Much like the medium featured in the novel. Faith Erin Hicks’ debut novel Comics Will Break Your Heart, is deceptively complex and nuanced. Despite what the title suggests it is in fact a love letter to the medium of comics. As well as a tribute to maritime Canada, where the story is set. This is Hicks first prose novel, but with seven graphic novels under her belt as both a comic writer and artist, she is in familiar territory here.
We are introduced to Miriam Kendrick, a dutiful employee at the local comic store who has a chance encounter with Weldon Warrick a rebellious young man. Weldon has been banished by his father to Sandford, Nova Scotia for the summer due to his bad behaviour. Though the two teens are initially attracted to each other, their relationship is dramatically changed once Miriam realizes Weldon is the grandson of Joseph Warrick.
In the story, Joseph Warrick co-created the successful fictional comic series “The Tomorrow Men” with Micah Kendrick, Miriam’s grandfather, in the 1960s. It is now a multi-million-dollar enterprise with a big Hollywood movie forthcoming. However, a dispute over the ownership of the characters resulted in a nasty legal battle between the two men. Ultimately, leaving the Warrick family inheritors of a vast fortune, and the Kendricks subsisting on a one-time paid settlement. Despite the economic disparity and family history, Miriam and Weldon find they are constantly drawn together, forcing them both to reconcile the past and build a future together.
Hicks draws from comics history as inspiration for the events in this story. The title of the book is a quote attributed to the artist Jack Kirby. Kirby famously battled Marvel Comics for his share of the superhero properties he helped to create and like Micah Kendrick, he passed away leaving the dispute to his heirs (Patten). His collaborator Stan Lee remained at Marvel for most of his life, acting as a figurehead of sorts. He was given creator credit but also had his own legal battles which were settled much more generously than Kirbys were (Park).
Hicks uses this sadly common story from comics history to express the dichotomy of art for love and art for profit in her own characters. The Warrick family are wealthy and privileged, but, are also unhappy. The parents are divorced, and Weldon has been acting out, which is why he is sent away. The marketing and promoting of “The Tomorrow Men” consumes Weldon’s father’s life. He doesn’t write or draw, it’s all business for him. Meanwhile, the Kendrick household is a close and loving family who live a modest existence. The settlement allowed them to buy a house, but now they try to subsist on a meager income. With little interest in increasing their personal fortune. This is expressed by Stella, Miriam’s mother, who creates paintings of “The Tomorrow Men” which she sells at the local comic shop for “the exact amount of money they spent making the painting“ (Hicks 8).
Hicks takes the conflict many artists feel internally and externalizes it in the form of these star-crossed lovers from feuding comic families. Beyond exploring the financial struggles of creative art and the emotional rewards of pursuing your passions. Hicks also touches on themes of entering young adult life, outgrowing old friendships, and falling in love. This is a great book for any fan of comics, and also for the uninitiated. “Comics Will Break Your Heart” will hopefully make you fall in love with its characters, and with the comics medium itself.
Hicks, Faith Erin. Comics Will Break Your Heart. Roaring Brook Press, 2019.
Patten, Dominic. “Marvel & Jack Kirby Heirs Settle Legal Battle Ahead of Supreme Court Showdown.” Breaking News, Deadline, September 26, 2014, https://deadline.com/2014/09/jack-kirby-marvel-settlement-lawsuit-supreme-court-hearing-841711/.
Park, Andrea. “Stan Lee, legendary Marvel Comics creator, is dead at 95.” CBS News, November 12, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/stan-lee-dead-marvel-comics-writer-editor-obituary-died-age-95-2018-11-12/.