True Story Swear to God
By Tom Beland
Welcome, friends to the kinder, gentler Image Comics. Were someone to have suggest, a decade and a half ago, from beneath the piles of books produced by Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, and their acolytes, that the harbinger of undead antiheroes and fiery swords would someday also be the home to a series like Tom Beland’s True Story Swear to God, surely we would have rolled out eyes and walked away. In fact, even now, fully aware of the company’s ever-increasing print umbrella, I wondered, upon opening a sizable box addressed to me by the company, if the book hadn’t accidentally slipped at some point during the shipping process.
Flipping the book over it’s clear, however, Image is indeed the new home for reissues of the series. The contrast with traditional expectations regarding the company’s output is the more stunning. In a field so often dominated by buff or busty archetypes in skin tight spandex, Beland’s work is some of the least pretentious committed to panels. Even compared to his fellow underground cartoonists so often drawn to autobiography, the artist’s work stands out as something humble and genuine. Take, for example, Beland’s art. While he has certainly developed his own style, Beland seems conscious that he’s not the most accomplished artist on the scene, opting to make due with what he has, a method that helps keep the focus on his storytelling, rather than the flash of inks and pencils.
The storytelling, for its part, is equally humble. Reading the book, one feels confident that nothing here was invented purely for the sake of storytelling. There are no overly macho adventures sprinkled into the stories, nor does the author indulge in a lugubriousness that drives so many autobiographical books. The Beland that we’re introduced to in the book is a man reasonably satisfied with his life, even as he strives to make it better, toiling away in seemingly go-nowhere pursuit of a career in comics.
Of course, now we have the pleasure of knowning the extent of the author’s successes, having subsequently been nomited for an Eisner, for the series in question. There’s something knowingly satisfying in watching him come close to giving it all up, or becoming giddy upon meeting editors at Marvel, where he deposited copies of his book, on the way out the door.
Beland’s low key approach also extends to the romantic aspects of his story, opting to focus on a already established love affair, rather than going for the oft explored beginnings of a relationship, intead opening book one on a relationship already well into its first year.
True Story Swear to God is a soft spoken book, a true rarity in this field. It’s an anatomy of the small twists and turns that go into making up a relationship, whose quiet truths are too often are silenced by the world of make believe. It’s well worth listening to, as long as you have the patience to hear it.