|Jason Lutes was born in New Jersey in 1967 and like many children loved superhero comics. Taken to France as a child, the "bandes dessinées" he discovered there made a great impression on him.
He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration in 1991. While studying, Lutes had come across R. Crumb's Weirdo, Art Spiegelman's RAW, and Chester Brown's Yummy Fur. Excited by what he found, Lutes began his own first mini-comic press, Penny Dreadful. He moved to Seattle in 1991 where, after a series of unfortunate events, he worked for Fantagraphics, lost his spleen, and explored employment with a rich variety of eateries as a dishwasher.
Lutes' big break came in 1993 when he began drawing a strip for Seattle's alternative weekly, The Stranger. By 1995 he had become the newspaper's art director, but after his strip was collected in the critically acclaimed graphic novel Jar of Fools in 1996, he decided to devote himself to comics full time.
After two years of research, Lutes embarked on the ambitious comic book series Berlin, an ongoing 24-chapter story set in the twilight years of the Weimar Republic. When its original publisher Black Eye closed in 1998, Drawn & Quarterly promptly took over the series. Lutes claims, "I realized a longstanding dream by joining the Drawn & Quarterly stable, but was disappointed when the top hat and cigar comprising my signing bonus were both too large to be of any practical use." The first 8 issues are collected in D&Q's Berlin: City of Stones, published in 2001. The story reached its mid-point in December 2005 with Berlin #12.
"[Berlin is] a comic of impressive scope...one of the most appealing things about Berlin is Lutes' love of the comics medium. His story is full of novel combinations of text and pictures, shuttling (a la "Wings of Desire") between impassive bird's-eye cityscapes and diary-like internal monologues." --San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
"A lovely, short "picture novel" exploring the tenacious bond between an alcoholic stage magician and his cranky mentor." --New York Times Book Review
"Jar of Fools is full of people trying to stop things they care about most from melting away, like estranged lovers and old-fashioned jobs. All the main characters - the magician, a coffee-shop cashier, a small-time con man - are in danger of ending up beaten down and swallowed up by the silences of life which Lutes' well-paced art evokes so effectively." --Details
"The story itself is so masterfully told that it could stand alone as a novella in Harper's. When combined with Lutes' spare black and white line drawings and creative use of the comic book medium, it becomes something transcendent - a piece of literature that speaks to the emotional core." --Wired
"Employing the lost skills of mood, sparseness, and language, Lutes' stunning comic Jar of Fools transcends the usually mealy-mouthed limits of graphic novels and, in the process, winds up being a damn good read." --Spin