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The New Yorker on Adrian Tomine's "Crossroads" New Yorker Cover

Updated January 7, 2014


"Feature: COVER STORY: ADRIAN TOMINEíS ďCROSSROADSĒ"
By Mina Kaneko and Francoise Mouly
The New Yorker, Sep 9 2013

"Adrian Tomine, who last year published ďNew York Drawings,Ē and who will soon receive a ďBookmarkĒóthe Brooklyn Book Festivalís yearly distinction given to literary figures whose heritage and work connect back to Brooklynóknows well that real estate is the pulse of the city. He drew this weekís cover, ďCrossroads.Ē ďIíve basically spent my whole adult life paying rent in expensive cities,Ē he says. ďBased on some of the horror stories Iíve heard from other people, Iíve been pretty fortunate in terms of neighbors, landlords, and other natural disasters. But I feel like everyone we know is moving! If not to New Jersey, then somewhere upstate, or even across the country. We have to travel now to see the friends that we used to just bump into on the street.Ē

When asked how being a father affects New York living, he says, ďWe live in a notoriously kid-centric neighborhood, so itís not like Iím walking around, gritting my teeth, and thinking, Oh, the sacrifices I make for this kid! Most of the things that become difficult or impossible when you have kids, I was never really into anyway.Ē As for the teeth-gritting moments? ďYou can definitely drive yourself crazy thinking about the cost of living here, but I try to remind myself that the monthly check I send off is giving me access to a lot of great things beyond our apartment. On certain lean months, I probably remind myself of that with greater frequency and vehemence, and my wife probably wonders why Iím suddenly so rhapsodic about, say, a Bagel Hole bagel or the view from Brooklyn Bridge Park. It also helps to avoid that sadistic real estate feature in the Times where they show you, like, ĎWhat you get forÖ$150,000í in other cities.Ē

See below for a page by Adrian Tomine, just released in the new ďOptic Nerve No. 13.Ē"
 
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Adrian Tomine

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Optic Nerve 13




  Unwinnable Reviews Optic Nerve #13 in Their Comics Roundup

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: The All New, All Different Last Weekís Comics"
By Ian Gonzales
Unwinnable, Aug 7 2013

"Itís an all-too-rare joy seeing a new issue of Adrian Tomineís anthology series, Optic Nerve, on the shelf. Tomineís work is simultaneously subtle and biting but most of all, it is smart. I believe the last one came out almost two years ago, so a new issue always feels like the most pleasant and fulfilling of surprises. Optic Nerve #13 delivers.

Comprised of three stories, the issue begins with an autobiographical tale, ďWinter 2012.Ē Here, Tomine, ever the Luddite, laments the decrease in quality of a particular Bristol board and a particular pen. Heís been using both for years. The story is one page long and made up of twenty panels. Within that constricting limit, Tomine introduces his comics surrogate, his family, his attitude toward technology, winter in New York and so much more. Thereís more character and plot in this single page than in some other books I read this week.

Morally vague characters populate the issueís second story, ďGo Owls.Ē The story of an older man and a younger woman who meet at a 12-step program, ďGo OwlsĒ serves as the issueís centerpiece. It is about two flawed people falling in love and their ensuing relationship. Tomine approaches the story from a single, straight-on perspective as if heís observing them in a documentary. Broken up into mostly 12 panels per page, Tomine shows us the entirety of the protagonistsí relationship Ė from its dubious beginning, through its escalating abuse and claustrophobia and then right to its conclusion. Characters walk in and out of panels, a change from sepia tone to a blue indicates the time of day and the characters pull further and further away from each other in every panel. Tomine never reveals the womanís name in the story and only tells us the manís name at the end, enhancing the storyís voyeuristic feel. Itís a meticulously crafted and designed tale thatís a brutally honest look at two people falling in and out of love.

The only time the perspective changes is at the storyís end. The reader is given a moment to get out of this world, to breathe and then Tomine brings the reader right back. Heís not letting us go; heís only letting us come up for air.

The closing story, ďTranslated, from the Japanese,Ē is a thematic counterbalance to ďGo OwlsĒ in that it follows the story of a woman on the brink of a broken marriage, told through first-person perspective and as narrated to her unseen son. Itís a heartbreaking and honest work. Again, this is an honest, constructed tale. There is no melodrama. Tomine tells us just what this woman was going through while showing the reader the journey through her perspective. We never see the storyís primary characters. We only see the womanís perspective. The only time the story leaves her perspective is during a flight of fancy, and even then, itís a splash page of an airplane flying above the clouds Ė an everyday wonder. The story evokes so many questions with the last page.

Optic Nerve #13 is an example of just how good a single-issue comic book can be. Itís a visual treat, even if itís (at times) emotionally devastating. It should be available at finer comic shops everywhere, or from Drawn & Quarterlyís website."
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Adrian Tomine

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Optic Nerve 13




Adrian Tomine Talks Optic Nerve #13 with Comic Book Resources

Updated January 7, 2014


"Interview: Adrian Tomine Focuses on More 'Optic Nerve'"
By Alex Dueben
Comic Book Resources, Aug 20 2013

"Adrian Tomine is one of the most talented and acclaimed cartoonists of his generation. For almost two decades he's been producing the comic "Optic Nerve" for Drawn & Quarterly and crafting a series of thoughtful, funny and dark slices of life that have been collected in books like "32 Stories," "Sleepwalking," "Summer Blonde" and "Shortcomings." Today Tomine is perhaps best know for his illustration work, most prominently in "The New Yorker," much of which was collected in "New York Drawings," which was published last year. He's also been instrumental helping the comics of Yoshihiro Tatsumi get published in North America.

"Optic Nerve" #13 is the odd single issue of an independent comic with three stories. When the comic came out, CBR gave it a rare 5 out of 5 stars and called it "Thoughtful, accomplished and deeply layered. It's as good as a comic gets." The issue makes it clear that while he may not create many comics, Tomine remains a master of the comics form and he was kind enough to talk about the new issue via e-mail with Comic Book Resources.

CBR News: For you, why the interest in telling short stories? What do you enjoy about them?
Adrian Tomine: For some reason, that tends to be the way stories form in my mind most of time. I'm probably revealing some mental deficiency or something by admitting that. Even when I think back on my own experiences, I tend to see things as more episodic than novelistic. When I first started making the "Optic Nerve" mini-comics, I never consciously set out to make "short stories." I just started creating comics and that's what came out. I made a concerted effort to attempt a longer story with "Shortcomings," and as a follow-up to that, I wanted to do something kind of different.

Having said that, it's clear you enjoy playing with form. To what extent is making short stories just the result of you wanting to tell stories in different ways and experiment?

That is something of a guiding principle with regards to this current batch of stories I'm working on; just the idea of telling stories in different ways, using different materials, trying different color systems, etc. But all those things come second to the basic ideas about characters or story. It's more like, I have a story in mind, and then I try to figure out an appropriate or interesting way to tell it. So far I haven't done it the other way around.

Talk a little about "Translated, From the Japanese," which you told in a very interesting manner. What was behind this?

I don't want to sound evasive, but I can't really think of anything I could say in an interview that would make the story more interesting. I've heard some fairly divergent responses to the story, and I don't think it's really my place now to say, "Yeah, you got it right" or "Sorry, you're way off."

Also I did want to add, I loved "Winter 2012" and I'm right there with you.

Thanks. But I'm actually not sure I qualify as a Luddite. I've got all the same modern devices that everyone else has. We're doing this interview over e-mail. I don't want to give the impression that I'm like, writing these words with a feather quill pen and forcing my kid to play with twigs or something.

You've been moving away from the kinds of stories centering more on your people you told earlier in your career. Is that because it's ground you've already covered, because such stories are less interesting because you're older, or what?

I think it was just more a natural evolution, maybe reflecting my own experiences and advancing age. I mean, if I was going to make a calculated decision with marketing and book sales in mind, I probably would've stuck with a cast of young, beautiful people rather than some chubby guy who wants to make plant sculptures!

Do you plan to return to doing something longform like "Shortcomings" again?

Yes to "something longform," but no to "like 'Shortcomings.'"

Are you planning more single issues of "Optic Nerve" in the future?

I'm sure there will be a 14th issue, but beyond that, who knows? A lot of it depends on factors beyond my control.

Do you just come out with them whenever you're finished with an issue? Or did you create five stories and these three are the ones that fit and you felt worked together?

Oh, that would be great if I had a stockpile of completed stories that I was sitting on for two years! No, I'm honestly working right up until the last minute. I was finishing the coloring on "Optic Nerve" #13 while I was on vacation with my family, and then the comic existed three weeks later.

Is the plan to collect the recent issues one of these years?

Yes, issues #12 through #14 will be the basic components of a book at some point, possibly with some additions and subtractions.

You do a fair deal of illustration work. Do you think of yourself as primarily a cartoonist or illustrator? Or do you not think that way?

The ratio of hours I spend on comics work to illustration work is probably like 100 to 1, so at least by that standard, I'm certainly more of a cartoonist. If someone asked me what I do for a living, I'd probably say I draw comics.

When you're working on an illustration, how much are you concerned about storytelling with just a single image?

It depends on the job. I've been in situations where the art direction is so precise and detailed that I just have to basically shut my brain off and give them what they want. On the other hand, something like a "New Yorker" cover is a lot more like cartooning and storytelling, and I'm very much encouraged to communicate something beyond a nice image.

Are there plans for more Tatsumi books coming out from D&Q?

I hope so!"
 
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Adrian Tomine

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Optic Nerve 13




  Media Center's Comic Roundup Covers Optic Nerve #13

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Recent comics roundup #5"
By Michael Pang
Media Center

"There was only one new comic book worth buying this week, but any Wednesday that a new Adrian Tomine book comes out is a good Wednesday.


Optic Nerve #13 is the first new Optic Nerve book in almost two years. Like the issue before it, Optic Nerve #13 is made up of three short stories: it starts with a one-page autobiographical story, spends most of its length unfolding a relationship drama titled "Go Owls," and concludes with an epistolary meditation called "Translated, from the Japanese." Each story in Optic Nerve #13 is excellent proof of Tomine's incredible range as both an artist and a writer. (There's also an obligatory letters page, which is hilarious, as usual, especially the contribution from a reader who complains about the single-issue pamphlet format before listing a bunch of other comics that he thinks are better than Optic Nerve: "I'm not in the habit of writing letters to comics creators whose output I enjoy but consider to be somewhat overpriced.")

The opening autobiographical story is very funnyólike much of his recent, humorous work, the story focuses on Tomine's continuing frustration with technologyóand is drawn in sketchy, cross-hatched black and white (also indicative of Tomine's more recent comics work). "Go Owls" is an emotionally frustrating story about a relationship that seems destined to fail from the outset, slowly getting worse and worse as a result of addictions, tempers, andÖ baseball? Tomine's wheelhouse is deeply human drama complicated by absurd circumstances, but presented in a way that reads as entirely realistic and weirdly relatable: "Go Owls" is classic Tomine storytelling with a hilarious and depressing final twist. Again, the art in "Go Owls" adopts another of Tomine's more recent comic styles: monochromatic colors (not quite black-and-white), bold lines, less detail, and very little shadingóbut still very nice to look at and exceedingly easy to read. "Translated, from the Japanese" is the real kicker of Optic Nerve #13, though. Less of a comic and more of a narrated series of illustrations, the text of "Translated, from the Japanese" is an immigrant mother's letter to her infant son, describing their journey from Japan to the United States and their reunion with the child's estranged father. The story's wordsóheartfelt, thoughtful, but ultimately hopelessóare accompanied by gorgeous illustrations of the mother's observations: the back of an airplane seat, the armrest beside her sleeping child, a baggage carousel, the exterior of a Denny's; the ambiguous narration and seemingly insignificant imagery lend each other a mysterious emotional weight. The art style and color palette in "Translated, from the Japanese" are reminiscent of Tomine's illustrations for The New Yorker, but the drawings here contain no faces, giving the story a heady dreamlike quality. Optic Nerve #13 is full of beautiful work, but Tomine really reaches new heights in the issue's final story.

I cannot recommend highly enough that you go to your local comic shop and buy a copy of this book."
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Adrian Tomine

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Optic Nerve 13




The Miami Herald Comic Round Up

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Delights and Rare Treasures"
By Richard Pachter
The Miami Herald, Aug 19, 2013

"Optic Nerve 13. Adrian Tomine. Drawn & Quarterly. 32 pages. $5.95.
Each issue is an event, and this latest is no less a delight. The autobiographical stuff is as good as ever, and the antics of an odd, semi-recovering couple is imaginative and true ó even if itís not. Tomineís fine line art and staging continues to improve, no small feat considering how accomplished he already is.

Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps. Art Spiegelman. Drawn & Quarterly. 120 pages. $39.96.

