I'd been vaguely aware that this graphic novel called Bottomless Belly Button, by Dash Shaw, had come out and was being widely praised, but I didn't know anything else about it--the name suggested something twee and silly, so, fool that I was, I didn't try to find out more.
Then I looked at the beautiful book design work of Jacob Covey, and among the projects he'd worked on was Bottomless Belly Button--and it looked fascinating. So, having the self-control of a Skinner-box rat, I bought it. And it's a lovely, lovely thing.
I'm only partway through the 700+-page story, but I'm hooked (over six days, the three adult children of the Loony family, and their own families, visit their old family home to hear their parents announce that, after 40 years of marriage, they are getting divorced). But this is about the design, which is great. (For all images, click for bigger).
Printed in blue-black and white ink on a chipboard card cover, there are actually two different cover designs, one featuring each of the Loony parents. I got Mrs Loony.
The white ink is interesting, because on this background you can only really see it when the light hits it at an angle.
The interior is nicely done, too, printed in a brown ink, and featuring, among the comic panels, various letters, maps, diagrams and drawn photos. Shaw can write dialogue very well indeed, especially awkward romantic and family interactions...
..but he's also a master of observation and at visually rendering the way objects and the natural world behave, as in this sequence where a tired new mother attempts to get a fitted sheet onto a mattress.
If it continues being as good as it has been so far, I will have more on this book in a best-of-2009 post coming up.