tragic life.

Mary, within the comic, points out that there aren’t many similarities between her life and Lucia’s. Instead, the parallels are more general. Their stories are about what it is like to grow up as a woman. Lucia fought for independence and freedom as a dancer in 1920s Paris. She suffered a hateful mother who didn’t see the worth in anything she was doing, a father who adored her, but wouldn’t stand up for her and her career, and the lost love of Samuel Beckett. Her parents forced her to leave Paris with them right as her career was beginning to take off and she never regained momentum. Eventually the stress from losing her career and the anger she harbored made her lose control. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed. She lived in a mental institution until she died at age 75.

Mary’s father was distant, distracted, and very short-tempered. Mary seemed to always make him mad, even when she wasn’t exactly sure what she had done to deserve it. When Mary becomes unexpectedly pregnant as a young woman, she marries the child’s father, because she doesn’t see any other way.

Mary and Lucia are both constrained by their societies and their families. Their lives are in deep contrast to the lives of their successful fathers, but also in contrast to each other. Lucia has a life that she wants to lead and she has some success at it, but her family never supports her. Mary never feels like she’s given as much freedom as her brothers and she is always painfully scrutinized by her father.

The difference is the end of their stories: Lucia’s story is tragic. Though I imagine the comic simplifies her downfall somewhat, she never recovers from the few months she was forced to leave Paris. Her dance career is ruined, Beckett calls off their relationship, and Lucia feels like she has nothing left. We know, however, that Mary changes her life. She is no longer married to the man she marries at the end of the comic. She has made a name for herself as a writer. Her father eventually respects her and her decisions, though she never sees him as warm or charming, the way some of his colleagues do.

I liked the art and the simple color distinctions between Mary’s story and Lucia’s story. I also loved the little interjections from Mary about her husband’s art. Whenever he got something wrong, she would point it out, but he didn’t redraw the pictures. It showed their collaboration process, but I thought it was also an interesting commentary on the way we tell stories and how other people perceive them. The inconsistencies are small. Mary really only corrects her husband’s art twice, but I think it was effective to leave them in there with only Mary’s commentary.

I liked this comic a lot. It taught me something about Lucia and I think the parallels between Mary and Lucia’s story are there. It makes sense to tell them together, a fact I think surprised the character-Mary in some ways.

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5 thoughts on “GNF 5 – Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary and Bryan Talbot

  1. Such a great point about imprint recognition with comics. I never really thought about that. I never thought about imprint before blogging and still have hazy ideas of what each publishes. I know my favorites, and that’s about it.

    As for this one, I’ve heard good things.

    1. I also just don’t know that publishing imprints are as consistent as they think they are? I’m not sure if that makes sense. It’s interesting to me, working inside the business, but also feeling very much like an outsider. I am not sure that “imprint recognition” will ever really be a thing among general readers, though I wonder if that might change with self-publishing? It can be hard to tell on Amazon sometimes!

  2. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while now! And first second is one of my absolute favorite graphic novel publishers! They put out really awesome stuff!

  3. I absolutely adored this last year. There’s so much smart commentary in regards to gender, and I really appreciated how she mixed in scholarly ideas with everyday life to make it all very accessible for the reader. I’m actually taking the reverse approach: Since reading Dotter, I have had my eyes on Friends with Boys 🙂

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