Seth 101

Drawn & Quarterly is mirroring Gerald Hannon’s wonderful introduction to the life and work of Canadian cartoonist Seth. The piece was originally published in Toronto Life.

Among graphic novelists, Seth has emerged as a poet of the dispossessed, a man who brings an adolescent fervour to the attenuating joys of the old and disappointed and infirm, to the plight of the hapless and bewildered young. The Palookaville series was heavily autobiographical for most of the earlier issues but now is devoted to continuing the story of the world-weary Matchcard brothers, Simon and Abraham. It is an exercise in the terror of lives writ small—as the realization slowly dawns on the brothers that they are responsible for their own sadness. The series isn’t, for all that, a depressing read—there are too many flashes of wit, too frequent a nod toward a Charlie Brown–ish resilience of the human spirit. Seth works obsessively, in a small, cramped studio in the basement. “Work,? he says, “is what my life is about.? He rises at seven most days and is at his desk by eight. He works until four, then takes a break until seven, when he returns to the basement and stays at it until 11 or later. There is a computer in the room—though he does not use it for drawing, which he does in the old-fashioned way, with pencil, pen and brush, using overlays for the colour effects he wants. It can take him 13 hours to produce a single page.

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