A retrospective museum exhibition by the Pulitzer-Prize winning Maus creator is abundant justification for this greatest hits collection. A number of Spiegelmanís strips and covers for the New Yorker magazine, sketches, lithographs and stories accompany the more extended narrative pieces. The result is a revelatory and detailed portrait of this visionary artist who invigorated the graphic novel and introduced it to the mainstream cultural world."
 
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Adrian Tomine
Art Spiegelman

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Co-Mix
Optic Nerve 13




  Adrian Tomine in Conversation on GWeek (Boing Boing)

Updated January 7, 2014


"Interview: Gweek 107: Adrian Tomine and Rob Walker"
By Mark Frauenfelder
Boing Boing

"This episode of Gweek is brought to you by Bespoke Post, a monthly box of cool-stuff for guys. Visit bespokepost.com/boing or use the code BOING at checkout to get 20% off your first box.

Guests:
Adrian Tomine is a cartoonist whose books include Shortcomings, Summer Blonde, and his ongoing comic book series Optic Nerve. Heís also a regular contributor to The New Yorker, and the first ten years of his work for that magazine was recently collected in the book New York Drawings.

Rob Walker is a technology and culture columnist for Yahoo News, a regular contributor to Design Observer, and he just started a new ďwatercooler therapyĒ advice column called The Workologist for the New York Times Sunday business section. His latest book is called Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things, co-edited with Joshua Glenn."
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Atomic Books Comics Preview: Benn Ray Reviews Optic Nerve #13

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Optic Nerve #13"
By Benn Ray
Largehearted Boy

"One of the last, still-active "alternative" comics from the '90s, Optic Nerve is also one of the last, ongoing "Alternative" comics period - as many publishers have forsaken the periodical format for the supposed glory of chain bookstore shelves. This might sound like the criticism of a Luddite - but it's very much the point of the previous issue of Optic Nerve (#12) and the conversation, through Tomine's introductory comic and the letter pages, continues here. Tomine consistently provides a sterling example of what a pamphlet/"floppy"/periodical could be. Optic Nerve #13 contains 3 stories - the autobiographical "Winter 2012", "Go Owls" about an abusive, criminal sports fan, and "Translated, From The Japanese" - about a young Japanese mother moving between two countries. Each story varies in subject, tone and art-style. Tomine is a master of this forsaken comics format."
 
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Adrian Tomine

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Optic Nerve 13




  Comic Book Resources Reviews Optic Nerve #13

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Optic Nerve #13"
By James Hunt
Comic Book Resources, Aug. 2, 2013

"The release of a new issue of Adrian Tomine's "Optic Nerve" is always cause for celebration. It's been close to two years since the last issue, and "Optic Nerve" #13 follows its (long) lead by containing two feature stories and a one-page autobio strip.

The first piece -- a black and white strip entitled "Go Owls" -- is fairly close to Tomine's typical subject matter, which someone neatly defines in the letter pages as "assholes falling in and out of love". It's a story about emotionally damaged people in love, and tracks the highs and lows of an abusive relationship between them, exploring what happens when two people who can't even look after themselves, try to look after one another.

It's not what you'd call a feel-good story, but it is powerful in its complexity. What makes it truly work is the lack of judgement Tomine passes on his characters. Rather than writing stories about bad people, he writes about people living with bad decisions. As heavy as that sounds, Tomine doesn't make it relentlessly grim, and the story is peppered with moments of comedy and dark humour that balance out the more shocking moments.

The second story, "Translated, From the Japanese" is in full color, and closer to being an illustrated prose piece than a conventional comic. The illustrations are nothing short of beautiful -- design-based, but not detached or cold with it. Each panel is a snapshot of a woman's plane journey from Japan to America with her young son, shown from first-person perspective and juxtaposed against the text of a diary entry looking back on the events depicted. It manages to be technically stunning and elegiac at the same time, reminding us why Tomine is considered a master of the form.

The final piece -- a customary moment of autobio -- is the closest the issue gets to outright comedy as Tomine rails against the rise of digital media and the dying of the high street. It recalls the instalment found in the previous issue where Tomine lamented the decline in status of the "floppy" comics format, as Tomine wrestles with times changing faster than he can keep up with. It's perhaps unusual to see the light-hearted moment used as a lead-in to a comic, rather than as the palate-cleanser at the end, but the issue doesn't suffer for it. Again, the story's strength is that Tomine doesn't present himself purely as a noble champion raging against the march of progress -- he's careful to show both sides to each argument, particularly his own uncertainty.

As usual, the only problem with an issue of "Optic Nerve" is that it's over too quickly. Still, after wondering about the relevance of the format in issue #12, two years later he's made sure there's a solid argument for its continued existence right here. Thoughtful, accomplished and deeply layered. It's as good as a comic gets."
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Optic Nerve #13 Review by Bleeding Cool

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Itís Great To Be Back: Optic Nerve #13"
By Victoria Marsden
Bleeding Cool

"A few months ago, I was thrilled to read that Adrian Tomine was putting out another issue of Optic Nerve, the offbeat mini-comic I had ďdiscoveredĒ as a teenager. I started to get into underground and indie comics once I got to high school, while searching for something new and weird to read. A comic book shop I visited on a whim in NYC had a bundle of Optic Nerve mini-comics hidden in a longbox; I was immediately drawn to Tomineís evolving artwork and his acerbic, dark humour.

This new installment has three stories, starting with Winter 2012, an autobiographical vignette reflecting his frustration with change in the art world. Go Owls is easily the darkest in #13, and the story unfolds in groups of 3-6 panels with time passage in between. It all adds to the greater story of addiction, minor league baseball, horrid relationships, and the finer points of drug dealing. The closing story, Translated from the Japanese, might be my favourite; I re-read it a few times, because the punch from the final panels is utterly devastating. From the first person perspective of a woman poised on the edge of a possible divorce,Translated is heartbreaking and honest.

Tomineís sense of storytelling has always been strong, and his ability to convey a complete emotional experience with such preciseness is what I really enjoy about his comics. His work is always relatable and funny, with just the right touch of the uncanny. He changes his art style from story to story as well. Winter 2012 is simple black and white, very basic and to the point. Go Owls switches from black and white to sepia, to some blue tones and back again; the style here seemed more fast and loose, which goes with the characters. Translated from the Japanese is full semi-muted colour with a scrupulous, clean look. That story also focuses more on surroundings and locales in lieu of people, a thought-provoking choice. The fastidious composition of each panel seems to reflect the anonymous narratorís facade of strength.

I managed to find this installment of Optic Nerve at a comic book shop across Los Angeles after a couple of failed attempts, so be sure to call ahead and see if your local place has it!"
 
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  The Comic Pusher Praises Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve #13

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve 13 and One of the Best Short Stories of the Year"
By Jeffrey O. Gustafson
The Comic Pusher

"I brought up Optic Nerve 13 by Adrian Tomine real briefly yesterday in The Wednesday Review but I need to say a bit more about it.

The comic - and make no mistake, unlike the recent trend in alt comic anthologies, this is a good old fashioned Comic Book - has two main stories and a front piece. That front story, a one-pager depicting the author's frustrations in doing analog things in a digital world, plays with similar themes as the letters presented on the letters page on the inside back cover; people's annoyance with Tomine's lack of internet presence and insistence on making a comic comic and the like. It's a nice commentary on Tomine's current place with his art and how he wants to present it.

The main part of the comic is taken up by the story "Go Owls," about a relationship across its entire short history. Barry and and an unnamed woman meet at some kind of Anonymous meeting - it's hard to know which kind, Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, as both fall into alcohol and Barry deals pot around the neighborhood (and smokes it) as the story progresses. Maybe that's a foreshadowing of the difficulties that will ensue in the relationship and the weaknesses each character end up showing. The story quickly progresses, jumping forward in time days or weeks at a time. The relationship presented is complex. What starts out as a brief relationship turns into the woman depending on Barry for shelter and food. Her job prospects fall apart, but Barry insists on providing for them both. The woman doesn't say all that much throughout, with talkative, rambling Barry seemingly driving both conversations and the story, another foreshadowing of Barry's dominance in the relationship. Things turn abusive at points, first verbally, then physically, with Barry wanting to control the woman's life now that she's dependent on him; the woman does seem to love him (or... maybe not - she's a bit of a blank slate). Abusive relationships are sometimes needlessly complex, and while the relationship here seems to be paint by numbers, Tomine shows the emotional connection they seem to have (or at the very least, Barry has). Make no mistake, the woman is a victim here. Her general lack of talkativeness and complete lack of any kind of name (aside from "babe") reinforces her subservience and paints a troubling picture. The story closes at the apparent end of their relationship, at what seems to be their happiest moment (or at least Barry's). Throughout the entire story, it is evident she just kind of fell into this and is sticking with it because she doesn't think she has any other choice. The end leaves her standing alone, once again adrift, the blank slate of her personality now projected into an unknowable, blank future, her prior journey a symbol of a life wasted by someone now gone.

The second (untitled) story (which I'll call "Translated, from the Japanese" after the second page caption), plays an interesting counterpoint to "Go Owls." "Translated" is much shorter, and not a narrative comic like "Owls" but an astonishing visual tone poem. The first page is a letter written in Japanese, and what follows over the next eight story pages is (ostensibly) that letter from a mother to her infant son, translated and illustrated by Tomine. And what follows is beautiful, evocative, mysterious, and heartbreaking.

Tomine doesn't literally illustrate the letter's contents but shows still-lifes from the visual perspective of the letter's author: a sign at a terminal, baggage on a conveyor, a run-down apartment complex; a cityscape, towers lost in the haze. The letter opens, describing vague details of family discord, an iceberg tip of a mountain of pain hidden beneath the waves. "I wonder how old you are as you read this," she writes, so the vagueness is not one of obfuscation but in inferred familiarity with the background glossed over. She describes the trip from Japan to California, about the nice older man in their aisle on the plane, about an innocent mistake, about a pained reunion. Tomine's descriptions (through the letter's author) are straight forward, yet vivid, powerfully accompanied by his consistently remarkable illustrations.

I'll assume this is a fiction (based on the visual setting) rather than something passed down to Tomine. As such it is a remarkable fiction - indeed, one of the finest pieces of narrative art released this year. Tomine's ability to build an expansive, detailed life and give us just hints at the depths involved in such a short space showcases a remarkable gift as a storyteller. This is not a translation of a real letter, but Tomine's translation of the terror of parenthood and the indescribably difficult paths family life can take. I haven't felt this absorbed into a character, since Chris Ware's Building Stories. (And Tomine did it in eight pages.) His draftsmanship, design and coloring in this piece is just flawless. "Translated, from the Japanese" will easily stand as one of the best short stories of the year - prose or comic.

"Go Owls" and "Translated" both depict women lost in moments of transition. Where "Go Owls" is specific and omniscient, "Translated"'s subjectivity lends it a startling power that is not present in "Go Owls." I can't really connect to either lead in "Go Owls" but the connection to the mother in "Translated" is total. Tomine inhabits the mother's character, and we as readers inhabit her, too. I've heard comparison's between Tomine and Daniel Clowes in the past couple of days, a comparison that makes no sense to me in light of Optic Nerve 13. Clowes seems incapable of writing a sympathetic, genuine character. Here, in just a few pages, Tomine gives us a snapshot of a whole human life, one we are intimately connected to. In "Translated," Tomine takes his place in league with the likes of Ware and Los Bros Hernandez."
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LA Times on Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve #13

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve returns"
By David L. Ulin
LA Times

"Adrian Tomineís Optic Nerve has long been one of my favorite alternative comics ó smart, understated and with a subtle yet pointed bite. Originally self-published (Tomine did seven ďmini-comicsĒ issues beginning in 1991, when he was 17), it was picked up by Drawn & Quarterly in 1995 and has continued to appear, on a semi-regular basis, ever since.
Tomine is probably best known for his work in the New Yorker, but his sensibility is more far-reaching than that. Merging straight realism with an impressionistic sense of narrative, his stories often seem to be offhanded, when, in fact, they are highly structured and defined.
As an example, look at ďWinter 2012,Ē one of three pieces in the newly released Optic Nerve 13 ó a one-pager, told by way of 20 small panels, in which Tomine portrays himself as a Luddite, distressed by the indignities of the electronic age.
ďWhy would you say that?Ē he asks the proprietor of an art supply store who has suggested a digital platform. ďI came to your Ďbrick and mortarí art store to buy paper and youíre proselytizing about computer gadgets?Ē Itís a rant but not really, for the joke (as we find out) is on Tomine.
I donít want to give away the ending, but suffice it to say that Tomine uses his alter ego, his character, to highlight the contradictions of his position, poking fun at himself ó and, by extension, at all of us. This is how his comics work: seducing us with their seeming indirection, then zeroing in for the kill.
Optic Nerve 13 is built around a long, central story: ďGo Owls,Ē in which a woman meets an older man in a 12-step program and winds up in a relationship that becomes increasingly abusive and fraught. Itís a solid piece, although at times a little baggy, as Tomine traces the slow dissolution, the claustrophobia, of their bond. Whatís best about the story is its refusal to moralize, to judge the characters for what they choose (or are compelled) to do. Thus, even as the situation slips into control and occasional violence, we are never on the outside, which makes us, in a certain sense, complicit in what happens on the page.
A similar dynamic fuels ďTranslated, From the Japanese,Ē a love letter from past to present that is among the most beautiful things Tomine has ever done. Framed in large panels ó full-page, half-page, quarter-page ó this is a story in which nothing happens; we see people, and their interactions, indirectly, if at all.
The text is from a mother to a baby and recounts their journey from Japan to California for a vague reunion with the childís father, with whom the mother does not live. But the piece takes an unexpected turn in the closing image: a nighttime panorama of San Francisco, with a block of text superimposed over the darkness of the evening sky. ďI wonder,Ē Tomineís nameless narrator asks, ďhow old you are now as you read this. How long have I been gone? Do you remember anything of our time over there, when we were starting a different, unknowable life?Ē
Here we see the power of Tomineís work, the use of comics to get at the larger story, to evoke the mysteries of place and time. Where is the mother as she is writing? When does this story take place? That such questions come with no clear answers is, of course, the point: to reflect the unknowability of even the most intimate interactions, the difficulty of defining anything, not least ourselves."
 
