The Accident - Commentary

Although comics aren’t just for kids, they’re an excellent way to tell a grown-up story from a child’s perspective. My short graphic memoir, "The Accident," shows and tells the story of how I lost three of my front teeth as a four-year-old—a traumatic event of which I remember very little. I’ve pieced together enough snapshot memories and retellings from my family to create a cohesive narrative, although I have to admit that a few details are invented.

This story, told from the perspective of a child, fits so well into the graphic novel and comics genre because of the very characteristic that makes comics unique—the interaction between word and image. The real four-year-old Gracie would have had neither the vocabulary to tell the story nor the fine motor skills to illustrate it, but, as an adult who does have both abilities, I did my best to combine them in a way that reconstructed some of the silliness and tragedy of that childhood event. For example, with the "label" boxes on page 4 ("drool rag" and "hospital socks (with grippies!)"), I combined childish glee about awesome hospital socks and the sad humor of a kid needing to carry around a drool rag with the hyperbolic post-surgery daze in my eyes.

As I wrote, the pacing of the story quickly emerged as the element that could most effectively convey both humor and childlike thought processes. The narrative skims through time in certain sections, just as my own memory skims over chunks of the story. However, I slowed down and emphasized certain images or moments that have become important to the story as my parents told it, and discovered through happy accident that varying the pace can create humor. Three of my favorite panels are on page 3, as the volleyball lady telephones my dad to let him know I had a "little spill"—each panel zooms a little more in on her face and each drawing becomes a little less abstract, forcing the reader to focus on the changes in her expression and her twitching eye in the third panel. The two panels at the top of page 5 are my clearest memory of the experience: the moment that I pulled one of my stitches out at the dinner table. The immediate switch from my proud, gap-toothed expression to my parents’ expressions of disgust still makes me laugh, although I hear you aren’t supposed to laugh at your own jokes. This sort of humor would have been impossible had I written the story in prose.

Although my character looks nothing like me as a child (except for the denim overalls) and my parents would probably contest a few details, "The Accident" feels like the most truthful version of the story that I could tell. The freedom to go back, as an adult, to tell a child’s story for a grown-up audience—with illustrations and squiggly eyes and a better understanding of how my parents must have felt—is exactly what makes the story feel so real.

About the Author

Grace Weaver

Grace Weaver, from Harrisonburg, Virginia, graduated from Goshen College in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in English and an art minor. She has served as editor-in-chief for The Record, Goshen College’s student-run newspaper, and is currently completing a writing internship in the college’s communication and marketing department. Weaver is interested in editing, children’s literature and journalism, and hopes to someday publish her own children’s book.