05 Nov / A Fade of Light by Nate Fakes [in Shelf Awareness]
“Ron was a part of almost every major event in my life, whether I liked it or not,” writes Nate Fakes – syndicated cartoonist and creator of Break of Day – in A Fade of Light, his tender, intimate graphic memoir about his stepfather. Fakes’s mother married Ron in 1996: “even as a teenager with a lot of angst, I genuinely liked Ron and was happy for them.” Ron was endlessly supportive – helping Nate heal a broken heart, encouraging and enabling his comics, moving him to New York for a Mad magazine internship, and driving him back home to Ohio when he became unemployed. Years passed; Fakes became a husband and then a father. Ron began to exhibit “bizarre” behavior – moments of forgetfulness and mood swings. An eventual diagnosis of bipolar II disorder offered some explanation, but Ron’s refusal to accept help led to his divorce from Fakes’s mother, leaving Fakes “the only person left in [Ron’s] life who still hung around.” Ron continued to insist he was “totally fine.” Until he wasn’t.
Fakes (Laser Pointers, Hairballs, and Other Cat Stuff) opens his memoir in 2019, as if he initially needs that distance to share his struggling, ongoing story. He’s living in Los Angles, phoning Blue Creek Healthcare, and asking to speak to one of their residents. He then waits for Ron’s delayed “H-h-h-hello?” From that tentative introduction, Fakes reveals the decades of their relationship during which Ron transformed from a funny, Ace Ventura-esque, everyone’s-friend kind of guy to an unrecognizable “new Ron” with a rare and fatal disease. Fakes’s black-and-white panels and simple line art dexterously underscore the emotional complexity contained within.
Discover: A syndicated cartoonist poignantly memorializes his stepfather as he devolves from unconditionally supportive parent to a stranger lost to illness.