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  Paste Reviews Optic Nerve #13

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Optic Nerve #13 by Adrian Tomine"
By Hillary Brown
Paste Magazine

"The first story in this issue of Optic Nerve, which keeps on coming out with persistence if not regularity, serves as a perfect explanation of why Adrian Tomine continues to work in his unique format. A dense one-pager visible behind the half-page cover, ďWinter, 2012Ē consists of the artistís travails when he discovers his regular brand of Bristol board suddenly starts to bleed when inked. He complains at the art supply store, only to be steered toward a tablet solution, which he grumps about. At the bookstore, the book heís looking for isnít available, and the sales clerk tells him he should just order it from Amazon. His post office box still has correspondence in it, but even there heís upbraided for his Luddism in refusing to migrate online.

The beauty of Optic Nerve and of the comics format in general, as both this short story and the letters on the last page of the thin booklet argue, lies exactly in its ephemeral nature. Here is something made the way the artist wants it. It is not reaching the largest possible audience. It is not going viral. It is a controlled and limited environment. And that is both unusual and pleasurable.

The other two stories are vastly different from this intro and from each other. ďGO OWLSĒ introduces us to two characters in a 12-step program who meet, fall in love (sort of), and begin to immediately fall apart. Iíd be surprised if Tomineís a sports fan, and thereís something about this story that suggests athletics brings people together only on a superficial level, one that canít hold. The storyís small panels still manage to incorporate a fair number of the cropped close-ups that are something of the artistís trademark, and the narrative slides into the territory between dark comedy and just plain dark. Itís not all that funny, but itís presented in too matter-of-fact a way to be thoroughly depressing.

The last story, ďTRANSLATED, from the JAPANESE,Ē is more visually-striking than the two preceding, incorporating a spectrum of colors and obscuring the faces of its figures for the majority of the narrative. Tomine renders the landscapes and airport-scapes softly, appropriate to the snowy weather outside. And although the story is short and open-ended, it works as a kind of poem or moment in time."
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Some Love on Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve Series in the LA Times!

Updated November 7, 2013


"Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve Returns"

The Los Angeles Times
By David L. Ulin, August 1, 2013


"Adrian Tomineís Optic Nerve has long been one of my favorite alternative comics ó smart, understated and with a subtle yet pointed bite. Originally self-published (Tomine did seven ďmini-comicsĒ issues beginning in 1991, when he was 17), it was picked up by Drawn & Quarterly in 1995 and has continued to appear, on a semi-regular basis, ever since.

Tomine is probably best known for his work in the New Yorker, but his sensibility is more far-reaching than that. Merging straight realism with an impressionistic sense of narrative, his stories often seem to be offhanded, when, in fact, they are highly structured and defined.

As an example, look at ďWinter 2012,Ē one of three pieces in the newly released Optic Nerve 13 ó a one-pager, told by way of 20 small panels, in which Tomine portrays himself as a Luddite, distressed by the indignities of the electronic age.

ďWhy would you say that?Ē he asks the proprietor of an art supply store who has suggested a digital platform. ďI came to your Ďbrick and mortarí art store to buy paper and youíre proselytizing about computer gadgets?Ē Itís a rant but not really, for the joke (as we find out) is on Tomine.

I donít want to give away the ending, but suffice it to say that Tomine uses his alter ego, his character, to highlight the contradictions of his position, poking fun at himself ó and, by extension, at all of us. This is how his comics work: seducing us with their seeming indirection, then zeroing in for the kill.

Optic Nerve 13 is built around a long, central story: ďGo Owls,Ē in which a woman meets an older man in a 12-step program and winds up in a relationship that becomes increasingly abusive and fraught. Itís a solid piece, although at times a little baggy, as Tomine traces the slow dissolution, the claustrophobia, of their bond. Whatís best about the story is its refusal to moralize, to judge the characters for what they choose (or are compelled) to do. Thus, even as the situation slips into control and occasional violence, we are never on the outside, which makes us, in a certain sense, complicit in what happens on the page.

A similar dynamic fuels ďTranslated, From the Japanese,Ē a love letter from past to present that is among the most beautiful things Tomine has ever done. Framed in large panels ó full-page, half-page, quarter-page ó this is a story in which nothing happens; we see people, and their interactions, indirectly, if at all.

The text is from a mother to a baby and recounts their journey from Japan to California for a vague reunion with the childís father, with whom the mother does not live. But the piece takes an unexpected turn in the closing image: a nighttime panorama of San Francisco, with a block of text superimposed over the darkness of the evening sky. ďI wonder,Ē Tomineís nameless narrator asks, ďhow old you are now as you read this. How long have I been gone? Do you remember anything of our time over there, when we were starting a different, unknowable life?Ē

Here we see the power of Tomineís work, the use of comics to get at the larger story, to evoke the mysteries of place and time. Where is the mother as she is writing? When does this story take place? That such questions come with no clear answers is, of course, the point: to reflect the unknowability of even the most intimate interactions, the difficulty of defining anything, not least ourselves."
 
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  Drawn & Quarterly at Brooklyn Book Festival - Sunday September 22nd

Updated September 12, 2013


Brooklyn Book Festival is one of the premiere literary festivals of the year. We are thrilled to be participating. You can find Drawn & Quarterly (and all these amazing cartoonists) at booths 141 and 142 in Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza (209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn NY 11201), from 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday September 22nd.

For more details on all of the panels, please visit the Brooklyn Book Festival's website.

11 - 12 pm Miriam Katin + Rutu Modan signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
11 - 12 pm "Myth, History, Fable" panel in the Brooklyn Historical Society Auditorium (128 Pierrepont Street), featuring Anders Nilsen
12 - 1 pm Anders Nilsen and Lisa Hanawalt signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
12 - 1 pm "The World (According to Cartoonists): Border Crossing Comics" panel in the Saint Francis Auditorium, featuring Adrian Tomine and Rutu Modan
1 - 2 pm Adrian Tomine and Rutu Modan signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
1 - 2 pm "Mundane/Profane/Profound: What We Draw About When We Draw Comics" panel in the Brooklyn Historical Society Auditorium (128 Pierrepont Street), featuring Lisa Hanawalt and Miriam Katin
2:15 - 3 pm Art Spiegelman signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
3 - 4 pm Lisa Hanawalt and Miriam Katin signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
3 - 4 pm "The Faces of Brooklyn" panel in the Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St.), featuring Adrian Tomine
4 - 5 pm Adrian Tomine and Leanne Shapton signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
4 - 5 pm "Art Spiegelman and Jules Feiffer in Conversation" in the Saint Francis Auditorium
5 - 6 pm Art Spiegelman signing at D+Q booths 141 + 142
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Adrian Tomine talks shop on Reverse Direction

Updated May 1, 2013


"Adrian Tomine: Some Extra Bits"

John Seven
Reverse Direction, 19 April 2013

My article on cartoonist Adrian Tomine runs in todayís Transcript Ė he will be in town next week to speak at the Williams College Museum of Art.

Not included in that article is a section of our conversation that talked about various issues specific to the changing field of comics, and I thought Iíd put those up here for those interested.

Adrian spoke about his alienation in art school and then we chatted how that dynamic had changed. Now there are art schools with cartooning students and shows like MoCCCA Fest are filled with art students producing and selling elegant minis at their tables. He agreed:
ďI guess like any sort of marginalized or underground art form that starts to get a wider acceptance, thereís a whole new range of artists who are coming into the field now and there are people who would never have done comics if they were born 10 years earlier, just because of Ö I donít know, maybe because it wasnít as accepted culturally, or there is now more of a sense that you could possibly make a living doing it. So itís interesting and as the field diversifies, thereís good and bad.Ē

I asked Adrian whether what makes cartooning different from other illustration forms was the requirement of writing ability as well, and he talked about how narrative and the writing component may not turn out to be very important at all:

ďI feel like the jury is still out on how important writing and content and story are, because there are a lot of really talented artists now who are mind blowing in their visual abilities, and completely absent in terms of writing and storytelling and content in general.
A lot of them are doing very well and enjoying great success. It might be that this field is mutating into a form ó thatís not a criticism. You donít walk into a fine art gallery in Soho and criticize any painting that doesnít have content to it and not full of narrative details. Some things are just beautiful on a visual level and that might be a direction that cartooning is heading in. Literally, there is a whole group of artists who would say that is their expressed goal, to separate from the old fashioned ways of storytelling and dialogue.Ē

Finally, I asked him how he saw himself in regard to this movement, and he had this to say:

ďIím pretty old fashioned. I think that if I had started doing comics more recently then I would probably have a broader set of influences and a different kind of agenda, even though, Iím 38 now and still coming from a tradition that I see my influences as being people like the Hernandez Brothers and Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, all these guys who are incredibly talented visual artists and I think have inspired everyone my age and younger in some ways, but Iíve also been very inspired by their amazing storytelling abilities and their interest in creating characters and crafting great dialogue, things like that. I donít see myself at some point abandoning that completely and doing an abstract, visual comic. And that might be to my detriment, weíll see.Ē
 
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  The Age praises New York Drawings

Updated April 4, 2013


Ross Southernwood
The Age, 3 March 2013

The New Yorker is one of the world's most famous magazines, for its writing and illustrations. This beautifully produced and reasonably priced hardback volume by New Yorker artist Adrian Tomine offers a fine cross-section of his work and, importantly, what inspired his drawings in particular cases.
Tomine, who has written and drawn the American comic book series Optic Nerve since 1991, moved from California to New York in 2004. To familiarise himself with the city, he spent much of his time drawing the people and places he came across.
His artwork first appeared on The New Yorker's cover in 2004, beginning a partnership between artist and magazine resulting in a varied and renowned body of work, which has been described as "offering a singular vision" of the city.
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New York Drawings contains, as the subtitle implies, a comprehensive look at Tomine's illustrations, covers and comics for The New Yorker; other illustrations inspired by the city, including album covers and book jackets; rare and, until now, unseen sketchbook drawings; a three-page comic-book introduction; and notes and commentaries by the artist about the work reproduced in the book, this being most helpful in giving context and background.
Most of the illustrations are colour, with only a few in black and white.
Tomine mainly uses a pastel background, with black or darker colours - often reds or browns - featuring on sketches of the characters, thus giving contrast and impact to the drawing.
Each illustration or comic drawing has a title and publishing history.
Unfortunately, the notes and commentaries are at the back of the book. It would have been far more reader friendly for them to accompany the titles and histories.
The volume begins with a black-and-white comic set about 2004, the year Tomine came to New York, depicting a youthful, unknown out-of-town illustrator at his first New Yorker holiday party, being rather overwhelmed by it all and largely ignored. It's a rather charming self-introduction to the book.
The book's cover has a drawing entitled Missed Connection, Tomine's first cover for The New Yorker, done for a book-themed issue.
A pretty girl reading a book is seated in a stationary subway train adjacent to another, in which a young man is holding a copy of the same book. Their eyes meet. Words are unnecessary, while the film Sliding Doors comes to mind.
This interesting journey through New York and observations of its denizens, insightful and at times humorous, is well worth taking.
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The Australian reviews the "keenly observed and beautifully realised" New York Drawings

Updated January 16, 2013


Drawn in to an intimate take on New York
BY: BILL LEAK From: The Australian December 21, 2012 12:00AM

THE editors of The New Yorker magazine have maintained a tradition of commissioning artists to illustrate their covers ever since the first edition hit the newsstands in 1925, with one that featured a highly stylised caricature by Rea Irvin of a top-hatted dandy peering at a butterfly through a monocle.

Although Irvin's character was based on an 1834 drawing of the then Count d'Orsay, he became known as Eustace Tilley and has since been reinterpreted in various ways by a large number of artists.

