Or maybe it was in early high school - but I'm pretty sure it was middle school. I had gotten the Maus books from a Scholastic book order (remember those?), not really sure what to expect from them, and having no idea that that purchase would prove to be one of the best I made and have a lasting influence.
But that's a story for another time. I got so hooked on Maus that I began exploring the work of Art Spiegelman further. I can't remember now if I found (back?)issues of Raw at the local comic book store when I was visiting to get new issues of Spider-Man, or if I found them at the Waldenbooks at the mall, after getting my hair cut at JC Penney. Either way, I knew that Spiegelman was in charge of Raw (in these pre-Internet days, I only knew that thanks to the bio in Maus). Over a short period of time I purchased a few issues - again, not really sure what to expect from them. Most of the comics inside were over my head (and not necessarily age appropriate for a middle schooler), but I still enjoyed reading them and trying to figure them out.
Today, though, I can't remember most of what was between the covers. I had forgotten about "Here" until I purchased Richard McGuire's new book of the same title, which I grabbed not because it triggered the memory of the original 6-page comic, but because it was prominently placed in a bookstore, caught my eye, and, knowing my love for graphic novels, was quickly added to my shopping basket. I read that it was based on a shorter version he previously published, but it wasn't until I actually saw the comic that the images came back to me, the memories of reading Raw and Maus for the first time with them.
The novel Here is much more fleshed out than these panels. It's in full color and clocks in at a healthy 304 pages. It tells more of the story of this one location, with more drama and more ennui. It's as if the comic above is the one-act version of a play or musical, and the novel is the final version that made it to Broadway. Both have their strengths, in different ways. I wouldn't trade in Here or "Here" for the other one; I want them both to sit side by side, so we can appreciate each on their own and in comparison, so we can see the development of McGuire as an artist and storyteller, so we can see the growing appreciation of the graphic novel as an art form.
I haven't figured out what I want to say about Here yet. February suddenly became The Month of Graphic Novels for me, and I'm trying to digest all that I've read so far. But I wanted to post about "Here" because I'm still impressed with its originality and with the novel that evolved from it.