I’ve read Young Frances, which collects Pope Hats, but haven’t actually read any Pope Hats issues. Based on this issue, it’s different to the point I can’t imagine what it’s like to read Young Frances serialized, not if Hartley Lin intersperses it with his one or two page lyrical comic strips. They’re all non-fiction (or at least appear to be non-fiction), often involving either becoming a parent or just plain parenting. One strip is Lin up late trying to get the baby to sleep, another is a flashback of sorts to the hospital room where the intensity of labor starts to fade into memory. Memory also plays a big part, with Lin reflecting on his past, usually as to how it’ll affect his parenting.
For example, will Lin pass his terror of worms—scoleciphobia—on to the next generation or will he be able to handle the slimy cylinders once his son gets old enough to consider them. Lin’s got a great observation or two about how much of his life is going to be just for the son’s experience—i.e. Lin’s only going to learn constellations because he doesn’t want to pass bad information to the kid.
It’s a somewhat tender moment—all of Pope Hats #6 is tender—but implies a murkier depth. Most of the insight in the strips are observations about others or the discernible, much less about Lin himself.
He’s got this obsession with the empty house across the street, where teenagers go to drink beer; when he reminiscences—or the strip reminiscences—about the lost friends of his youth, it’s hard not to juxtapose those histories against the (off-panel) teens. Other than some recurring—numbered, in fact—drives through Vermont, not many of the strips call back or ahead to one another. Instead, there are these gentle echoes.
It’s a strong comic. Lin sometimes relies more on the writing, which isn’t always startlingly insightful (people have been writing parenting anecdotes for thousands of years now?) but he’s always got the accompanying art and the art’s always superb. And Lin always chooses the right accompanying imagery for the anecdote.
After Young Frances, I wanted to read more Lin; I need to read more Pope Hats.