He reappears to this day with every anniversary issue, and has gradually taken on the role of the magazine's personal mascot, as instantly recognisable as any logo.

Individually, the covers have featured examples of work from artists with a variety of styles. Edward Sorel's exuberant flights of fancy, for example, are about as different in their approach from Jean-Jacques Sempe's whimsical sketches as you could get.

Collectively - and over nearly a century of publication - a distinctive New Yorker style has emerged.

Back in the early 70s Dr Hook sang about the musician's dream of having his rock star status officially established by the sudden appearance of his face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. In the more subdued world of the illustrator, seeing one's own artwork appear on the cover of The New Yorker represents a similar confirmation of artistic celebrity. One of the most recent artists to hit the big time is Adrian Tomine whose book, New York Drawings, is a portable exhibition of his deceptively simple but evocative illustrations and comics. To look at works of art you used to head straight to a gallery, while to read about them you'd open a book.

Now the situation has been reversed. If you go to a gallery you'll spend most of your time being told what to think by reading the "artist's statements" while casting the occasional cursory glance at the potential investments hanging next to them on the wall.

If, like me, you prefer to look at pictures while doing your thinking for yourself, you'll find them on the pages of books like this one.

Tomine's keenly observed and beautifully realised pictures have all been born in sketchbooks, derived from direct observation. For him, the simple but profound experience of seeing is always the starting point for his art. The pictures themselves are the artist's statements, no further explanation required.

One such picture is the last one in the book and its title is, simply, A.C. A young woman lies naked and asleep on a bed at the bottom, a horizontal element in an otherwise vertical picture. Another horizontal element is an air conditioner on the wall behind her, the "AC" of the title. Above it, an open window reveals a section of a city skyline silhouetted against an evening sky where stars are starting to appear. You know what the weather's like in this picture. It's hot outside but it's cool in the room where the woman is sleeping. You can see she's been spending a lot of time in the sun because her bikini has left its light-coloured shape clearly imprinted on her slightly darker, sun-tanned skin.

Tomine's cropping of the figure and the contrast between the soft, flowing lines of her body and the sheets with the hard, almost clinical treatment of her surroundings combine to imbue this scene with a sense of immediate reality and a beguiling intimacy.

Suddenly you, the viewer, are there in that room.

I'm reminded of feeling slightly embarrassed the first time I found myself standing in front of one of Pierre Bonnard's paintings of his wife in the bath in the Tate Gallery in London.

The scene was so intimate I felt like an intruder who'd burst into a stranger's bathroom without even having had the decency to knock on the door first.

But I wasn't intruding because Bonnard had opened his world to visitors.

He wanted others to see it as it appeared to him.

Great art has nothing to hide; it invites you in and makes you feel welcome.

Shallow, self-important art keeps you out; it excludes you to preserve and emphasise its exclusivity.

People who neither paint nor draw can learn the language of visual art.

Once they do they'll find there's a lot to read in paintings such as Picasso's Guernica, the visual equivalent of a vast, powerful novel, just as there is in his pencil drawings, the visual equivalents of poetry. Great artists know that if you're interested enough in art, you'll go to the trouble of learning how to look at it.

Fraudulent artists, on the other hand, will assume you're visually illiterate so they'll kindly and condescendingly provide a list of instructions (or "artist's statements") that will enable you to gaze in wonder at their works and see that they are good.

This is essentially an illustrational, as distinct from artistic, approach because when the meaning of a work of art can be expressed in words it ceases to have any pictorial meaning at all. So here we have another role reversal: the so-called artists are doing the illustrations while the illustrators are creating the art. Stranger still, the cognoscenti are unable to spot the difference.

Tomine was two years old when his Japanese mother, after divorcing his American father, took him with her to live in Belgium. The Franco-Belgian, Japanese and American traditions of modern comic book art are the richest and most vibrant in the world, and he grew up steeped in all three of them.

In his best work he plays with the visual language of comic book art, creating images that are as pictorially elegant as they are wryly amusing.

It's only when he decides to produce actual comic book art that the work disappoints. Comics and cartoons are the perfect vehicles for funny or satirical ideas but, in my view at least, expressions of maudlin introspection might almost be tolerable when mumbled over a few beers in a bar but they're quite insufferable when foisted upon a reader in three pages of fussy little panels in which the captions occupy more space than the pictures.

Mercifully, there are only a few such lapses in what is otherwise a catalogue of minor masterpieces like Missed Connection, which shows a young man and a young woman, both reading copies of the same novel, making fleeting eye contact with each other through the windows of trains heading in different directions. It's an illustrational Tour de Force, a short story within a picture told with an eloquence that would have made Norman Rockwell proud.

In E. 9 St. a young waitress eats a snack outside a Japanese sake bar in the East Village and again you, the viewer, find yourself transported to that exact spot, in that same street and you haven't even had to pay for the airfare.

Arnold Schoenberg once said, "There is still plenty of good music to be written in C major", and drawings like these are a reminder that there are still plenty of good pictures to be painted by artists working with simple tools and limited palettes. While Tomine cites influences such as Chris Ware and Jaime Hernandez, it's the echoes of Toulouse-Lautrec and Vuillard in his work that indicate it is artists like him who are maintaining the rich tradition of Western pictorial art. And it's a tradition whose history didn't start on the day Andy Warhol bought a Polaroid camera and started taking snapshots of celebrities.

New York Drawings, by Adrian Tomine, is published by Faber ($35)
 
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  The Economist calls New York Drawings, "enlightening"

Updated January 16, 2013


A twilight art
Dec 20th 2012, 10:16 by E.H.

ADRIAN TOMINE and Peter Campbell are not household names. But there is a good chance, if you have been in a newsagentís over the past ten or 20 years, that you have seen their artwork or bought something they have done. Both illustrators, Mr Tomine creates covers for the New Yorker and Campbell (who died in 2011) drew the covers for the London Review of Books (LRB). Their trade is, in a sense, a twilight art: their work is seen by many thousands of subscribers and ordinary punters, but it is also ephemeral, appearing on magazines that can be thrown away.

Now, two books collect their work in a more permanent formatóMr Tomineís in ďNew York DrawingsĒ and Campbellís in ďArtworkĒóand showcase them alongside their rough sketches and early drafts. The results are enlightening. ďNew York DrawingsĒ gathers together everything Mr Tomine has created for the New Yorker over the past decade. It includes his early illustrations for books reviews and film reviews (ďMulholland DriveĒ, ď8 MileĒ and ďUnderworldĒ) inside the magazine, and all his covers, starting with his first which pictures two people reading the same book in different subway carriages.

Mr Tomine, who originally comes from California, is adept at drawing snapshots of city life in his adopted and adored New York. His style combines bold pen outlines with clean computer-generated colours filling them in. In his illustrations, Edward Hopper-like situationsóof dogs under disused railway bridges, or people on a street cornerótake on a wry edge. One illustration, of someone who lives next to an independent bookshop signing for a delivery from a large online book-retailer, entitled ďRead-handedĒ, captures perfectly the mixture of guilt and defiance on the residentís face. In Mr Tomineís notes at the back of the publication, he repeats a rumour that one such online retailer bought several framed prints of this cover to hang in its boardrooms.

ďArtworkĒ is more elegiac in mood; published after Campbellís death, it includes lengthy introductions by Bill Manhire, a poet who knew Mr Campbell from their native New Zealand and Jeremy Harding, a writer and fellow LRB contributor. Describing Campbellís 30-year career as art director, contributor (writing more than 300 articles) and, from 1993, cover artist of the LRB, they combine personal reminiscences with intricate details, such as about the particular font Campbell, a book designer as well as an illustrator, most liked to use.

As with ďNew York DrawingsĒ, ďArtworkĒ is best at tracing the transition between early drawings and their finished result on the magazineís cover. Campbellís watercolour drawingsóof ďpapers, fruit, typewriters, flowers in a porcelain jugĒ, as Mr Harding puts itómight seem, on first glance, rather too delicate to be on the cover of a magazine. But, under the LRB masthead and surrounded by contributorís names, his confident strokes and whimsical glimpses of London life hold their own. Like Mr Tomine, Campbellís figures often wait at railway stations or read in bed, both illustrators creating bookish worlds designed to appeal to the publicationsí ideal readers. It is a joy to see such covers collected together for the first time.

However, in both publications not enough is said by the artists themselves: ďArtworkĒ includes an excerpt at the back from one of Campbellís pieces for the LRB about his love of magnifying glasses, while Mr Tomine begins ďNew York DrawingsĒ with a witty comic-strip about acting awkwardly at a New Yorker party. But neither publication gives much space for Mr Tomine or Campbell to talk about their art or their process of production.

This is a shame. As Mr Tomine has shown elsewhere, he writes eloquently about how he goes about creating a cover. The excerpt from Campbell called out for more from him (his excellent essays are instead collected in a volume entitled ďAtÖĒ). But perhaps this is what the artists wantedóin contrast to the publications they normally work for, both these books let their work stand out on its own, with few words attached.
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North Adams Transcript on New York Drawings- "quiet portraits of a jarring existence"

Updated January 15, 2013


The Kiosk: Snoopy, New York City and the human condition
By John Seven, North Adams Transcript
Posted: 12/06/2012 04:16:00 PM EST

"New York Drawings"
by Adrian Tomine (Drawn and Quarterly)

Gathering up cartoonist Adrian Tomine's illustration work for the New Yorker - there are a few comics, but this is mostly an examination of covers and spots for accompanying articles - the handsome art book "New Yorker Drawings" often get to the root of Tomine's world view as applicable to New York City and the urban experience together. So much of his work acknowledges that people are all in it together, and yet each individual is his or her own universe within the multiverse we call a city.
Tomine's illustration depicts a world where our personal perceptions are both separate from and integral to our shared ones. His work often incorporates two people, many of whom are either not acknowledging the central shared point between them, or clandestinely offering attentions to another person even as that other person is absorbed in his or her own moment.

These are quiet portraits of a jarring existence, and the components gather to present New York City as an organism as complex as any human.

In the most mesmerizing section of the book, Tomine's sketches of the city are presented with his handwritten observations of the person he draw. He makes note of the physical indications of mood and interest, and then speculates on the internal. One sweaty guy is either deep in thought or staring at his expensive shoes.

Tomine suspects one girl of knowing that he was drawing her by the way she abruptly leaves the subway train. Much like so many of the people depicted in his drawings, these are interactions without interacting, and that is so much of urban life.



 
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  New Hampshire Sentinel Source recommends Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine for Christmas gifts

Updated January 15, 2013


Gift books for Christmas
Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012 8:00 am | Updated: 8:48 am, Sun Dec 2, 2012.
By Tom Beer Newsday

Yes, we live in digital times, but thereís still nothing that can top a beautifully produced and illustrated book. Here are some that would make great presents this holiday season.
No, itís not a board game. Open the rectangular box of Chris Wareís ďBuilding StoriesĒ (Pantheon, $50), and youíll find an assemblage of 14 gorgeously illustrated booklets, in different shapes and sizes, all chronicling the lives of the residents of a fictional Chicago apartment building. Ware is the innovative cartoonist behind ďJimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth,Ē and thereís no correct order in which to read the various contents here. But they do add up to a magnificent, moving whole, and piecing them together is half the fun.

Adrian Tomineís cover of the post-Sandy New Yorker ó a man wielding a flashlight and wading through floodwaters to his polling place ó is surely one of the iconic images to come out of the superstorm. That illustration wasnít completed in time to get into ďNew York DrawingsĒ (Drawn and Quarterly, $29.95), a collection of the artistís work for the magazine. But whatís here ó covers, comics, sketches ó is in the same quietly poignant vein.
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Washington City Paper's "gifts for nerds" lists Ware, Tomine, Clowes, and Tamaki

Updated January 15, 2013


International Ink: Gift Ideas for Comics Nerds (Part 1 of 2)
Posted by Mike Rhode on Nov. 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm
In which we take a look at a great big pile of review copies of comic books, cartoons, and graphic novels.

Somehow with the turn of the millennium, a weird cartoon switcheroo occurred, and alternative cartoonists became more mainstream than mainstream cartoonists. Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Adrian Tomine are regulars in the New Yorker. Ivan Brunetti edits textbooks on cartooning for Yale. Illustrations by Tom Gauld, Lille Carre, and Jillian Tamaki routinely appear in the New York Times.

Tomine and Clowes' recent, lovely art books can be found at reasonable prices: New York Drawings (Drawn & Quarterly, $30) reprints the illustrations that Tomine has done for the New Yorker, along with additional illustrations of the city. The book is almost textless, but the art is all beautiful full color. The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist, edited by Alvin Buenaventura (Abrams ComicArts, $40), is a catalog to accompany an exhibit of his work that is scheduled to arrive at the Corcoran in 2013. This book covers Clowes' entire career, even delving into unfinished sketches, layouts, and color guides alongside finished art. The text, meanwhile, explores movies based on Clowes' works, and includes essays by Chris Ware and book designer Chip Kidd.

