Sounds of Your Name
by Nate Powell Author
"Publishing a narrative magnifies one side of a highly subjective experience, and threatens to crystallize it as history, swallowing memory whole," says New York Times bestseller and National Book Award winner Nate Powell in the introduction to this powerful collection of short stories in graphic novel form. Powell's intricate black and 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.
Read a great interview with Nate in Comics Reporter!
(You might also know Powell from March, his graphic novel about the civil rights movement, Swallow Me Whole. He was an Eisner Award winner for Best Original Graphic Novel and an LA Times Book award nominee)
You must log in to comment.
Comments & Reviews
"This Nate Powell wittily, even surgically, cuts to the bone. Observant, intimate cartooning, anchored with a nice, punchy use of black. Good comics."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
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.
“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.”
to date, my favorite graphic novel.
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.
[Powell] is a force to be reckoned with. 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 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. You really ought to track down a copy of this book.
[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.
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.
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.
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.—
A huge Nate Powell omnibus of almost 14 years of Nate Powell's work, including several self-published works, two graphic novels, and some newer work...at times based in reality and down-to-earth but then suddenly skewed into a chaotic mess bordering on insanity...definitely worth the paper it's printed on.
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.
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.
I find his style and narrative voice addictive...it's for people who missed out on the harder to find stuff.
Stories of punk adolescents and twentysomethings despondently grappling with life's mundanity or relationship woes...He is a rarity for today: an artist more interested in art than the success it can bring. Heavy blacks lend each frame an arresting contrast, and Powell's inking hangs between perfection and chaos. 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.
"an appropriate showcase for a powerful, versatile artist."