Sounds of Your Name

Sounds of Your Name

by Nate Powell

Nate Powell's (March, Swallow Me Whole, Soophie Nun Squad, Any Empire) recently won the Eisner for "best original graphic novel" and was the first graphic novel nominated for the LA Times book award since Art Spiegelman's Maus! His intricate black & white art focuses on the terrors and pleasures of growing up. Poignantly plumbing the existential angst of youth, he invokes great coming-of-age novels with only a few dozen words. This book collects his self published zines and comics dating back to 1992, his first two graphic novels (Tiny Giants and It Disappears), and new work. These stories build vignette by vignette into a rich tableau of lofty dreams and Deep South disappointment, car crashes and love letters, first kisses and four-tracks. Powell's work is a reminder of the persistence of wonder against all odds. Folks who pick this book up can request a (limited to 200) signed and numbered print for the story Autopilot. ISBN 978-1-934620-79-3 Read a great interview with Nate in Comics Reporter!



Frank Miller, creator of Sin City and 300 6/27/2011

"This Nate Powell wittily, even surgically, cuts to the bone. Observant, intimate cartooning, anchored with a nice, punchy use of black. Good comics."

EnComics 11/23/2010

"He captures that most elusive thing that disappears with age: wonder. If most people spend their entire lives longing for past episodes from their youth, then Nate addresses that longing, covering his pages with lost wonder, and offering it, wholeheartedly, back to us. His work offers the hope we might never grow old, and that even if we do, our dreams are always within reach. The power of his work is a reminder of the persistance of joy."

Midwest Book Review 8/1/2010

"Sounds of your Name is a graphic novel anthology of black-and-white zine and comic stories by punk band player Nate Powell. Featuring dark, gritty artwork, dialogue that turns on a dime from casual to deadly serious, and sequences that are likewise drift from day-in-the-life to tense to shockingly explosive, the stories in Sounds of Your Name captivate with underground fervor. From the hard life of an alley cat who longs for the comforts of domesticity, to the simultaneously grim and spiritual insights of a war veteran, to the rites of passage from childhood to adulthood, Sounds of Your Name is undeniably a "thinking man's comic" from cover to cover. An avant-garde collection especially recommended for anyone interested in taking the pulse of the underground comix scene."

Optical Sloth 7/30/2010

"If you’re a fan of Nate Powell, this is the book you’ve been waiting for. It collects all sorts of bits from his old Walkie Talkie series, shorter pieces from a variety of sources, and unpublished pieces. If you’re not a fan of Nate’s work, it’s probably only because you haven’t seen it yet."

Midnight Fiction 7/29/2010

"The artwork in Sounds of Your Name is fluid and forceful. With beautiful linework, bold contrasts, and dynamic design, the work is eminently suited to its black-and-white presentation. Powell experiments with styles and orientation throughout. But pushing boundaries is risky business and there are moments when Powell trades off visual excitement for clarity.

The introduction states Powell has worked with adults with developmental disabilities since 1999. His comic stories are obviously affected by his experiences. They explore life's mysteries and our search for meaning and dignity, and islands of refuge in the challenging world of coming of age."

Optical Sloth 7/18/2010

This book is the moment when you start the car and leave your hometown forever with only the clothes on your back and the moment you decide to turn off the car and stay where you are. It’s living the dream, waiting for death, fighting off boredom and giving in to it. It’s trying to make sense of it all while knowing deep down that there is no sense to be made. If you’ve never questioned a goddamn thing in your life, this comic will fly right over your head. For the rest of us, you may find a few of your questions about life answered in these pages, but you’ll also find many more questions. In times as shitty as these, it helps to at least take a look around you. As a wise man once said, the unexamined life is not worth living, and this comic sums that up beautifully.

The Midwest Book Review 1/26/2010

“Sounds of Your is a graphic novel anthology of black-and-white zine and comic stories by punk band player Nate Powell. Featuring dark, gritty artwork, dialogue that turns on a dime from casual to deadly serious, and sequences that are likewise drift from day-in-the-life to tense to shockingly explosive, the stories in Sounds of Your Name captivate with underground fervor. From the hard life on an alley cat who longs for the comforts of domesticity, to the simultaneously grim and spiritual insights of a war veteran, to the rites of passage from childhood to adulthood, Sound of Your Name is undeniably a ‘thinking man’s comic’ from cover to cover. An avant-garde collection especially recommended from anyone interested in taking the pulse of the underground commix scene.”

