Seth is back!


Forgive me if I’m woefully tardy here, but people: Seth is back! Like many of you, I’ve been turned off of the Canadian cartoonist of late because of “Clyde Fans,” the recent story arc of Palooka-ville. I absolutely adore his art, but the artic-like pace and depressing themes of “Clyde Fans” greatly diminished my enthusiasm for his work. Which is really sad because, in my humble opinion, It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken is one of the all-time great “graphic novels.”

Anyway, some time ago I bought Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World (Drawn & Quarterly), which sat around on my night table for quite a while. Finally, I got up the energy to give it a try, and it was a great decision. Supposedly taken from Seth’s sketchbooks, the book is a lively, jaunty, hilarious read!

As Seth notes, inspired by recent work from Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, and David Heatley, the book uses short fragmented episodes, featuring many characters, to tell one over-arching story. The story, ostensibly about a master comic book collector, is a loving portrait of the comics industry, one that encompasses creator, readers — and comic book stores! At the same time, it is a mystery, an adventure story, and a screwball comedy. (And there’s even one character who looks strangely like Seth.) In a manner similar to Michael Chabon’s brilliant Kavalier and Clay, Seth creates out of whole cloth a history of comics similar to our own. Fitting his own tastes, most of the comics are of the non-superhero variety, reflecting a much more ecletcic mix of genres.

And despite its less-polished style, the artwork is classic Seth, with that beautiful clean line, use of simple shapes, loving attention to architectural detail, and his characteristic ink wash shading.

So if you’ve been leery of Seth’s work of late, take another look and check out Wimbledon Green. It would even make a great last-minute holiday gift, for the old-time comics fan or the neophyte.

* * *

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMy delight with Wimbledon Green compelled me to give another recent Seth book a try, Bannock, Beans and Black Tea: Memories of a Prince Edward Island Childhood in the Great Depression (also Drawn & Quarterly, and supposedly out of print?), written with his father John Gallant. (As many of you know, Seth’s given name is Gregory Gallant.)

Rather than a vanity project for Seth’s dad, this is actually a fascinating portrait of a pioneer-type childhood. John Gallant grew up dirt poor in a remote rural part of Prince Edward Island. Taken from the stories Seth’s dad told him on long car trips, the book is told in 4-5-page vignettes, interspersed with more of Seth’s gorgeous illos. Like Wimbledon Green, the short pieces add up to an engaging story—and a pleasantly quick read.

As Seth remarks in the foreword, these tales of near starvation, freezing 10-mile walks, begging from the village priest, and the like, are so wry and entertaining that you almost forget the misery that accompanied them. And like Wimbledon Green, Bannock, Beans and Black Tea is beautifully designed, by Seth himself, and is an art object in itself. It makes another great gift, even for a kid as young as ten.

And thus concludes this meeting of the Seth Re-appreciation Club. Happy hollerdaze!

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About joshcomix
Brooklyn-based cartoonist specializing in nonfiction comics about topics like Hurricane Katrina, the media, travel, and finance.

12 Responses to Seth is back!

  1. iconotrast says:

    Welcome back to LJ.
    I got Wimbledom out of the library, but before I got to it, I had to bring it back because it was
    on hold for some one else(couldn’t renew it)!
    Back when GN’s weren’t so popular I didn’t have that problem. : P

  2. dlasky says:

    “Wimbeldon Green” is from Seth’s sketchbook; something he did as a throw-away in the midst of Clyde Fans. I think it’s his best work to date, and one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read.
    “Bannock Beans” has sat in the living room, unread, for months. I’ll crack that open this weekend. THanks.

    • 4_eyez says:

      I’m so glad to find someone else who enjoyed Wimbledon Green as much as I did. It’s definitely a keeper. Yeah, I mentioned the sketchbook thing, but Seth’s definition of “sketches” is sure different from mine!
      I highly recommend Bannock, Beans Plus, it’s a really quick read.

  3. man_size says:

    Heidi MacDonald gave me an advance “reader’s copy” of WIMBLEDON GREEN awhile ago and it looked like page after page after page of little headshots. Graphic novel? I threw it against the wall.
    Suffice to say, I have yet to read it.

  4. alibi_shop says:

    I wanna read this, but then I liked Clyde Fans a whole lot so what do I know.

  5. Anonymous says:

    W.Green
    Josh, let me also add 40 CARTOON BOOKS OF INTEREST to your Seth-mania list. It’s an addendum to the new issue of COMIC ART (which is spectacular in its own right). Basically, Seth tells us about 40 off-the-beaten path collections of cartoons that are in his collection. Some are by well-known artists, others are obscurities. But seeing Seth’s descriptions of both the books and his history of combing book stores and library sales for interesting items makes this book a lovely companion piece to Wimbledon Green.
    I loved WG by the way–it’s playful, loose and clever. There are many self-deprecatory moments and bits of sly humor. It also moves like a Carl Barks story–rapid-fire, wacky and page-turning. Dino, I think you’ll really like this. Don’t let the head-shots dissuade you!
    By the way, Josh, I reviewed the latest ish of the Vagabonds and also included it in my top 35 books of the year in my column. I also did the same for the new American Splendor series. Here are some links:
    http://www.sequart.com/columns/index.php?col=9&column=1678
    http://www.sequart.com/columns/index.php?col=9&column=1598
    –Rob Clough

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