There are 3500 miles of road between Berkeley and Providence, and the titular TJ and Amal banter, bicker and drive across every inch of it in E.K. Weaver’s graphic novel, The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal.
The graphic novel started posting online as a webcomic on December 16th, 2009, and the final strip posted on May 13, 2014. Three years later, the comic has won the 2015 Lambda Award for LGBT Graphic Novel and the 2016 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Novel reprint, and been nominated for the 2016 Eisner Award.
TJ AND AMAL: THE STORY
The story begins with Amal, a med student at Berkeley, marching out of his home after a fight. He goes to a bar, starts drinking, and meets a dreadlocked vagrant. Amal wakes up the next morning to said vagrant (TJ) making eggs in his kitchen. Apparently they made a deal last night to drive cross-country together, a deal in which Amal drives and TJ pays the bills.
It’s hardly a spoiler to give away that this is a romance comic. Amal’s sexuality and difficulty coming out to his parents is a major motivator of the story. However, TJ and Amal are fully realized people in their own right – far more than their sexualities and tragic pasts alone.It’s a road trip story, a coming-out story, a romance, and many other things besides. However, it never becomes a queer tragedy or a spectacle. It isn’t putting on a show for anybody. In fact, it reads more like a diary than anything else.
TJ AND AMAL: THE ART
TJ and Amal is Weaver’s first comic, but despite being a freshman effort, it’s a stellar example of how to use panel placement and body language to tell a story. Weaver sometimes goes full chapters without using dialogue, resting on her considerable art skills instead.
“Depending on detail, content, and amount of retouch needed, a single page can take anywhere from 4 hours to 25 hours. I’d say my current average is 10 hours per page from pencils to print-ready.”
It’s a labour of love, and the work shows on every single page.
Have you read TJ and Amal?