In PERMANENT PRESS, Luke Healy weaves three stories into one. The plot tells us about the characters. The art tells these stories so that we are left laughing, and then crying.
97 %
Beautifully Created

If you’ver ever tried to make a comic book, you know the difficulty of doing so. PERMANENT PRESS proves how hard this process really is. Existential crises have proven themselves hard to deal with too. Well, PERMANENT PRESS proves this, in addition to to proving the difficulty of making comics. Creator Luke Healy uses comics to explain these ideas and more.

Existing in Comics

PERMANENT PRESS is told through three stories: the story of Robin Huang, a playwright in the U.K.; the story of Mo and Amir, using themes of size; and the story of Luke Healy himself. Huang, Mo, and Amir, as characters created by Healy, appear in the story as demonstrations of comics he tries to write. Healy’s story intertwines with the other two plots, because the book is about him creating those stories and translating them into comics. That is only the beginning of the theme of creativity within the comic.

PERMANENT PRESS opens with Healy, as a character in the story, discussing his own irrelevance in the world of comics. He ponders his existence; he wonders why he made comics such a big part of his life and what he can do now that he is not notable in that world anymore. The story of Robin Huang, a fictional character, follows a little-known (yet award-winning) book, and her adaptation of it into a play. The play’s success faces several difficulties, including the stress Huang feels as one of those hardships. Along the way we learn a lot about several characters through their interactions, directly or indirectly, with Huang.


We then get to read the story of Mo and Amir. This story uses statistics mixed with prose in order to convey both the narrative and the overarching theme. It follows two men making friends despite the difficulties of their lives. However, this friendship does not come easily at first. We repeatedly see their differences through comparisons of size. The use of size, communicated through statistics and metaphor, makes it a theme within this part of the comic.

Existential Plots in PERMANENT PRESS

Image courtesy of Avery Hill Comics

PERMANENT PRESS uses the theme of existentialism to connect all three stories and bring light and depth to the characters. Luke and Robin both struggle to find meaning in work that seems to define their lives. Luke’s story shows us that he wants to make comics but will only feel satisfied if he receives an award for doing so. His life revolves around this so much that his own shadow tells him that he needs to either give up or let loose. In this, we see both a furthering of plot and the revelation of Luke as a self-doubting character who constantly needs reassurance.

Robin, similarly, wonders why she is still in theatre. After a recent failure, she doubts she can put on a good performance. In her story, we see that she also struggles to stay relevant. For Robin, this means putting a lot of pressure on herself to succeed. It means constantly questioning herself and her decisions, all while trying so hard to make everything perfect. Eventually, she realizes that her focus on her work comes at a cost to her personal life. Her attempts at perfection estranged her from her daughter, and caused her to become a harsh person towards an employee. She tried so hard to be perfect that it began to take over her life.

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Getting Through Life

Image courtesy of Avery Hill Comics

The story of Amir and Mo emphasizes the idea of trying to make it through life, an existential crisis given through a lens of work. Mo and Amir struggle to deal with their bleak realities. They attempt to cope with this by making food-related YouTube videos, which seems to be the only existence they enjoy — and the only happiness they allow themselves to have.

Amir is a professional musician but feels unworthy of his orchestra. Mo works in an art supply store and seems to hate it deeply. They both hate their existences and find refuge only in making their videos. Amir makes videos called “mukbang,” which essentially means that he films himself eating. Mo makes videos of preparing tiny Japanese meals. In this we learn that they both love food, but their personalities differ.

While Amir and Mo live in the same building, they don’t really get to know each other until they become stuck in the elevator together. This is when we get information about their videos, and about them. Amir never shares his videos in person, showing that he is shy. Mo’s public sharing of his videos proves his confidence, which we only know is furthered when he quickly opens up somewhat quickly to Amir.

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Cartoonism of Creation

The art in PERMANENT PRESS is pleasantly cartoonish and consistent. Its cartoon-like qualities make it so that the unbelievable is believable. We see this especially through Luke’s story. The other two stories, while being more realistic, are made to seem more humorous and more sympathetic through the comic’s use of cartoonish art.

Image courtesy of Avery Hill Comics

Throughout Luke’s story, he converses with his shadow, and his shadow talks back. This surrealistic quality works well with Healy’s style in this section. The cartoonish renderings allow the story to function as a metaphor for creativity and existentialism without taking itself too seriously.

The art style also serves to add certain emotions to PERMANENT PRESS. Its informal style, at first, conveys humor. We see the story’s events unfold, and we are able to connect them to experiences we may have been through or we may go through. Healy conveys humor, and he portrays hardships less commonly understood. He depicts existentialism, which many experience, in a way that describes each character’s personal experience. This makes what seems like a widely understood theme become something recognizable as a theme but difficult to relate to in a situation. Healy helps readers to process the emotions surrounding the hardships seen in the comic, and then, he allows readers to feel sympathy towards the characters.

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Figuring It All Out

PERMANENT PRESS was touching and thought provoking. Following three different stories seemed daunting at first, but in the end I can’t see this comic being portrayed in any other way. The three perspectives convey themes of creation and existentialism that really immerse the reader in the comic’s experience. In Luke and Robin’s stories, we get existentialism portrayed through the lens of dealing with careers. In Amir and Mo’s story, we see existentialism in terms of just trying to get through life. The art is cartoonish, and it works. I’ve never been so emotionally attached to a comic with such cartoon-like art; Healy’s comic is just that powerful. PERMANENT PRESS is a strong comic and it is well worth your time.

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