It’s interesting that I read this opus by Noah Van Sciver before I saw the recently released trailer for the movie Lincoln. From the movie’s tone, I can see that while Lincoln’s melancholy is captured, it’s pretty clear that the movie won’t explore the same depths that Van Sciver’s book does. Not when Movie Abraham Lincoln looks like he just sat up from the Memorial. In The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln, Van Sciver’s stands out as a disheveled mess, closer to how Van Sciver portrays himself in neurotic glory.
People could look at this book and accuse Van Sciver of making Lincoln into an R. Crumb character (which the artist would likely take as a compliment). Those who sit down with the book will find a less Hollywoodesque tale of personal struggle that anyone who has experienced failure, depression, or even just remembers starting out in their own life could easily relate to. There is even some–in the context of Lincoln’s life–light political intrigue regarding government funded programs that could even strike a chord in today’s political atmosphere. But the majority of the drama deals with Lincoln’s depression, feelings of inadequacy, and the very strained romance of his future wife Mary as a result of his emotional problems.
The resolution to all of this does gives shades of Lincoln’s future wit and resolve, but it is a quiet resolution, coupled with our young hero undergoing therapy that would make any patient of modern psychiatric medicine cringe and wonder if Lincoln was brought any closer to actual death with these treatments. In the end, he pulls himself back up to mend his broken engagement and restore his political station, all the while emitting a sense of foreboding over his trials to come.
“…Where am I going?” he asks himself prior to the start of his wedding. “To hell, I suppose.” It’s not the final line of dialogue in the book, but it becomes the perfect cap to this chapter of Lincoln’s life, asserting his new determination laced with just a bit of gallows humor that many people today in similar emotional states know. In The Hypo, Van Sciver proves in these pages that you can bring an almost mythic figure of the past to modern day terms while still making that figure heroic.