Sorcerers & Secretaries Volume 1
Sorcerers & Secretaries, the debut graphic novel from web cartoonist Amy Kim Ganter, is a charming story of a young New Yorker whose dreams of fantasy conflict with her everyday life.
Nicole is going to business school to please her mother and working as a receptionist to pay the bills. The only thing in her daily life she enjoys doing is daydreaming about the adventures of a kind sorcerer and then writing stories based on her dreams. This creative outlet helps compensate for being surrounded by people who force her into their preconceived notions of what she should be.
Josh, a former neighbor, collects phone numbers from girls who find him dreamy, but he only has eyes for Nicole. Although she ignores him, he thinks she’s beautiful, even when no one else does. She seems unattainable, making her a challenge for him, while Nicole feels torn between her dream world and the real one.
The author obviously knows whereof she speaks, creating settings that feel authentic whether Josh’s bookstore job or Nicole’s work area. The reception desk is cluttered with the day-to-day tasks of a secretary, complicated phones and security system appliances and in-trays and out-boxes. She also captures well the pampered attitudes of the rest of the staff, treating the receptionist as another piece of office furniture.
Ganter’s art demonstrates influences from both manga and webcomics. Her simple lines are confident, creating friendly art that welcomes the reader into the story. As characters get further away from the reader, they become ever more simplified, until finally they’re almost stick figures with costumes, but they keep their attitudes and expressions, making the story flow easily.
Nicole’s writing is portrayed almost as music, the words flowing in waves off the page and surrounded by happy and magical symbols, like stars and spirals. It’s a lovely way to demonstrate how much her writing means to her. Ganter’s full backgrounds also remind the reader of the pluses and minuses of the crowded city setting. She demonstrates that a simple style doesn’t have to mean a lack of detail.
This book knows its audience well — anyone reading a graphic novel can identify with losing oneself in a fantasy story. Many readers can also sympathize with the urge to follow a creative path in the face of opposition. Most parents do want their children to choose more practical careers at the same time they’re saying they want them to be happy, not realizing that the two don’t always go together. There’s a lot going on here under the surface of the page, with even minor characters having their own back stories and purposes. Ganter has clearly thought a lot about the depth of her world.
This book is like gourmet hot chocolate: comforting and relaxing, prepared with great skill, yet with unexpected depth plus a hint of spice to keep the reader from taking it for granted.