Ware's Building Stories has been getting loads of attention this fall, but consider the academic collection, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, edited by David M. Ball and Martha B. Kuhlman (University Press of Mississippi, $55 hardcover, $28 paperback). Overall, its 15 essays are a little denseóbut that's OK for this relatively difficult artist. Howard University professor Marc Singer even plunks down a 16-page essay on him.
 
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  Star Tribune lists Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware and Charles Burns in their holiday book roundup

Updated January 15, 2013


Holiday books roundup: Graphic novels
Article by: TOM HORGEN , Star Tribune staff writer Updated: November 24, 2012 - 3:33 PM
Chris Ware's "Building Stories" tops our list of graphic novel suggestions.

BUILDING STORIES
by Chris Ware (Pantheon, $50)
Apparently, no one ever told Chris Ware that print is dead. Or maybe they did and this is his fantastic rebuttal. Ware, the master behind "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth," has created a batch of sad, highly detailed comics with "Building Stories." The catch is the presentation. Inside this oversized box are 14 different stories -- some are traditional books of various sizes, others are magazines, newspapers and small pamphlets. This isn't a graphic novel. It's a library ready to be explored.

THE HIVE
by Charles Burns (Pantheon, $21.95)
If David Lynch made graphic novels, they'd look something like the weird, twisted work of Charles Burns. The latest from this visionary artist is the second volume of a planned trilogy (which began with "X'ed Out" in 2010). Burns' bold pen strokes tell the story of Doug, a confused young man caught between a dream world of grotesqueries and real life -- which proves even more nightmarish.

NEW YORK DRAWINGS
by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95)
Adrian Tomine is one of the comic book world's great chroniclers of everyday insecurities, best illustrated in the graphic novels "Shortcomings" and "Summer Blonde." His warm, observational style made him a perfect cover artist for the New Yorker, a post he's held for the past decade. Collected in this beautiful 176-page hardcover are all of Tomine's covers, plus his interior illustrations and other New York-centric pieces (from a TV on the Radio poster to a random unpublished portrait of Batman).
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New Hampshire News with an Adrian Tomine podcast

Updated January 15, 2013


Adrian Tomine: A Decade of Drawings
MON NOVEMBER 19, 2012

The cover of the November 12th issue of The New Yorker effectively summed up the two big stories coming out of New York City this past month: Hurricane Sandy and Election 2012. In the picture, a backpacked shaggy-haired man, chest-high in water, searches for his polling place among the pitch-black flooded streets of the Big Apple. Itís a drawing that someone makes a city of over eight million people seem like a very lonely place to be.

The illustrator is Adrian Tomine. His new collection is called New York Drawings: A Decade of Covers, Comics, Illustrations, and Sketches from the Pages of the New Yorker and Beyond.

Click the link for the podcast.
 
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  Capital calls New York Drawings "acutely felt and finely detailed'

Updated January 15, 2013


Adrian Tomine on fame, obscurity, craft and drawing for the 'New Yorker'
BY YEVGENIYA TRAPS
11:15 am Nov. 15, 2012

Back in 2004, The New Yorkerís art director FranÁoise Mouly approached Adrian Tomine, who had been contributing illustrations to the inside of the magazine for a few years, with the possibility of working on a cover for the annual Books Issue in 2004. Her directions were simple: the image should be, she said, ďa picture that can be read.Ē

The result was Missed Connection, a self-contained bit of poetry in motion: a man and a woman reading the same book wistfully glance at each as their trains pass on parallel tracks. Acutely felt and finely detailed, that cover led to several more: Tomine has now contributed a total of 10 New Yorker covers, with his latest image, Undeterred, another thousand-word-snapshot, this one about voting post-Sandy, fronting the Nov. 12 issue.

And now Missed Connection is on still another cover: that of New York Drawings, the recently released collection of Tomineís commercial work, much of which first appeared in The New Yorker.

ďI've always liked books that collect people's work from The New Yorker,Ē Tomine wrote in a recent email exchange. ďAnd that includes cartoonists, illustrators, photographers, and writers. At some point I realized that I was in a position to put together a book like that, and my publisher [Drawn & Quarterly] graciously accepted my proposal.Ē

That deceptively simple origin story leaves out what it might mean to have your work from The New Yorker collected in a hardcover book of some 170 pages. Aside from those 10 covers, Tomine has been contributing various illustrations, many for book and film reviews, since 1999. New York Drawings solidifies Tomine's identification with The New Yorker by isolating his aesthetic contribution to the magazine: mordantly observant, a little sad, poignantly attuned to lifeís small pleasures, indignities, and absurdities, and ever so slightly neurotic.

Of course that influence goes both ways: working with the magazine, it's clear from Tomineís notes on the images collected in New York Drawings, has been a kind of master class in the art of provoking emotional reactions with images. In particular, Tomine repeatedly returns to the influence of Mouly, whose storytelling instincts have shaped his own sensibilities: he still, Tomine said in his email, follows her edict to create ďpictures that can be readĒ when designing New Yorker covers.

The new book might also be seen as a kind of ratification of Tomineís status as an official New Yorker, an inside observer of the peculiar rituals of city life. Tomine grew up in Sacramento, the son of two California State University Scramento professors. He spent much of his career before The New Yorker, beginning with the 1991 release of the first issue of his serial Optic Nerve, a self-pubished three-sheet edition with a print run of just 25 copies, on the other side of the country. He only moved to Brooklyn in 2004, where he now lives with his wife Sarah Brennan and their daughter Nora. (Tomine and Brennanís wedding preparations were chronicled in Tomineís Scenes from an Impending Marriage, published by Drawn & Quarterly last year, a ďmini-memoirĒ that began life as a wedding favor.)

But Tomineís long-developing strengths as a comics artistóthe ability to capture the emotional resonances of an isolated moment, the tendency to imbue vignettes with autobiographical reverberations, the distinct pride in a sense of apartnessówere well suited to drawing the rhythms of New York living.

Now 38, Tomine finds himself critically recognized and commercially successful, increasingly asked to offer retrospective assessments on his career and his influences. He can be a bit tentative regarding such requests.

When I inquired, for example, if he had a favorite New Yorker illustrator, a contributor who had most significantly influenced his own work, Tomine offered a list of people he admired instead of singling anyone out.

ďI was a fan of people like Peter Arno and Charles Addams long before I was working for the magazine," he wrote to me in an email. "In terms of artists working now, I'm always knocked out by whatever fellow cartoonists like Dan Clowes, Richard McGuire, and Chris Ware do for The New Yorker. And there's plenty of other artists, like Barry Blitt or Andy Friedman, who probably don't influence my work directly in any discernible way, but whose drawings always impress me.Ē

He also noted the magazineís long history and suggested that its tradition of including visuals was a crucial shaping factor in his own sensibilities:

ďI think in general the magazine just has such high standards that most of the stuff they publish, whether it's to my specific tastes or not, is interesting and well-done.Ē He added, ďI may not read every article, but I unfailingly look at every single illustration week after week.Ē

Tomine described his work with The New Yorker in glowing terms, and talked about how working working there felt like a bridge over the otherwise wide gulf between commercial illustration and cartooning: ďI generally think of cartooning and illustration as two very separate jobs, but my work for The New Yorker kind of blurs that line.Ē

"It still feels like work that I'm personally invested in. Which is more than I can say about some of the other illustration projects I've gotten involved in!Ē he said. ďThere are times, especially when I'm working in advertising, when I have to just resign myself to being the Ďpicture-making machineí for someone, and I just politely shut off my brain and do as I'm told.Ē

So how does a piece like the Hurricane Sandy-Election Day cover get made?

ďI usually start out by overloading the image with detail, and then work backwards, eliminating unnecessary clutter,Ē Tomine explained. ďThere's no concrete formula to this process, but I suppose like all artists, I'm trying to make something look Ďrightí to me.Ē

In his introduction to New York Drawings, Tomine draws himself at his first New Yorker holiday party circa 2004, an image of incredulity at this turn of events. ďI thought Iíd always be an obscure, Ďalternativeí comic book artist,Ē cartoon-Tomine thinks.

So what, I asked, were the advantages and disadvantages of popular success, now that heís had a bit more time to process it?

ďIn terms of this particular level of Ďcommercial successí that I've attained, I can't really think of any disadvantages. The main advantage is that I have the unbelievably luxurious ability to make a living doing something I enjoy, from a small room in my home,Ē Tomine said.

But he also wanted to set the record straight:

ďI should clarify that these are all relative terms. In the scope of things, I'm still fairly obscure.Ē

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New Yorker interviews Adrian Tomine about his "intimate" new work

Updated January 15, 2013


November 11, 2012
ADRIAN TOMINEíS NEW YORK
Posted by Mina Kaneko

Adrian Tomine, who created last weekís cover ďUndeterred,Ē just released ďNew York Drawings,Ē a compilation of his work from The New Yorker and other places. In this intimate gallery of illustrations, sketches, comics, and coversóa selection of which appears in the slide show belowóTomine explores New Yorkís culture and its passing moments, asking us to reflect on the cityís quirks and tenderness. We talked to Adrian about his own experience as a native Californian who has nested in Brooklyn.
Where do you get your ideas for drawings and where do you find inspiration in the city? Is it in moments you witness, the people, a certain mood?
Most of my workóincluding everything from my own comics to the covers Iíve drawn for The New Yorkeróis the result of taking some personal experience or observation and then fictionalizing it to a degree. Iím not one of those artists with an incredible imagination who can just make things up out of nothing, and Iím not the kind of person who would throw himself into some exciting or dangerous situation just to get material. So I tend to go about my normal, boring life, and just try to look at things a little more closely. And even though Iíve lived in New York for eight years now, I still feel like a recent transplant, and I think thatís a big influence on how I see and draw the city.
What kind of place does drawing have in your relationship to the city?
Even though Iím usually not conscious of it, I think drawing has always served a sort of therapeutic purpose in my life. Thereís something about the process of translating the messy chaos of real life into a clean, simple drawing thatís always been comforting to me. My wife is getting her PhD in psychology, so sheíd probably have more insight into this than I do!
But I think itís a process that inevitably makes me feel closer to whatever it is Iím drawing, and thatís certainly true of New York. I canít put that much work into drawing something without feeling some heightened level of connection afterwards. And this is true of anything I draw, including people, buildings, even something as unremarkable as a filthy subway entrance. Iíve drawn celebrities that I wasnít a fan of, and then afterwards, felt like, ďAw, theyíre not so bad!Ē
What is one of your favorite things about New York?
I love having access to so many great restaurants. Iím Japanese, but restaurants in my hometown served the most sanitized versions of California rolls. I grew up eating a lot of Japanese food at home that my parents or grandparents made. And then when I came here, Iíd go into restaurants and find items on the menu that I thought no one even knew aboutóthat I thought maybe my grandma had invented. Just the idea of a restaurant serving rice balls was totally alien to me. And Iím sure all New Yorkers just think of that as a standard item at a Japanese restaurant. But rice balls were something my mom used to pack for me in my lunch, and that Iíd be sort of embarrassed to pull out of my lunchbox because everybody else was eating bologna sandwiches. So then to go into these hip restaurants and be asked, ďOh, do you want salmon or plum in that? And do you want it grilled or do you want it soft?Ē is amazing! Or similarly, I grew up eating those dried packets of ďochazukeĒ that you dump over the leftover rice and pour hot water on, and I loved itóand now, I go into a restaurant and have a freshly made version of it with good wasabi and fish brothÖ itís still a little mindblowing. And it doesnít have to be highbrow. I still get a kick out of going to Sunrise Mart and microwaving their bento boxes.
Where do you find yourself spending most of your time?
I used to justify the expenses of living here by experiencing all the amazing cultural offerings this city has: shows, exhibitions, concertsóbut everything changes so much once you have a kid. Now, I sort of do those things in a hypothetical way. I look at the Goings On section of The New Yorker and take some comfort in the fact that, if I wanted to, I could be attending all these eventsÖ
Since having my daughter (sheís now three), Iíve been walking a lot more. When she was a baby, Iíd put her in a stroller and take a long walk, getting to know a lot of neighborhoods and their relationship to each other. Iíd see that it wasnít that far to get from Fort Greene to Park Slope, from Park Slope to Carroll Gardens. And I think all of New York is sort of like that. You get this illusion that things are farther apart than they really are because you have to go through the trouble of going downstairs and waiting for the subway, and taking the train, and coming back up when it couldíve been a ten minute walk. There are also all kinds of stuff I wouldnít have ever experienced if I didnít have a kid to entertain, such as going to a puppet show or the zoo (we go to the little zoo in Prospect Park all the time).
What are some things that surprised you or struck you about the city when you moved here?
Where I grew up, thereís a much clearer line of demarcation between the areas for the wealthy people and the areas for the poorer people, as well as other distinct divisions. Of course, they exist in New York too, but thereís just not enough space to have ten miles of barren land between one another; everybody is stepping on each otherís toes all the time. How people manage that can be off-putting or intimidating to meóon the other hand, it can be surprisingly considerate and helpful. Itís odd for me to even say this, but there have been more times where Iíve seen or been involved in scenarios in New York that I could describe as heartwarming, in many ways.
This one time, my wife and I were walking home from dinner when we saw a man get suddenly attacked by a group of five or six teenagers, and it turned out to be a pretty bad physical altercation. But within minutes, before I could even start to get out my cell phone, doors of nearby buildings swung open and residents came running out of their houses. One enormous guy (who looked like he should be a bouncer at a club) had one of the kids on the ground with his foot on his chest. In other cities, people might look out from behind their curtains nervously and start calling the cops, but I sense a willingness to get involved here that I donít see everywhere elseÖ maybe even a positive peer pressure, as though there are so many eyes upon you that youíre almost guilted into behaving properly, which is unusual.
Do you remember when you first felt at home in the city?
I have one very vivid memory: when I used to visit New York, I would come in for vacation and visit friends, and always spend the entire time in Manhattan. But when I met my wifeóI actually came out from California to go on our first dateóshe was living in Brooklyn, on Bergen St. near Flatbush. We took the subway there, and I just remember it being so dramatic to go from the frenetic, noisy bustle of Manhattan and to come up out of the subway and be in a neighborhood that was extremely quiet and peaceful. I was taken by how beautiful the streets were: the brownstones, all the trees that were up above. I think, in that moment, there was the first glimmer in my mind that Brooklyn could possibly be a place Iíd want to live after being on the West Coast my entire life.
 
