SHEETS by Brenna Thummler
Brenna Thummler's graphic novel from Lion Forge is an overwhelming tribute to the power of friendship in challenging times. SHEETS is a triple threat of charming characters, honest writing, and spellbinding artwork.
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Have you ever wondered how a ghost gets his sheet clean? It’s not a knock-knock joke. Instead, it’s an important part of the ghost lifestyle explored in Brenna Thummler’s graphic novel SHEETS. But Thummler’s comic is more than a heartwarming ghost story. The graphic novel from Lion Forge combines a melancholy coming of age story with a sweet tribute to friendship. Thummler’s detailed art in soft shades of pale pink and blue perfectly set the mood.

SHEETS’ protagonist Marjorie Glatt is a soft-spoken young woman who is deeply lonely after her mother’s death. As Marjorie tries to keep a low profile in school, she struggles to maintain her family’s run-down laundry service. Not to mention, she must fend off unwelcome business men who want to buy up the shop. But Marjorie finds help in an unlikely form: Wendell, an equally lonely little ghost. The wistful story uses gentle humor and optimism as it explores grief, healing, and the importance of friendship.

Image courtesy of Lion Forge.

Emotional Laundry

In SHEETS, the main characters’ locations are very important to them.

Marjorie’s attachment to her home comes from a deep love for her family. As a result, the monotony of household chores like cooking and laundry become important rituals to her. Marjorie loves her home and family. However, keeping a business running and caring for her brother and father is too much for a grieving teenager.

SHEETS carefully balances these elements. Readers watch as laundry and emotions overwhelm Marjorie. Thus, the laundry serves as a useful metaphor for Marjorie’s grief: at times it is simply too much. Nevertheless, the young woman bravely moves forward.

Meanwhile, the lonely ghost Wendell haunts intricately illustrated settings. We first see Wendell in the Ghost Town, sitting in on a support group for young ghosts. However, it is clear that Wendell does not cope well with his death.  Again, laundry points us to the psychological trauma. Unlike the other ghosts, Wendell has not kept his sheet – the only physical indication of his presence – clean. Moreover, he is unable to discuss his own death with the support group. Instead, he chooses to tell outlandish stories about his life.

As Wendell describes these tales, Thummler shifts from her detailed drawings to woodblock prints in teal blue. The little ghost’s stories are as rambling and aimless as his new existence. Luckily, Wendell knows he has a bigger purpose, even in death. But it will involve a little more mess and a lot more laundry!

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Loneliness and Hope

Together, Wendell and Marjorie’s stories speak to a deep desire to belong. Indeed, death of loved ones uproots us. Wendell’s death literally displaces him and sends his spirit to the Ghost Town. Marjorie’s mother’s passing leaves Marjorie feeling empty and lost.

An awkward teenager, Marjorie already felt out of place before this. She is largely unnoticed by her depressed father and the focus of too much negative attention from everyone else. As a result, Marjorie shrinks into herself as much as possible. Conversely, Wendell loves to be the center of attention. Despite their differences, however, the two are both in desperate need of friends.

Image courtesy of Lion Forge.

While SHEETS quietly contemplates the idea of loneliness and invisibility, it also highlights the positive attention Marjorie receives. Like many teens, the threat of unwanted attention blinds Marjorie to the positive attention teachers and friends send her way. In this way, Thummler’s writing captures the insecurities and loneliness of young adulthood without wallowing in it. Indeed, the narrative, dark as it is, is full of tenderness.

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Artwork for Halloween

With careful attention to detail, Thummler sets SHEETS a little before Halloween. As fall in Marjorie’s neighborhood sets in, readers will feel a sense of nostalgia. Thummler’s artwork catches the light of autumn perfectly. Readers can almost catch the scent of clean laundry and crisp leaves. The evocative artwork is appropriately melancholy. But Thummler does not linger in sorrow. Instead, the comic sticks to Marjorie’s healing process and Wendell’s adorably bouncy personality.

Thummler’s artwork expressively matches the story’s mood. Wendell not only behaves sweetly, but he is as cute as a sheet ghost can be. His large hole-eyes, tiny smile, and perpetually stained sheet will charm readers. Meanwhile, Marjorie and her fellow living creatures have aptly illustrated forms. For example, Marjorie keeps her unruly curly hair pulled back and sports pink jelly shoes.

The narrative’s lead antagonist is the perfect, slimy foil to Wendell and Marjorie. Thummler’s detailed work adds depth to the antagonist, Mr. Saubertuck (whose name sounds like the German words for “Clean Cloth”). The yoga- and cleaning-obsessed villain parts his horrifying locks of hair to resemble devil horns. Thummler carefully designs her other characters, from the snobby school bully to Marjorie’s worn-down dad, to capture their personalities.

Image courtesy of Lion Forge.

SHEETS: When You Feel Like a Ghost

SHEETS truly captures the emotional fatigue that accompanies the loss of a loved one. The story’s honest portrayal of Marjorie’s grieving process gives the otherwise sweet comic an important message. Indeed, SHEETS explores the ways we remember loved ones and rebuild our homes. Even when we feel all alone, there is hope. Moreover, the graphic novel shows readers that we are often more visible than we think.

SHEETS is available here.

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