We’re used to seeing authors appear in their comic books. Some are autobiographical, others are factual, but writing and drawing your own graphic novels can, occasionally, lead to artists drawing heavily on their lives.
In The Con Artists, author Luke Healy appears at the beginning, by way of an introduction. He dresses, puts on a fake moustache, explains that what’s to follow is a total fiction, then walks into the book, playing the role of the main character.
It’s a fascinating premise. We immediately ask ourselves what it means. Is he playing himself, perhaps only loosely disguising the fact that the story is really about his own experiences? Is he going through the motions of denying it to make the concept sound plausible?
In the story, Healy’s character (Frank) is a stand-up comedian, constantly writing jokes and using his own life experiences to feed into his comedy. One day he gets a cry for help from a childhood friend, Giorgio, who has been hit by a bus. He’s injured and needs help. Could Frank drop everything and help him out?
The art is simple line work, with a cartoon style that keeps the action flowing smoothly. It’s a relatively simple story on the surface, with a small cast of characters, and the style suits it well.
A series of events occurs and Frank comes to the conclusion that, perhaps he’s being used. Is Giorgio actually a con artist, using Frank as part of an elaborate scam to weedle money out of his estranged father?
You’ll note, however, that the book’s title is a plural. Is there more than one con artist at work here? Perhaps Frank himself is the con artist, twisting the things that supposedly happen in his life into amusing anecdotes to tell a live audience.
Or perhaps it’s Luke Healy himself, pulling his own con on us, using some elements of his own life, dramas written in real time by other people, to extract money from us.
Whoever or whatever the con artists in this book are, it’s a fascinating read. Multi-layered, thoughtful and strangely compelling, The Con Artists is a fascinating glance into a long term friendship that’s not all it appears.