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  Nightlife.ca interviews Adrian Tomine

Updated January 15, 2013


Illustrator Adrian Tomine talks about his latest book, New York Drawings, and working with Drawn and Quarterly
PAR: Amie Watson
Publiť le 10 Novembre 2012

Adrian Tomine has a dream job Ė he draws cartoons for a living. The illustrator and regular contributor to the New Yorker will be in Montreal this Sunday to discuss his latest book, New York Drawings, which chronicles more than a decade of his comics and cover illustrations for prestigious magazines as well as an insiderís view of his original sketches and observations. Nightlife.ca spoke with him about his love affair with New York, why readers love his cartoons and illustrations, and his coup de coeur for Montreal publisher, Drawn and Quarterly.



NIGHTLIFE.CA: Your cartoons arenít necessarily funny or make sense at first glance. Theyíre often observations of day-to-day life in New York that connect to readers in some way. Is it frustrating that readers might not get your cartoon immediately and forget about it?
Tomine: As a reader, Iíve always enjoyed that feeling of curiosity. You look at the image first, and if you donít quite get it, you flip to the contents page and the title will elucidate the image in some way.


Your New Yorker cover comics, starting with Missed Connection in 2004 (above image) where a young man and a young woman reading the same book see each other through the windows of subway cars headed in opposite directions, doomed to never meet, have been romantic, cynical and Ďyoung and hipí. Was that always your style or did you adopt it when you started working with the New Yorker in 1999 after moving from Berkeley, California?
Thatís probably not my style anymore since Iím neither of those things personally Ė young or hip, I mean. Iím probably still cynical and romantic. I canít help but let some element of my own personality seep into my work. So I think some of those affectations that might have shown up in my work when I was younger were just a reflection of who I either was or was trying to be at that point. Like in my early twenties when I was single and going out to bars and concerts, and just being more concerned with that kind of nightlife and youth culture that you donít have time for when youíre a dad.

With your last publication before New York Drawings being Scenes from an Impending Marriage (written as a gift for your wedding guests), will your next comics tend toward themes such as married life and babysitting?
Iím sure the 20-year-old version of me would be disgusted with the 38-year-old version. But I donít think Iím creative or inventive enough to fabricate stories or images out of nothing. When I was proposing the new book Iím working on to Drawn and Quarterly, I could sense an expectation that I would do a big graphic novel to pick up where my previous book, Shortcomings, left off, but I decided to do a collection of short stories. I originally had no concept of what the overarching theme would be and thereís no name for the book yet, but now that Iím about halfway through making it, itís starting to emerge to me that this is reflecting my present day thoughts.

Does your editor at the New Yorker ever say, ďCan you keep it a little younger?Ē Or is the readership of the magazine ageing with you?
I think the demographic of the New Yorker is actually getting broader. There are plenty of people whoíve been reading it since they were young, and there are younger people discovering it and finding that the quality of writing or the articles appeal to them. The New Yorker isnít generally thought of as being a hipster kind of cutting edge magazine, but in this day and age they stand out in terms of a magazine thatís wiling to pay money for artwork Ė not just a cover illustration, but quite a few interior illustrations too.

Thereís one sketch in New York Drawings of two police officers and you have a note on it saying you felt they might suspect you were doing something suspicious if they saw you sketching them. But how do you get that feeling across to the viewer without the note? Do you feel limited by your New Yorker cartoons?
That sketch was done in the lobby of a big skyscraper in midtown Manhattan and this was close to the 9/11 attacks, so the feeling to being in these buildings was like being in an airport Ė you better not do anything to arouse suspicion. But living in NY there are so many creative and bizarre people around you at any given moment that if you were in a restaurant or a cafť sketching in a notebook it wouldnít draw any attention.

I donít feel limited. I think if my only job was to draw illustrations for magazines then I would feel certain limitations, but most days Iím working on my comics for Drawn and Quarterly, which are completely unfiltered and unedited and if anything I have too much freedom. So I actually appreciate the restrictions and limitations and even the sense of collaboration I feel when I work for the New Yorker.


If you hadnít started doing cartoons for the New Yorker, what would you have done?
I was already pretty far down a path of being a lifelong cartoonist already, just doing my work for Drawn and Quarterly Ė thatís the publisher Iíve worked with my whole career. I actually go to Montreal a lot. Usually I get together with my friends from Drawn and Quarterly but just before my daughter was born my wife and I stayed in a hotel in the Old Port and just walked along the water and ate poutine. We enjoy the high and low ends of food, like in New York. We went to some restaurant one night by our hotel and ended up sitting next to ACDC, and I went home and looked on my computer and they were performing in Montreal that night.

Could every major city benefit from an illustrator like you to turn day-to-day life into cartoon-based love letters to the city?
I think itís useful, and I think that can be done in any city. It reminds people about what they love about living there. Thereís something about your surroundings, no matter how grim or how bland they might be, translated into artwork thatís gratifying in some way.

Adrian Tomine in conversation with fellow cartoonists Charles Burns and Chris Ware, in honour of the 5th anniversary of the Drawn and Quarterly bookstore
Sunday, November 11 at 7 PM
Ukrainian Federation | 5213 Hutchison | drawnandquarterly.com
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New York Drawings




Los Angeles Review of Books video of Adrian Tomine in their Skylight Series

Updated January 15, 2013


Skylight Series, Ep. 5: Adrian Tomine
The New Yorker cover artist dicusses his recent collection "New York Drawings" at Skylight Books in Los Feliz, CA

See link for full video.
 
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  Montreal Gazette calls Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, "more than just a bookstore"

Updated January 15, 2013


Drawn & Quarterly: A binding force in Mile End

The bookstore is such a vital part of the neighbourhood that it feels much older than its five years
By Ian McGillis, Special to The Gazette
November 9, 2012

ďPeople have stopped saying things like ĎOh yeah, that little comics shop.í Now they just call us a bookstore.Ē

Chris Oliveros, founder of the acclaimed comic and graphic literature publishers Drawn & Quarterly, is describing the breakthrough in perception of the shop he opened in 2007 as the public face of his rapidly growing company. But as anyone who has spent any time at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly knows, it is more than just a bookstore. Mile End ó grumblings about gentrification from some quarters notwithstandingóremains one of North Americaís most vital concentrations of alternative culture, and every Bohemia needs its nerve centre and spiritual haven. Librairie Drawn & Quarterly is already so entrenched in that role that it feels a lot older than it actually is.

ďFor me the store is an institution, a local one but of international repute,Ē says Montreal writer and broadcaster Jonathan Goldstein. ďI think of it in the same vein as Schwartzís, you know? The kind of place I tell visitors in town that they have to check out. Itís like our own City Lights, a gem of a bookstore backed up by a history of publishing iconic writers and artists.Ē

Madeleine Thien, a peripatetic novelist who makes Mile End her home base, agrees: ďI really cherish this bookstore, for the publishing and bookselling they do but also because itís evident every time I walk in or attend an event just how passionately they care about books and the community.Ē

On the eve of the storeís fifth birthday, Oliveros and D&Q creative director Tom Devlin point out that it was another anniversary ó the Canada Council for the Artsí 50th, in 2007 ó that got the ball rolling.

ďThey had a surplus of money that year,Ē recalls Devlin. ďThey approached all the publishers who typically use them and basically said, ĎOffer us your craziest idea, what youíd want to do if you got some of this extra money.í So we ran through all these options: some sort of anthology or elaborate book, or maybe some kind of major website revamp.Ē

Then they came up with an idea they had both entertained independently at various points: a store. Their thinking was driven partly by practical considerations and partly by a desire to strike back against some good old-fashioned Canadian regional bias. ďVery few people were aware that we were based in Montreal,Ē says Oliveros. ďMost people just assumed we were in Toronto. Whenever we had an event, weíd have it in some bar, because, at least on the English side, there was really no other place to do it. And mainstream stores just werenít stocking our books. So we wanted to make a community spot, yes, but we also just wanted to make people aware we were here.Ē

The decision to go retail made, and literally a day after the Canada Council grant was secured, Devlin was cycling down Bernard St. W. when he saw an ďŗ louerĒ sign on an empty storefront at 211, between Esplanade and Jeanne Mance, the former site of a Hasidic childrenís clothing store. (ďI remember when I used to bring my youngest son to a garderie around the corner, we always used to stop and look at the baby mannequins in the window,Ē Oliveros says.) The property had been in the same family since the 1940s, and the landlord, when approached by Oliveros and Devlin, was happy with the idea it would be a bookstore.

Once the space was secured and the work on it started, a certain amount of dumb luck came into play. Original period brick turned out to be behind all four walls, and a low added ceiling turned out to conceal much higher Edwardian-era wood. ďWe knew we didnít want that ugly low ceiling, but had no idea what disaster might be underneath it,Ē recalls Devlin. ďWe worried that we might financially sink the whole company just trying to open the store. When we saw what was actually there, we thought, ĎOh my god, thatís amazing.í Ē

Says Oliveros: ďRight from the beginning the idea was to make it not just a place to sell Drawn & Quarterly books, but a store with everything that we liked. Not just other graphic novels, but other books: fiction, art, design.Ē

Adds Devlin: ďInitially we just looked at our home bookshelves and said, ĎHey, letís order that and that.í You know, ĎI like Denis Johnson, so letís order a bunch of Denis Johnson!í None of us had run a bookstore, but we knew we had enough space that for a while we could get away with just choosing based on personal taste. We had a little wiggle room.Ē

That original winging-it approach has been refined under store manager Jason Grimmer to encompass a selection whose unifying sensibility is more philosophically driven than genre-defined ó hard to pin down, but you know it when you see it. For sympathetic souls, it can feel like being in the apartment of an extremely clued-in bibliophile friend.

ďItís all so well curated,Ē comments Goldstein. ďYou make discoveries there, stumble upon new favourite authors in a way that doesnít happen when you go to Amazon already knowing what you want.Ē

An important element in the storeís design and layout was that it be adaptable into a performance space. Thereís a well-elevated stage against the back wall, and movable central tables to allow for seating and unimpeded flow. A plan to hold music events every Sunday hit a snag when an early ďsecretĒ show by Handsome Furs drew an overflow crowd and noise complaints; from that point on, literary events were deemed best, and for the past five years the store has hosted roughly 75 readings and launches per year.

For the writing community, the storeís cachet and reputation are drawing card enough. ďDoing my launches there feels like being a part of something, like getting a stamp of quality,Ē says Goldstein. ďPlus, theyíre all so nice to me.Ē (This reporter can concur, having done a reading there last spring, in tandem with Kevin Chong and Elise Moser, where I was treated with a deference most stores might reserve for international literary lions.)

The goodwill and community outreach effected by such events arenít their only motivation: altruism is all fine and good, but business, as Devlin points out, is business. ďYou have an event and you can sell 40 of somebodyís book. Without that event, you might sell four.Ē

As momentum gathered and the storeís profile grew, it became necessary to shift some events to the Ukrainian Federation on Hutchison St., an equally atmospheric room with the advantage of being considerably bigger. Thatís where Sundayís fifth-birthday event, featuring three of the biggest names in graphic literature, will be held. Charles Burns is the author of the seminal graphic novel Black Hole and has illustrated every cover of the Łber-hip culture magazine The Believer; Adrian Tomine is at the younger end of the golden generation of comics artists and has had illustration commissions as iconic as the cover of the current issue of the New Yorker, for which he was given the daunting assignment of representing both the Hurricane Sandy flood and the presidential election in a single simple image; Chris Ware, described by Oliveros as ďthe most influential comics artist since Art Spiegelman,Ē has just published Building Stories, a monumental multi-volume boxed novel that raises the bar for the whole form.

