True Story, Swear to God: Chances Are…
A cartoonist tells the real-life story of how he and his wife fell in love in True Story, Swear to God: Chances Are…. After meeting at a well-known amusement park, they have to deal with a long-distance romance, with him in California, her in Puerto Rico.
Tom Beland’s pages contain simple, cartoony figures that, like good caricatures, capture the essence of the characters. The author is drawn as a regular guy, with open-circle eyes that make him a willing receptacle for experience. There are several pages where one character in close head shot displays a variety of emotions. These demonstrate both the range of moods people go through as part of falling in love and the author’s skill at capturing expression even on simple faces. The lettering continues the mood; the open, round handwriting is welcoming and easy to read.
Lots of people feel alone, but it’s even worse when you’re in the middle of a Disney theme park, supposed to be one of the happiest places on earth. At one point, Beland talks about the grumpy feeling you get when you see someone else get what you always wanted — but this story happens because he didn’t make that choice. He took a chance, and it worked out better than he ever dreamed. Sometimes fate does work the way it’s supposed to.
He quickly hits the high points of the situation with enough detail to bring the reader into the story without getting bogged down. It’s just like being there, only not everyone is lucky enough to have this magical an experience. The mood of the main character changes throughout the story, naturally. It’s not jumpy or abrupt, but realistic, as we share his experiences. He provides a lot of insight into his emotions and those of others. It’s hard to come up with ways to describe such a widespread shared feeling as love in new ways, but none of his descriptions seemed trite. Instead, they struck me as thoughtful.
I can tell Beland has honed his chops on short comedy strips (many of which are collected in 100 Stories). The punchlines in the humorous scenes have great timing. There’s a particularly funny incident with a fast food restaurant that doesn’t understand the phrase “customer service”.
As Tom’s brother gets married, Tom ponders weddings and what they mean. Also, Lily encourages him to publish his work. This significant step brings up the insecurity of the artist. All creators wonder how they’ll cope if what they care so much about is rejected. It’s even worse in this case, where his work is the true story of his life.
Although we’re still seeing Lily through his head, not getting inside hers — it is his story, after all — we learn more about her beliefs and opinions. She’s always seemed easy-going and accepting, but when she talks a little bit about pranic healing, we get hints as to where her inner calm stems from. We also get to see her less than perfect, more human, as most people are when dealing with family at an important time.
Every time I read this comic, I cry. It’s at different places in the story each time, but some aspect of it always touches me deeply because it’s not only true, it feels real. This story really is magical. It’s so inspiring and affecting with strong emotion.
True Story, Swear to God: Chances Are… brilliantly helps fill the gap in the current market of romance comics… and best of all, this one’s true, so it’s easier to believe in the message of love it conveys. All love stories are the same, but all love stories are different. This comic captures the best of that experience.