The Weight of Memory: “Clyde Fans,” by Seth

“Clyde Fans,” by Seth. Drawn and Quarterly, May 2019. 488 pp. Hardcover, $54.95. Adult.

Drawn and Quarterly sent me a free review copy of this book.

Canadian comics artist Seth cultivates an antique persona, complete with tie, overcoat, fedora, and what look like horn-rimmed glasses. With a given name like Gregory Gallant, you wouldn’t think he’d need a pseudonym.

But Seth likes to push boundaries: between people and their public and narrative personas, as well as between history and fiction. Seth’s first major book, “It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken,” published in 1996, was supposedly autobiographical, about his search for a “New Yorker” cartoonist who had disappeared from public view. As the book gained popularity, Seth eventually let on that he had manufactured the whole scenario, although much of the detail from the narrator’s life in the story was autobiographical. In an odd twist, despite the book’s fictional core, it’s often cited as the catalyst for an explosion of autobiographical comics that began in the 1990s and has fueled the genre since.

Seth’s just-released “Clyde Fans” is also fictional, although as he explains in an author’s note in the back of the book, it began with a real-life Ontario storefront of the same name, which he used to walk past. The office was closed, gathering dust, but he could see two framed portraits on a back wall, and wondered about the story behind those two men and their defunct business. He began writing a serial comic about Clyde Fans and the two brothers who ran it, whom he named Abe and Simon. Abe narrates in the image below, and you can see the two portraits hanging on the wall behind him before the frames zoom in for close ups:

Continue reading “The Weight of Memory: “Clyde Fans,” by Seth”

Redeeming Monsters: “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris

“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris. Fantagraphics, February 2017. 386 pp. Paper, $39.99. Adult.

Chicago comics artist Emil Ferris deems “monster” an “honorable title. It represents struggle and wisdom bought at a high, painful price. . . . I make a distinction between good monsters―those that can’t help being different―and rotten monsters,” she told “The Comics Journal” in 2017, when her multiple award-winning masterpiece “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” was initially released. How do you define a “rotten monster”? “[T]hose people whose behavior is designed around objectives of control and subjugation.”

This gorgeous and complicated book teems with monsters, both good and rotten. Among the good monsters are the protagonist Karen, an elementary school student who portrays herself as a werewolf detective, with surprisingly luxurious eyelashes,

Franklin, her gay black friend,

and Deeze, her wise but troubled older brother, who teaches her how to see and appreciate art, how to draw, and especially, how to “draw [her] way through” difficult events and emotions—like the overt racism of 1960s Chicago:

Continue reading “Redeeming Monsters: “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris”

Compassionate Resistance: “Monstress, Volume Three: Haven”

“Monstress, Volume 3: Haven,” by Marjorie Liu. Image Comics, September 2018. 533 pp. Paper, $16.99. Young adult, 13+, with some graphic images and adult language.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review since 2013. You can still find most of the books I review at their online store, www.betterworldbooks.com.

It can be difficult to dive into a comics series midstream, but in the case of Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s “Monstress,” the art will carry you until you gain your narrative footing:

Continue reading “Compassionate Resistance: “Monstress, Volume Three: Haven””