The presence of three such heavy hitters on one bill (a music equivalent might be, say, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen sharing a stage) tells its own tale: Drawn & Quarterly is doing well. The store, confirms Devlin, is now turning a profit. ďItís only in the last year that weíve turned the corner. I guess itís that classic five-year business thing. Every month (this year) has been far better than the previous yearís. Weíve reached that tipping point where people from, say, Westmount know weíre here, and will make a trip here.Ē

Given such success, at odds with every book-retailing trend, it might be assumed that expansion or even a bit of franchising might be in the cards, but not so fast, says Oliveros. ďThereís always the possibility, when youíve got something that works, that you can expand too far and create a whole new set of problems. We believe that a store like this could work in other cities, but that would involve so much, not just in terms of investment but of having people in those other cities.Ē

ďThe space next door came up for rent a while ago, and we went back and forth on it, thinking weíd like more room,Ē says Devlin. ďBut then you start projecting: you knock out a wall and that means a second clerk over there, suddenly your rent doubles and your staffing overhead doubles and your sales only go up 10 per cent ... so weíre very cautious. We donít want to blow this.Ē

Ultimately that space next door was taken by the music store Phonopolis, further cementing the streetís cultural vibe. Talking to Oliveros, itís clear he takes some quiet pride in the part he has played in the neighbourhoodís ongoing renaissance.

ďAfter we opened, it definitely helped change Bernard. The street had just undergone a transformation, the sidewalks were widened, but there were still empty storefronts. There werenít nearly as many diverse stores around here. There were no cafťs. And the funny thing is, when we opened, we were worried. We had that initial cushion, but it was just a one-time grant ó there was no other funding after that. We worried that after the first year the publishing end might have to support this. We were wondering how long we could last.Ē

ďInitially we did think that even if we just did this for just a year or two, it would be a fun thing we did,Ē says Devlin. ďAt the very least, we thought that years down the line weíd be laughing, saying ĎRemember that crazy store we had?í Ē

Five years on, itís hard to picture Mile End without that store, so much so that it sometimes feels like something slightly more ineffable is going on, an alchemical process by which the books themselves seem to come alive.

ďI love strolling among those wacko characters and superheroes,Ē says multiple award-winning novelist and Mile End resident Rawi Hage. ďIt is comforting to know that they live here, among us, in this neighbourhood.Ē

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly marks its fifth anniversary with Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware, Sunday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at Ukrainian Federation, 5213 Hutchison St. Tickets cost $5, available at the bookstore, 211 Bernard St. W. Call 514-279-2224.
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Charles Burns

          



Thestar.com highlights Charles Burns and Adrian Tomine's new works as "graphic novel standouts"

Updated January 15, 2013


The Hive and New York Drawings among Octoberís graphic novel standouts
Published on Sunday November 04, 2012

October was a fantastic month for comic book fans, and a reminder that the authors we celebrate have strange, boundless imaginations. From a mutant-filled underworld called ďthe hive,Ē to quiet reflections on New York City, to literally star-crossed alien lovers, this monthís standout graphic novels explore a whole universe of possibility.

Charles Burns, The Hive

($25.95, Pantheon Books)

The celebrated Black Hole author returns with another surreal, nightmarish trip down the rabbit hole in The Hive, the second book of a trilogy that began with 2010ís Xíed Out.

We follow Doug, an aspiring performance artist with a head injury, through several flowing, disorienting narratives. In one narrative, he recalls his relationship with ex-girlfriend Sarah, hinting at a traumatic incident; in another, he lives in an eerie netherworld populated by mutants. There, he delivers comic books to female ďbreedersĒ in a facility called ďthe hive.Ē

Burns references Tintin with his drawing style, but while Hergťís books were innocent and plot-driven, The Hive is dark, puzzling and deeply unsettling. With this engrossing graphic novel, Burns proves he is the master of creating a terrible sense of dread while not quite letting readers in on any secrets.

Adrian Tomine, New York Drawings

($29.95, Drawn and Quarterly)

Adrian Tomine opens New York Drawings with a three-page comic about his first time hobnobbing at a New Yorker party. Overwhelmed by sightings of Steve Martin and Philip Roth, he avoids making small talk by asking guests for directions to the coat check.

His awkward interactions belie his incredible ability to capture humans on the page. This book is primarily a collection of his funny, evocative, character-driven art for theNew Yorker from 1999 to 2012, but it reads like a love letter to the Big Apple. Interesting odds and ends are thrown in, including his 2004 ďNew York Sketches,Ē when he spent much of his early days in New York drawing strangers sitting on the D train or standing on street corners.

New York Drawings is a worthy read for fans of Tomineís work or anyone who just wants to marvel at the power of a simple pen and ink.
 
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Charles Burns

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  Adrian Tomine explains his Hurricane Sandy cover to the New Yorker

Updated January 15, 2013


COVER STORY: HURRICANE SANDYíS ELECTION
Posted by Mina Kaneko
November 2, 2012

ďWhere I was in Brooklyn, I donít think I would have even known that there was a major storm happening,Ē says Adrian Tomine, the artist of next weekís cover, ďUndeterred.Ē He continues,
So I spent the whole night glued to the Internet and watching everything unfolding, just being shocked that this kind of dramatic destruction was happening just miles outside my home. And I started thinking about how it would affect the election. This is a first for me in terms of doing a cover thatís topical with a quick turnaround, and somehow these two significant events just came together into that one image for me.
Tomine adds,
For all its really horrible effects, I feel like the storm has made real a lot of issues in the election that were hypothetical, that were thrown around as debate topicsóglobal warming; and Is Obama enough of a leader to handle a natural disaster?; and Do we need FEMA? Itís really interesting, and in a way useful, to see a lot of these things become actual issues that are right at hand.

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Thestar.com interviews Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware and Charles Burns about their new work

Updated January 15, 2013


Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine and Charles Burns discuss their best work
Laura Kane
Published on Friday November 02, 2012

As three of the worldís most respected graphic novelists prepare to discuss their new books in Toronto, the changing landscape of their medium seems to be top of mind.

Chris Wareís Building Stories is truly a book that cannot be read on a Kindle: an assortment of 14 graphic pamphlets, posters and books housed inside a large cardboard box.

Adrian Tomineís New York Drawings is a beautiful hardcover collecting the artistís covers, drawings and cartoons for The New Yorker.

Then there is Charles Burnsí The Hive, a disorienting, multi-layered tale that explores the theme of art as a lens to view the world. All three books are worthy arguments for art you can touch, hold and experience ó not just scroll through.

Itís not a surprise then that when asked by the Star to describe a favourite page both Ware and Tomine wrote, by coincidence, about the value of print in a digital world.

Adrian Tomine, ďRead HandedĒ from New York Drawings

This image, which appeared on the June 9 & 16, 2008 cover of The New Yorker, was my attempt to sympathetically acknowledge the plight of the independent bookseller in the Amazon age, as well as the dilemma of the modern book buyer.

When it was published, I saw this cover taped into the window of several book shops around New York. That was gratifying to me, and I felt like, in some small way, there was an unspoken conversation taking place between me, the retailer, and the storeís customers.

Chris Ware, ďBuilding DaughterĒ from Building Stories

Since I donít generally feel happy or confident about what I do, I canít pick a ďfavouriteĒ page. But if I had to choose one that sort of surprised me as I was working on it, it would maybe be this page.

Itís a newspaper-scaled spread that arranges the main characterís memories of her recently deceased father around a drawing of her sleeping daughter, printed more or less the size that a child at 10 months actually is.

Though we hear a lot lately about the usurpation of print and paper by electronic media, I believe thereís still a reason for art and storytelling that doesnít arrive in a little glowing pit, but as a certain, real thing which one can actually hold.

Even though it was only published a few years ago, itís an image thatís already dated. If I were to create an amended version today, there would be another person in one of the windows above, enthralled by an ďe-readerĒ and oblivious to the commotion downstairs.

Charles Burns, pg. 19 from The Hive

Whenever I leaf through The Hive, I find myself pausing to look at this page; perhaps because it comes close to capturing that subtle feeling of loss and regret I get when summer turns to fall.

On this page, Doug, the protagonist, is walking with Sarah, his soon-to-be girlfriend. I never like ďexplainingĒ my stories, but in the centre panel, we see three groupings of figures: Doug and Sarah with hopeful, almost wistful smiles on their faces, an older hippie couple that look a little broken and sad and a young family sitting in the park, enjoying a beautiful autumn day.

Why have they all been placed together in the same panel? How do they relate to each other? Those are the kinds of questions I want my readers to ask themselves as they make their way through my story.

Adrian Tomine, Charles Burns and Chris Ware host audio-visual presentations of their respective new works on Nov. 12 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 8:30 p.m., as part of The Beguilingís 25th anniversary.

 
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  Co.Design recommends Adrian Tomine's New York Drawings

Updated January 15, 2013


The Lonely, Painfully Funny World Of Adrian Tomineís New York

Adrian Tomineís drawings are the sort that make you secretly wonder if you might have served as a subject. The longtime New Yorker artist captures life in the city with a remarkably nuanced voice, drawing it as it is: lonely and funny in equal measure, often at the same time.

This week, Tomine released his seventh book, an anthology of his New Yorker drawings and a collection of New York-centric sketches called New York Drawings. There are plenty of crowd favorites--his International Incident cover, for example, which shows a string of airport seats occupied by stranded travelers of a dozen different religions and ethnicities, each reading a book.

But there are also a number of drawings no one has ever seen. A series of watercolor sketches shows Tomine examining his fellow subway riders, imagining their stories. A Japanese man in a snapback and headphones sits with his eyes closed (ďHe bowed when someone bumped into him,Ē Tomine notes). A woman rolls her blue eyes, squished between two i-bankers (ďmaking subtle facial reactions as one Wall St. guy explains to another his plan for Ďscoringí with his ex-girlfriendĒ).

Tomine has a knack for picking out moments that capture the kinetic energy of a story thatís about to begin. In one drawing, a man boarding a train pauses as a woman struggles to carry her stroller up the stairs (the title: Be Kind). He captures immense loneliness, too, but never really reaches the point of melancholy. As a California native, heís described himself as torn between the two coasts, which might work to his advantage. New York Drawings isnít a love letter to the city so much as an attempt to diagram what social behaviors make it unique.


Since he published his first drawing in the New Yorker over a decade ago, Tomine has emerged as a kind of diplomat for comics in pop culture. But in a 2011 interview in The Rumpus, Tomine says he has reservations about the medium moving into the mainstream. ďFor someone like me whoís always tried to make a living at it, itís been great, Iím very grateful for it. But at the same time, itís not a subculture-y thing anymore,Ē he says. Itís tough not to hear a description of New York embedded in the sentence that follows:

And with this sort of increased visibility, thereís more money going around in the industry, and it changes a lot, in terms of who gets into the business as a creator, who sticks with it, and who gets pushed out. And I do think itís sort of too bad that what once was a safe haven for truly eccentric, outsider artists is no longer that thing.

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Paris Review interviews Adrian Tomine, celebrating his New York Drawings

Updated January 15, 2013


Urban Renewal: An Interview with Adrian Tomine
October 29, 2012 | by Peter Terzian

In ďMissed Connection,Ē Adrian Tomineís now-famous New Yorker cover illustration, a boy and a girl spot each other through the windows of subway cars headed in opposite directions. Theyíre both reading the same bookópotentially perfect for each other, theyíre destined not to meet. The image sums up what makes city life frustrating but also thrilling: the possibility of romance around every corner, the sense of isolation in a crowd, the higher-than-usual incidence of bookish hotties. Tomine began contributing crisp, colorful artwork to the magazine in 1999 and has continued to produce covers that often gently send up urban reading habits. The newly released New York Drawings collects the entirety of Tomineís New Yorker work, along with his illustrations for other periodicals, book jackets, and album covers.

But commercial illustration is only one part of Tomineís career. The thirty-eight-year-old artist began publishing comics as a teenager. His stories of young misfits and malcontents, serialized in his semiregular comic book, Optic Nerve, have been collected in book form as Sleepwalk and Other Stories, Summer Blonde, and a full-length graphic novel, Shortcomings. His short, funny, loose autobiographical comic strips pop up throughout his books; last yearís Scenes from an Impending Marriage narrated Tomineís wedding preparations in the style of classic newspaper funnies.

A West Coast native, Tomine moved to Brooklyn eight years ago. We met one evening at a pastry shop near his home in Park Slope.

It seems obvious that by now your New Yorker work has given you more visibility than your comics. How do you feel about that?

It definitely reaches a broader audience. At this point there are a lot of people who know me through The New Yorker and have no idea about the comics I do. I guess that shouldnít be surprising to me. Iíve separated the two jobs in my mind quite a bit, and thatís been useful. Iím sometimes a cartoonist and thereís an audience for that, and Iím sometimes an illustrator and thereís an audience for that.

