Photos: Craig Thompson’s Epic New Graphic Novel ‘Habibi’ – Rolling Stone
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Photos: Craig Thompson’s Epic New Graphic Novel ‘Habibi’

In our Hot Issue, the artist and writer discusses how he drew on Islamic, Jewish and Christian tradition for his book

Detail of Craig Thompson's Illustration

Courtesy of Craig Thompson

Craig Thompson’s epic new graphic novel, seven years in the making, starts with a single drop of ink deep in an unnamed Middle Eastern desert, sweeping up Arabian nights, Koranic verses, Old Testament prophets and modern problems as it rolls from the Garden of Eden through dungeons and harems into the slums of a present-day metropolis, following the lives of former child slaves Dodola and Zam as they fall in love, eke out a narrow survival and try to imagine better worlds through the stories they tell.

By Julia Holmes

Craig Thompson at his drawing table

Courtesy of Craig Thompson

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Thompson, whose acclaimed debut, Blankets, chronicled his harsh upbringing in a fundamentalist Christian home, says the events of 9/11 were the earliest inspiration for Habibi, as he set out to learn more about Islam and its artistic traditions. “I didn’t have any preconceived bad ideas about Islam, but until I started looking into it, I just didn’t know about all the connections and similarities of the ‘Abrahamic sandwich’ of Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” he says. 

Illustration by Craig Thompson

Courtesy of Craig Thompson

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Habibi draws on all those shared tales – the Great Flood, King Solomon’s court – interlacing them with Koranic revelations and real-world, Scheherazade-like tales of political intrigue and adventure.

Illustration by Craig Thompson

Courtesy of Craig Thompson

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Just about every page of Habibi feels like a universe unto itself – sparklingly dark, mysterious and complex. Thompson’s work beautifully illuminates the ways in which all of our stories (and so, fates) are tangled at the root, and how the Word – whether it’s deemed sacred or profane – just might have the power to save us all.     

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