Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button

Bottomless Belly Button, published this year by Fantagraphics Books, is the latest graphic novel by Meathaus crew member Dash Shaw. It follows the Loony family after the announcing of divorce of Maggie and David (the parents), who have been married for over 40 years, and the effect, or lack thereof, on their three grown children and two grandchildren.

Here's a sort of an introduction to the main characters:

The children (who are between the ages of 34 and 26) have the Royal Tennenbaum-esque quality of being constantly defined by their somewhat stunted, child-like clothing. The youngest son, Peter, is so visually representative of his self-conscious attitudes, he appears throughout the novel as he fears he looks to other people, as an anthropomorphic frog.

In such a story of complicated family relationships and development, Shaw's visual style is very well suited for the tender and awkward moments these themes entail. Many panels have the aesthetic of candid family photos, where a character's expression is one of genuine emotion, but although the viewer can relate to this feeling, when frozen in time it comes across as silly or weird.

Shaw's delicate way of visual narration gives the book a sense of intimacy and wholeness as the family of characters have themselves. The book itself is 720 pages, though some only hold a small, single panel, while others are packed in a more conventional layout style. Some pages are not broken into panels at all, but are things like maps of the house (where most of the story takes place) or letters between Maggie and David, which he uses to show the readers their courtship without actually going back and narrating a specific story.

Shaw's website has more character introductions and sample panels, along with an animated trailer for Bottomless Belly Button which is totally worth checking out. He has an abundance of sample pages and info on his other works, as well as an ongoing webcomic called Bodyworld. Plus, you can check out part of the coolest Dr. Strange story that was going to be a part of a Marvel indy anthology which apparently, will probably never be published, at least any time soon. Dagger.

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