Allen MacMorris 4/16/2008

to date, my favorite graphic novel.

Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room

Indiana-based Powell has spent more than a decade producing independent comics and zines, the majority of them now out of print. SOUNDS OF YOUR NAME collects those pieces, some dating back to 1992, and brings them together under one cover. SOUNDS is a handsomely produced collection, a healthy 300+ pages of material, and an interesting look at an artist’s strengths and weaknesses over time.
Powell’s primary strength as a creator is easily his art. SOUNDS shows Powell to have an amazing range, as he varies his style from near photo-realistic to sketchily stylized. He also has a gift for detailed backgrounds, giving his stories and panels more of a sense of place and grounding them solidly in the world. There are many pages here where you can just stop for a moment and admire what he’s accomplishing in the margins. His people avoid comicbook clichés as well, varying in body type and maintaining a sense of the real about them. He’s very much an impressive storyteller as an artist.

Diana Tierney, Feminist Review

[This] collection is fantastic for anyone who is a fan of Powell, or of classic newspaper comic strips. The stories are well drawn and deal with serious political issues. The artistry itself is very good, characteristic of this genre. However, it doesn’t have much appeal to the teenage age group that has been spurring the comic book market. The stories are more adult in nature and require a person to pay attention to what they are reading. Being a military wife I found the first comic “Nineteen” regarding a soldier’s job to be the most poignant for me. “Company” was an especially touching piece on how people should take those who are mentally disabled more seriously...I recommend this book for those people who are adept in this genre or are fans of Nate Powell’s work.

Ryan Canavan, Hanging Like a Hex

Sounds Of Your Name is a collection of almost everything published by Nate Powell up to this point. Who is Nate Powell? Well, if you're a real punk rocker you'll know he is an incredible illustrator who has been making his own comics and contributing to many well-known zines over the last few years. OK, so maybe a lot of real punk rockers don't know that. Its OK. I'm here to let you know. Some of his stories reek with unrequited young love, torn up and fucked over with confusion by the blight of living in a rural redneck town and just trying to get the fuck out. Others are just confusing and seem to follow no real story or unifying idea. Some are a page, some are twenty pages. Some deal with dying, but most have a glimmer of hope about trying to live. A lot of them are depressing. All of them, though, showcase Nates awesome sketchy style- breezy intertwined lines and flowing contrast of black and white.

Andrew Moore, Wayland P.L., MA, Library Journal

An empty street just before dawn; a wind-swept bluff on the outskirts of town; a barely furnished room: these are the settings for Powell's
brooding tales of loneliness and loss. Most characters are in their early twenties, searching for ways to connect and live meaningful lives. The storytelling can be oblique to the point of incoherent, and the tone strives desperately for profundity. But if the callow philosophizing is tedious, the rich black-and-white artwork is consistently rewarding. Powell is a whiz at capturing the various textures of darkness and at conjuring a milieu: you can feel the breeze on the starlit hill, smell the rain from your chair on the porch. As adept at the sweeping long shot as the telling detail, he seems incapable of rendering an inexpressive or unfelt line. Would his work be even more powerful with pen and ink? Maybe, but even so, Powell is a talent to watch. Recommended for larger collections and YAs, who will appreciate the themes.—

410 Media

At times while reading Sound of Your Name I was engaged in reading what I thought was great fiction. I really enjoyed Pulling Teeth and Conditions the most. They both are of similar theme; friends who want to take their friendship to another step, yet afraid that the other person doesn't feel the same way, so everything just gets screwed up. Who can't relate to that? Powell uses not just the dialogue, but also the drawings to tell the story in a way that really helps define this genre of fiction. There are also some stories in this mix, "Autopilot" being the best, that are wordless and let the drawings do all the story telling. There are many other stories here that follow a non-linear story line that I just got lost reading. The last section has 30 some odd pages of covers from the previous zines and books and other illustrations. Most of these are beautifully illustrated in an understated, simple way. If we were the type of place that gave stars or points for a rating, this would probably get 3.5 out of 5.

