From the highly-acclaimed French comics artist, a moving and powerful graphic memoir that describes growing up with an epileptic brother in France in the late 60s and 70s and the devastating effects of his illness on the entire family. David B. was born Pierre-Francois Beauchard in a small town outside of Orléans, where he and his older brother, Jean-Christophe, and younger sister, Florence would spend their afternoons playing in the street with the neighborhood kids. Then Jean-Christophe turned eleven and was struck by epilepsy. The disease worsened as he grew up, turning him violent and unreachable and eventually taking over his life—and the lives of those close to him. His parents sought out all sorts of alternative doctors and therapies, and dragged the family to macrobiotic communes, which only led to continual disappointment as each new cure would fail—and Jean-Christophe, after brief periods of remission, would get worse.
An honest and horrifying portrait of the disease, and the pain and fear it sowed in the family, Epileptic also serves as an exploration of collective memory. Through flashbacks, we are introduced to the stories of Pierre-Francois' grandparents and relive both his grandfathers' experiences in both World Wars. Tellingly, one way Pierre-Francois coped with his anger (a profound anger at his brother for subjecting the family to so much, and at all the quacks who consciously or unconsciously offered them false hope), was to draw fantastically intricate battle scenes, creating images that provide a wonderful, if disturbing, window into his interior life. We follow Pierre-Francois through his childhood, adolescence and adulthood all the while charting his complicated relationship with his brother and Jean-Christophe's losing battle with epilepsy. All of this is done with highly detailed shadowless black-and white images. The art is beautiful and striking, and the story itself as intimate, complex and engaging as any literary memoir.
“A painfully honest examination of the effects of debilitating epilepsy on one man and his family, told through a combination of straightforward text and expressionist imagery that ranges in its palette from centuries-old symbolism to the secret worlds of childhood. Even as he shows up the hollow promises of every school of esoteric and alternative medicine his family encounters in their quest for help, David B. works a real kind of deeply human magic on the page—something forged from black ink and a soul's struggle—that marks Epileptic as one of the first truly great narrative artworks of the new millennium.” —Jason Lutes, author of Jar of Fools and Berlin
“David B has created a wildly beautiful fantasia on human frailty, on the making of an artist and the unmaking of his own brother—a memoir that is hopeful and bitterly poignant all at once.” —Paul Collins, author of Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism
“David B.'s sprawling tale of his family, overrun by his brother's illness and obsessed with curing it, is a masterful depiction of people searching for answers when there may be none. David B. is clearly one of the best storytellers in the medium of comics.” —Joe Sacco, author of The Fixer, Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde
“In Epileptic, the distortions of family life caused by his brother's illness are the cracked lens through which David B. explores on his own family's history and, by extension, the conflicts of 20th century France and even, to an extent, the world. The thing that makes this memoir unlike any ever seen before is the wonderful, inky, intricate artwork, and the way that allows us to enter into the story via the rich and angry fantasy life of a growing boy.” —Jessica Abel, author of La Perdida, Mirror, Window and Soundtrack
Visit the Pantheon graphic novels website to view spreads from Epileptic.
David B. is a founding member of L'Association, a group of French cartoonists who banded together as publishers in 1990 and have revolutionized European comics with their groundbreaking approach to formats, subject matter, and style. He has won numerous awards, including the French Alph' Art award for comics excellence in 2000, and was cited as "Cartoonist of the Year" in 1998 by The Comics Journal.