Monday 20 July 2020

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine

“I will spank YOUR ass!!”

Few sequential artists manage to capture everyday life with such a simple sense of realism and yet, considering the supposed absence of “style”, still manages to be instantly recognisable in a way that has their work gracing album covers and The New Yorker. Adrian Tomine has been writing and illustrating short stories about relationships since the late 90’s in titles including Optic Nerve, Shortcomings and Summer Blonde. His most recent work entitled Killing and Dying had novelist Zadie Smith singing his praises in a review. He’s what you might call an important creator within the medium of graphic novels. But what does that mean to the outside world? Well, pretty much nothing in a world where superheroes dominate popular culture and yet you’d be hard-pressed to find someone on the street who could name five comics creators.

In The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist (Faber and Faber), Tomine recalls incidences throughout his career that will have you wincing at the misfortune, rudeness and ignorance that can befall an overly sensitive creator, not just in everyday life, but also within the industry itself. No-show signings, awkward interviews and mispronouncing’s of his name are mixed with equally uncomfortable moments in his personal life, bringing us to an final vignette that manages to dovetail everything with insight and reflection on his life.

Clear concise storytelling, in small six-panel grids per page, deftly convey both place and the emotional weight of the characters with just a hint of cartoony style to accentuate the humour or absurdity when necessary. The format of the book is lovely; like a moleskin notebook complete with rounded corners, grid-lined pages, ribbon bookmark and elastic strap to stop it opening with closes. It perfectly captures a sense of peeking into Tomine’s private journal. 

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