A few weeks ago we looked at Fantagraphics publishing plans for 2013. Today I thought it might be worthwhile to peek into Drawn & Quarterly’s crystal ball and see what they have in store. I skipped over some re-releases and new volumes of expected material — a new Moomin collection, a paperback release of Paying for It — mainly because I’m lazy.
You’re Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld. Gauld’s weekly comic gets the fancy book deal. Expect lots of really funny riffs on history and pop culture in Gauld’s stone-faced, deadpan style. January, $19.95.
There’s an inherent risk in using your own life as material for your comics: When a comics creator presents himself or herself as an unlikeable person in a quasi-autobiographical comic, it gets hard to separate the artist from the work. It’s sort of a negative aura thing—if the creator looks like a jerk, it’s hard to like the comic.
This became blindingly clear to me recently as I happened to read three graphic novels about roughly the same theme—dealing with getting older—in which the attitude of the main character strongly affected my reaction to the story: Joe Ollman’s Mid-Life, Pascal Girard’s Reunion, and Jennifer Hayden’s Underwire. Ollman and Girard both fell into the trap of making their lead characters so obnoxious I never wanted to see them again, while Hayden’s character was just the opposite, approaching some serious issues with grace and humor—which probably made me like the book more than I should have.
Unless you follow the small-press or Canadian cartooning scenes very closely, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Joe Ollmann before now. He’s been somewhat on the peripheries of the industry for a few years, though he’s won acclaim for short story collections like This Will All End in Tears. I suspect his star will rise considerably however, with this week’s release of his excellent Mid-Life, Ollman’s first graphic novel, courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly.
The book follows John, an all-too self-aware middle aged dad (and fictional stand-in for Ollmann himself), who, while working on his second marriage and raising a toddler son, finds himself growing ever so slightly obsessed with Sherri Smalls, the children’s entertainer his young child currently enjoys watching and listening to. The book then switches perspectives between John, as his obsession grows and he attempts to find an excuse to head to New York and “interview” the object of his infatuation, and Smalls herself as she mulls over signing a lucrative TV contract and wonders why she’s been so unlucky in love up till now.
Hilarious in that way that only good, sharply observed, cringe-inducing comedy can, Mid-Life suggests that Ollmann has a long and laudable career ahead of him. I talked to him over email about the book, the trick of blending autobiography into fictional material and the perils of parenting. Despite my barrage of personal and potentially embarrassing questions, he remained polite and thoughtful throughout, for which I am tremendously grateful.