Seth Hollander, Maximum Rock n Roll #287

If you crave tales of misery, Powell has the book for you! I found satisfaction in Powell's harping on the issues of our society's materialism and intellectual apathy. He and I agree on many points and I'm glad to see that one of us is trying to do something about it.

Fil, Give Me Back #51

Most of this stuff has been printed a few times now, so it seems like this is for people who missed out on the harder to find stuff. I find his style and narrative voice addictive, so it's nice to have access to so much of it..

Matt Fagan, Xerography Debt #21

Put together to deliver the indelible message that Nate [Powell] is a force to be reckoned with, these pictures are intricate and rich in detail, finding emotion not just in well-rendered faces but in postures, furniture, the shadows on the floor and the cross-hatching on a distant wall. There is no lazy framing here, no quick-cut transitions. Never have establishing shots been so complex and lovingly bleak. This is a guy who understands how to make black and white drawings come to life. He has no need for color, gray tone, or anything but the white of the page and the black of the ink to bring out all the depth that exists in the real world.
The stories in this book come in many forms and many sizes, but the voice behind them is consistent. It's the voice of Nate's examined youth, an author using comics to explore himself both literally and metaphorically, and it carries through all of these pages. Most importantly he recognizes that the images are the true stars of the stories, and he allows them dominance, the freedom to wordlessly explain themselves and to carry the narrative on their ample shoulders. The comics are so good that they practically read themselves. If you've run across his work elsewhere - or even if you haven't - you really ought to track down a copy of this book.

Profane Existence, #54

Sounds of Your Name is basically a massive Nate Powell omnibus. This is a huge compilation of almost 14 years of Nate Powell's work, including several self-published works, two graphic novels, and some newer work. I loved the black and white art-work that was at times based in reality and down-to-earth but then suddenly skewed into a chaotic mess bordering on insanity. The stories ranged from relateable teen-years shit everyone dealt with to more disturbing issues like death, mental illness, and self-esteem. I'm not saying that this novel was overly serious because I thoroughly enjoyed FRANKENBONES, the misadventures of two punk-house cats. All I can say is this book is definitely worth the paper it's printed on. I really fucking enjoyed reading this!

Van Jensen, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Powell works off and on in comics and, not surprisingly, far from the mainstream. His first books, Tiny Giants (2003) and It Disappears (2004), drew some attention, including a snappy blurb from famed Frank Miller. But stories of punk adolescents and twentysomethings despondently grappling with life's mundanity or relationship woes don't draw quite as many readers as Spider-Man socking a bad guy. That reality defines this early portion of Powell's career as an illustrator. He easily could work for a major publisher, but instead he remains firmly in his own world, telling his stories. He is a rarity for today: an artist more interested in art than the success it can bring. Take the foreword to It Disappears, which is now collected along with much of Powell's work in the 300-plus page Sounds of Your Name (Microcosm, $18). Powell writes how he wanted to never publish the story, that "publishing a narrative magnifies one side of a highly subjective experience, and threatens to crystallize it as history, swallowing memory whole." As with all Powell's work, the story eschews traditional plot, spiraling along with fits of poetic insertions and incomplete scenes that gravitate to a whole. His art is simply a thing to behold. Heavy blacks lend each frame an arresting contrast, and Powell's inking hangs between perfection and chaos. His pages always appear as scenes from real life. And he uses his pen as a scalpel, slicing along the edges, exploring the layers of reality until rivulets of deeper meaning and fantasy bubble through. It's the same practice Powell takes to the world around him, and to himself. He's an artist in quest of understanding, and we all, luckily, have the chance to see what he finds.

Your Flesh

With or without words, his comics are meditative, filled with unexpected shifts in perspective and levels of light. Mundane conversations are broken by waves of black and sweeping philosophical thoughts. In “Scrubs,” a working class couple with soft robot faces struggles under the oppression of their alarm-clock-driven life. “Conditions” is a depressive tale of ill-fated love between two teenage friends set against the dread of old age “as each sunset becomes only another countdown.”

Zine Thug

"an appropriate showcase for a powerful, versatile artist."