blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Ginseng Roots (2019) #4

Ginseng roots 4

It’s been almost a year since I last read a Ginseng Root and I’ve been lallygagging on getting back into reading because I was worried I’d be lost without a reread. But this issue’s a nice concise look at creator Craig Thompson and his brother’s experience picking rocks for comic book money.

So, while ginseng itself grows fine around rocks—in fact getting by rocks gives the root some personality—those same rocks will break the farming machinery and need to be cleared from the field. Thompson, his brother, and a couple friends they make at school do it summers to great success. The farmer who used to employ the kids has since given up farming—he couldn’t compete with wages (there’s an implication Wisconsin McDonald’s pay fourteen dollars an hour, which isn’t true at all, they don’t even make nine, so the continued subtext of all Thompson’s interviewees being QAnon-ready is even more potent reading it now)—and is now selling ginseng by mail to reasonable success.

Amid the ginseng industry exposition, there’s also some humor, particularly—at least at the start—with Thompson getting a cyst from drawing too much. He never really gets into it, but there’s this palpable fear his parents would make him stop drawing, along with the more unspecific fear they’re going to make he and his brother give up the worldly comic books (they’re Evangelicals). The cyst leads to some bullying, which leads to Thompson making friends with another kid who’s got a same-aged younger brother. Both families are poor and more religious (the friends are Jehovah’s Witness) and they become good friends.

The brothers cameo in the present day and they all go to a ginseng festival and reminisce. There’s nothing particularly amazing about the conversation but Thompson finds the weight in all the aging and all the changes and so on, so it turns into a very nice conclusion. There’s a little more with the farmer as an epilogue and segue to the next issue.

Also discussed—but not thoroughly—is kid Thompson’s young Earth creationism, which he presumably gave up.

But seriously… Wisconsin McDonald’s employees make 22% less than the national average. It’s disgusting.

Thompson does present it all objectively, I suppose, just not correctively.

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