And now, the fantastic conclusion of our Eh-pril/M-eh look at the greatest creators and characters to come down from our maple-scented neighbor to the North. Our featured creator is widely acclaimed and promoting the comics medium in new and interesting ways, so let’s promote him in a new and interesting way!
A theme seems to be emerging in our look at Canadian creators, and you all know how I love to point out themes, so here I am. Guys like Bryan O’Malley, Stuart Immonen, Chip Zdarsky, Cam Stewart, Kaare Andrews, Darwyn Cooke, and yes, Seth here, are all challenging the ways in which mainstream audiences look at comics. Whether it’s simply through diverse artistic styles or completely different ways of telling stories, these creators are bringing fresh, interesting, and, hell, super-cool Canadian methods of comicking to the American people. The alternative comics scene is really thriving, thanks to Canada.
In the comments, Bry Kotyk challenged me to a fight if I didn’t post an entry on Seth. Well, I offered him a different challenge… since I was going to be out of town, how would he like to write the entry on Seth? He kindly agreed. So here you have it, ladies and gents. Take it away, Bry…!
Seth (born Gregory Gallant in Clinton, Ontario) began his illustrating career in the ’80s, drawing for Vortex Comics’ futuristic series Mister X. Not long after, he abandoned the idea of drawing for another writer and instead decided to focus on his own brand of storytelling, launching the semi-autobiographical comic book series “Palooka-Ville” with the Montreal publisher Drawn & Quarterly, who he continues to publish the series with (albeit irregularly) to this day.
Seth’s work – in his words as well as art – is heavily steeped in nostalgia for a time long past, and echoes his real-life fascination with the early 20th century. His style is rather simple, clean and crisp, a refreshingly classic approach to graphic storytelling. Beyond his focus on nostalgia, Seth’s stories deal with disappointment and isolation, universal themes shown through the eyes of an artist out of step with the modern world. His protagonists guide the reader along their day-to-day lives with a thoughtful narrative, making even relatively humdrum events engaging as we see the world through their perspective. Though his work tends to evoke feelings of sadness and longing, his keen use of humour and wit help balance out the more melancholy moments, resulting in comics that are a joy to read – a calmer, quieter joy than the flashy offerings of other publishers, but a joy nonetheless!
Seth’s work in “Palooka-Ville” has been collected into several graphic novels – “It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken,” released in 1996, chronicles Seth’s obsession with the work of Kalo, an obscure cartoonist for the New Yorker, and his attempts to track down and meet his idol. Though featuring Seth as his own protagonist, the story is in fact a work of fiction (which came as a surprise to some). More recently, Seth has released “Clyde Fans: Book One,” the first of two collections covering the story of two salesman brothers who watch their electric fan business dwindle and die after the advent of air conditioning, and “Wimbledon Green,” an experimental ‘sketchbook story’ showcasing the life and times of the eccentric Mr. Green and his colourful cast of admirers and rivals in their adventurous world of comic book collecting. Each of these books is excellent, and well worth checking out if you find yourself tiring of people in tights punching each other.
While considered “alternative comics” and very possibly overlooked at your average comic store, Seth’s work has seen some very mainstream recognition, being featured in publications such as The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and most recently with the serial “George Sprott (1894-1975)” in The New York Times. Seth also designed the recent “Complete Peanuts” books, collecting the work of one of his major influences, Charles Schulz.
Seth’s brand of storytelling and the attention his work has earned in the mainstream press has helped promote a different side of the comics world than many are used to, helping lend some extra artistic credibility to the medium and adding some diversity in this industry we love.
For more on Seth, you can check out his section at the Drawn & Quarterly website, a feature on the man and his work from Toronto Life magazine, or read “George Sprott (1894-1975)” in its entirety at The New York Times.