Written and Illustrated by: Howie Noel
Published by: HCNoel Comics

Float is “an autobiographical love story about anxiety and the glass ceiling.” Put into English this is a story about a man named David who is dealing with mental illness and his inability to break free of his anxiety. Anxiety is a mental illness but in Float it is not just mental illness but a bad guy. A nemesis. Not just an idea but a supervillain who can defeat every day people. But here’s the thing.  This book isn’t just about David trying to break free of mental illness, it isn’t about a bad guy named Anxiety, it is also about a comic creator named Howie.

Now Howie Noel has done some great, daring work in the past. His first comic, Mr. Scootles, is one of my all time favorite books. It’s about a cartoon character that goes to hell and the repercussions it has on just hell but the Earth above. His ongoing book Tara Normal features a spunky female paranormal investigator who takes crap from no one. The girl can punch ghosts. She’s bad ass. Take that Peter Venkman. I think mentioning these credits is important because it shows that Howie has always taken chances with his career. I’m sure Howie could have created “Ultradude” and already been on issue 60 with some superpowered jerk saving the day. But a book about a cartoon character going to hell? That logline sold me from the get-go. The logline sold me but the book really followed through. I really can’t recommend a book higher than Mr. Scootles (you can check out an overview I did a few months back by clicking here).

I featured Float in the very early days of this site talking about the launch of Float’s website and the launch of the Kickstarter. As this was the very early days of the site when we didn’t have much traffic I’m sure these articles fell by the wayside. Since then I’ve also reviewed comics that dealt with mental illness like Tales of the Fractured Mind – which depressed the crap out of me. Why? Lots of people deal with different mental illness, myself included. We live in a world where it is not easy to talk about because you are afraid of the reaction of those around you. You will be judged – probably by someone who is also living with mental illness but is afraid to acknowledge it.

So here is a comic creator who is going to talk about his mental illness in an autobiographical book. This book is about anxiety but it is also about fear, rejection, and the ability (or inability) to deal with the world around you. This book can be abstract at times.  It also delves deep into the psyche of a man who has faced overwhelming obstacles throughout his comic book career. Float is the equivalent of the saying, “Put all of your cards on the table.” The only comparable book that I’ve read like this is Brian Michael Bendis’ Hollywood memoir Fortune and Glory. The books are actually nothing alike but do have comparable themes that you can take away from. Fortune and Glory is meant to show you the dichotomy of Hollywood and how that industry is run.

Float is meant to show you how events big and small can affect a person. It is truly a emotional journey. You can’t take in the book in one sitting. It is impossible. Float is the type of book that you read through, you put down, and then you process. That process for me actually went for multiple days. I’m going to say it was about four days later that I picked up the book again. I read.  I felt the deeper meaning. Even now writing this review I know there is a level to this book that I’m still not aware of. My lack of understanding doesn’t take away from the book. Float is immensely enjoyable from page one. It’s just that it is layered. Like an intricate film or a multi-tracked song.

I’m glad I brought up song because now I’m going to go further to the left before even getting to my synopsis of the book. Float really reminds me of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It just feels like a spiritual journey through your very soul. It’s almost like you read Float and you can totally imagine Pink Floyd doing a soundtrack to the book. But here’s the rub. During the creation of Float, Noel worked with singer/songwriter Victor Guest who did an original soundtrack to Float. Not even an EP or anything – this bad boy has 9 tracks. It is a beautiful masterpiece. Big and broad.

What I haven’t done is read the book while listening to the soundtrack and I don’t know if there is any “sync” involved with both. I take my time reading which means that the soundtrack would probably just blow by. While you may scoff at me comparing the Float soundtrack to Pink Floyd’s opus I will say that both do an amazing job capturing feelings and art as they melt together. You get that feeling when you just read the book on its own. You get that feeling just from listening to the soundtrack. It elevates Float so much higher than anything else out there. It isn’t just a comic. This isn’t Wolverine going berserker or whatever. This is deep emotional shit here and the deeper you get into the book, the deeper it goes to your core. Adding music to your printed comic? It shouldn’t work and it does. I don’t know if the experience works in conjunction but separate each work is simply amazing.

Now in trying to review this work it is not as easy as sitting down and saying, “Okay. Here’s the plot. Here’s the three act structure.” This is easily the most amazing autobiographical comic work since Derf Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer (or Craig Thompson’s Blankets before that) but the two are night and day. Derf tells the story of his experiences with Dahmer in high school while using Dahmer’s own words to express how he couldn’t control himself. Thompson was telling a linear story about his life and falling in love for the first time, Noel is ttalking mental illness and how that not only affects his comic book work but impacts him on a personal level.  The book starts off by introducing us to the “villain” Anxiety and suddenly we are drawn into a real graphic novel. Where pictures tell the reader a story.  Where Noel tells us about love lost and how that actually looks to him on the page. How something beautiful can be born, torn down, destroyed, and reborn as something beautiful. Or can it?

We meet David – your average boring white guy who seems to be under a load of anxiety. His doctor (who I like to call Dr. Laurence Fishburne because the dude totally reminds me of Larry) is trying to treat David and suggests therapy on a very remote island.  It is on this island where David starts to examine himself, his life, his misgivings, and how it impacts him and his life. But David isn’t real. David is a fictional character. He’s an avatar. He represents the man underneath it all struggling to make sense of his life, his love, his anxiety, and the world around him. It’s Howie Noel and his struggle to tell the world just how his life, his love, his anxiety, and the world around him actually are.

Every page is captivating and even pages where there may be just a lone image is something you have to think about. What is the author trying to tell you with this page? Like any good puzzle the answer is there as long as you are willing to look at the work, the author, and your own life. If that sounds way too deep then I’m sure there’s an issue of Spider-Ham out there that you can laugh at all day. But this book is about the struggle of mental illness. How trying your best to do something can still bring jeers and pain into your life. How that pain and hurt affects you. What to do when you are at your lowest point. How to possibly recover and overcome. If it is possible. It’s taking control of your own destiny when something takes you so far down you feel that you are no longer in control.

Float is a goddamn masterpiece. Putting aside knowing the author and looking just at the work, one can only say how impactful and stunning Float is. I really can’t believe what I read. I cannot think back and remember what other comic book writer/artist has put themselves out there like Noel has. The results shout out at you. I’ve been a comic reader for decades. I’ve had favorite characters, favorite books, favorite writers, and favorite artists. Noel is included there with Mr. Scootles. But Float transcends everything. The book is a lightbulb moment. You read it and then you have to stop. You have to think. And you just say, “Holy shit. This is so fucking deep.” It is just amazing. Simply amazing. This is perhaps the graphic novel of the decade and I truly hope that it finds an audience. This should be at every comic con and should be put up for (and win) those Ignatz and Eisners and whatever other awards are out there. You want a comic to celebrate? Someone has finally delivered. All you need to do is buy it, read it, and be moved. It’s more than a graphic novel. It truly is a work of art.


Find the book here: http://yourglassceiling.com

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