But there must be some relationship between the two.

The art editor in charge of the covers at the New Yorker is FranÁoise Mouly. Sheís very familiar with the eccentricities and personalities of cartoonists, so working with her is very easy. She knows how to criticize and cajole and encourage and praise a cartoonist in all the ways that will make him feel productive and comfortable. There are some illustrators she uses who are purely illustratorsólike, for the food issue, theyíll have a nice painting by Wayne Thiebaud of a slice of cake. But I think she tends to gravitate toward cartoonists and narrative artists, and she holds them to a bit more of a storytelling standard. From the first cover I did for her, she was adamant that the image didnít have to contain a gag per se, but had to have something that could be read visuallyósome suggestion of a story or message that could be gleaned from spending more than a second glancing at it. I donít know if she would have hired me if I were just a guy with my middling drawing ability.

How many of your images of New York life are based on incidents that youíve actually seen?

Almost all of the images in the book have some root in observation. I arrived in New York in 2004, after living on the West Coast for thirty years. Anything I knew about New York was through a filter of movies or comic books or novels. Especially when I was first taking on these assignments, I was conscious of my lack of authority. Certain artists capture New York very well because theyíve lived here their whole lives and can sit in their chairs and think back to some memory and put that down on paper. But I felt more like a reporter going out into the field and trying to capture what he sees. There are a few that were invented on a tight deadline, just in my studio, and I feel they have that fakeness you might see in a movie thatís set in New York but was actually shot in Toronto. My default version of New York is far more artificial than when I actually go out and get the details right.

Do you sense a different mood or tone to your New York work, as opposed to your Optic Nerve comics set in Northern California?

For a lot of the time I was in Berkeley I was single, I was living in a kind of collegiate apartment by myselfóit was like a protracted summer vacation. So at least in hindsight I have gloomy emotions attached to Berkeley, whereas I started coming to New York because I was dating someone, and it was very exciting and romantic. Now weíre married and I have a daughter who brings me great joy, so I think that really tips the scales. I associate New York with a lot more happiness in my personal life, and Iím sure that plays a part in the artwork. If I had been dealt a different hand and my experience in New York was a real struggle, that would start to come through in the work, and Iím not sure thatís what The New Yorker wants to put on its cover.

I feel like I can almost identify the book in the coupleís hands on the ďMissed ConnectionsĒ cover.

People have discussed this quite a bit online actually. Thereís a Malcolm Gladwell book that gets referenced a lot.

Did you have a specific book in mind?

No, and in fact that detail was a last-minute addition that came about from conversations with FranÁoise. I had that basic image but the books were blank, and she had the idea of making it so that theyíre reading the same book.

That cover came out in 2004, but I think today the boy and girl would both be reading Patti Smithís Just Kids. In fact it has that same little square image in the center of the cover.

It does, thatís true. Strangely that might be the closest one to it in terms of the actual design.

In ďBored of Tourism,Ē Iím pretty sure thatís Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger.

That definitely is a Salinger book. It has those diagonal stripes in the corner. It seemed like the right book for a gloomy teen to be reading on a tour bus.

And then both books show up in the window of ďRead Handed.Ē

Thatís right. Youíre the first person whoís brought that up.

Was that conscious?

It was. They kept giving me assignments to do these book-related illustrations, and I thought, this is an opportunity to tie some of this stuff together.

Almost all of the characters in your Optic Nerve comics were in their teens or twenties. Now that youíre in your late thirties, do you find it more difficult to use younger people as your material?

I find it less appealing. The next book I put out is basically going to be a collection of short stories. I knew I had a kid coming along and my time was going to be fragmented. So I had to break it to my publisheróitís not a graphic novel, itís not an issue-oriented memoir, thereís no connective tissue to sell this whole collection with. Sorry! But as I started working on it, my present concerns and circumstances started to find their way in. In a totally subconcious way, it seems like itís headed toward being a book about parental anxiety. Having a kid has surprised meóI almost feel like itís a time-travel thing, where Iím thinking of the present as much as Iím projecting into the future, and itís also making me reconsider a lot of my interactions with my parents from the past.

Would you like to return to the long format of Shortcomings some day?

Thatís a good question. The most impactful comics that Iíve read are the ones where the artists swung for the bleachers and tried to immerse you in their world. Iím very envious of that accomplishment, and to be honest I still think of Shortcomings as being like a novella at best, or a warm-up to something much more ambitious, when the playing field includes Building Stories and Jimmy Corrigan and David Boring and Mausóall these things that are just out of my reach at this point.

At the same time I donít know for sure that comics are necessarily the best and most efficient medium for achieving those experiences, and that all cartoonists are going to excel at that goal. I think now that thatís become the ideal accomplishment, weíre starting to see artists of a lesser caliber than some of the ones Iíve mentioned who are aiming for that goal and falling short or getting frustrated with the process, or maybe stretching out something that would have been more potent as a smaller thing for the sake of having a thicker spine. I could eventually decide that I fall into that categoryóthat I work better in little concentrated doses. Weíll have to see.

Maybe every cartoonist has his or her own natural narrative length.

If you were to go back in time and talk to the people who invented cartooning, and were doing it for newspapers, and told them that there were going to be guys who were going to do twenty-four-page long stories, they would think that was a strange use of the medium. And if you then said, theyíre going to try and inject that with a singular vision and personal experience and do six-hundred-page long storiesóI mean, their heads would have exploded. We might see when we look back that there were a few exceptional cases who could take this form and mutate it into something that it really wasnít meant to do, and could do it with extreme grace and insight.
 
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  New York Drawings- a New York Times graphic books best seller

Updated January 14, 2013


Graphic Books Best Sellers: Collections by Dave Stevens and Adrian Tomine
By GEORGE GENE GUSTINES
October 19, 2012

There are two newcomers to the graphic books hardcover best-seller list this week, and both shine a spotlight on artists ó a trend worth supporting. ďDave Stevensí Stories and Covers,Ē at No. 6, takes a look at the cover work of Mr. Stevens, who created the Rocketeer and was also well known for his renderings of women in a í50s-pinup style. It is a 272-page retrospective that costs $49.99. Mr. Stevens died in 2008 at age 52. His work on the Rocketeer was lavishly reproduced in ďThe Dave Stevensí Rocketeer Artistís EditionĒ from IDW, which scanned its pages from the originals and printed them at a similar size. The smudges and blue pencil marks gave it a behind-the-scenes feel that was well worth the $100 price tag.

At No. 8 on the list is ďNew York DrawingsĒ (176 pages, $29.95), which showcases the work of the cartoonist Adrian Tomine. The book collects his work from The New Yorker as well as some of his sketches and comics. I recently interviewed Mr. Tomine and wrote about the collected edition. Some of the work captures his feeling of being a man of two worlds: a California native now living in New York.

December will see the release of ďThe Art of Todd McFarlane: The Devilís in the DetailsĒ (Image Comics), which weighs in at 300 pages and costs $64.99. The book will feature reproductions of original pages, previously published sketches and commentary from Mr. McFarlane, who created the anti-hero Spawn and who also once illustrated Batman, Spider-Man and the Hulk.

As always, the complete best-seller lists can be found here, along with an explanation of how they were assembled.
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AV Club calls New York Drawings "a treat to look at"

Updated January 14, 2013


By Noel Murray October 15, 2012

For much of the past decade, Adrian Tomine has filled the gaps between issues of Optic Nerve by contributing cover art and illustrations to The New Yorker (among other magazines). New York Drawings (D&Q) collects those commercial assignments, adding sketches and a few stray comics, with some brief commentary at the end of the book. Theyíre all a treat to look atóeven the ones drawn to accompany reviews of sometimes long-forgotten movies and TV showsóbut the best pieces here capture the quirks of life in New York in the 21st century, where new technology is transforming the way people relate to each other and to the city. Like most of the cartoonists that The New Yorker has been inviting to contribute covers and drawings in recent years, Tomine knows how to tell an entire story with a single image; but Tomine also has a wit all his own, and an eye for the small gestures and moments that others might missÖ
 
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  LAist calls Adrian Tomine "kind of a rock star"

Updated January 14, 2013


Five Questions with Illustrator and Cartoonist Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine is kind of a rock star in the graphic novel/comic book world. The Northern California-born illustrator and artist is probably best known for his emo comic book series Optic Nerve, which he first self-published as a teenager. The series was picked up in 1995 by the Canadian comic book publisher Drawn & Quarterlyóhome to Kate Beaton, Guy Delisle, among other artistsóleading to a prolific partnership.
Tomine is in town tomorrow for a booksigning at Skylight Books for his latest release: New York Drawings. The hardcover volume is an homage to his adopted home, and contains a collection of his covers, comics, illustrations and sketches from The New Yorker and other illustrations inspired by the city.
We had a chance to ask Tomine about his work, his influences and what it was like scoring his first New Yorker cover.
LAist: What was it like getting your first New Yorker cover? I'm assuming it's a pretty big deal for an illustrator...Is there another cover that you'd like to get that even compares?
I drew my first cover five years ago, and to this day it still feels pretty unbelievable to me any time it happens. That logo and the bar of color along the left edge of the cover are iconic to me, and they're inextricably tied in my mind to some of my favorite illustrators from the past, like Peter Arno and Charles Addams. So it still seems very strangeóalmost wrongóto me when I see one of my own drawings juxtaposed with those design elements, and it's even stranger when I see that magazine out in the world. And I've said this before, but it was really helpful when I met my wife's parents for the first time. For some reason, it goes over much better when you say, "I work for The New Yorker" rather than "I draw adult graphic novels."
And with regards to other covers I'd like to illustrate, the sad truth is that there aren't a lot of magazines left that use illustrations on their covers. Photography and type design really dominate that field, for the most part these days. If there was a Yo Gabba Gabba magazine, that might be something I'd have to do, just to impress my daughter.
LAist: How does your approach to illustrating for The New Yorker differ from taking on an Optic Nerve drawing?
I think of myself as having two different jobs: cartooning and illustration. When I'm working on my comics, I have no editorial input, no deadlines, and no restrictions. I also try to put more of an emphasis on the writing and the content than on each individual drawing. I want them to look nice, of course, but they're really in service of the story, and need to be legible more than anything else. When I'm working on an illustration, I actually view it as more of a collaboration between me and the art director. There's criticisms, suggestions, and changes. There's always a deadline, and it's usually tighter than I'd like. And especially with something like a New Yorker cover, I really allow myself to try to draw as well as possible, lavishing a lot more attention on that single image than I would on a panel in my comic.
LAist: I read that your influences include Daniel Clowes and Jaime Hernandez...what attracts you to their work? Who/what are your other influences
I've often said that studying the work of Dan and Jaimeóand then getting to know them personallyówas like my equivalent of art school. I basically owe my whole career to those guys, in a lot of ways. I could go on and on about what I like about their work, but it makes more sense for people to just check it out themselves, if they haven't already. There's some cartoonists that I love, but I know that their work isn't really everyone's cup of tea. But I've never shown Dan or Jaime's work to anyone and had them not immediately see why it's so important to me.
As far as other influences, especially in regards to this new book, I should mention some of the great New Yorker illustrators that I've loved over the years. I already talked about Arno and Addams, but I'd also mention Ludwig Bemelmans, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Syd Hoff, Helen Hokinson, William Steig, and Saul Steinberg, just to name of few off the top of my head. Of the present-day artists, I'm always knocked out any time Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, or Richard McGuire do a cover. Actually, there's just too many to mention. I can't think of any other publication that has such an amazing track-record.
LAist: Were you ever a fan of traditional comic books from DC, Marvel, etc?
Of course! I first got interested in comics because of the superhero comics I bought from the corner store when I was a kid. And I loved everything: Marvel, DC, Archie, Harvey, Mad, etc. I was not at all discriminating. As long as it was in that language of comics, I wanted it.
LAist: You're originally from Sacramento/Northern California and now are based in NYC. Have you spent much time in LA? Are there any places (landmarks, watering holes, hikes) here that are go-to spots for you?
I've spent some time in LA, but not really as a tourist. I usually come to visit friends, or in the case of this week, I'm just making a quick stop on a book tour. So more than anything else, I think I'm most familiar with all the great comics and book stores of LA. Maybe some day I'll bring my whole family out here and finally check out the La Brea Tar Pits or something.
Tomine signs New York drawings tomorrow (Sunday, Oct 14) at 5 pm at Skylight Books.
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Two D+Q artists listed in Paste's Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up

Updated January 14, 2013


Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (10/4/12)
Published at 8:00 PM on October 4, 2012 BY HILLARY BROWN AND SEAN EDGAR
Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.

The Hive
by Charles Burns
Pantheon, 2012
Rating: 8.9

Iím not going to tell you that you canít read The Hive, Charles Burnsís second in a trilogy of shorter comics volumes that began with Xíed Out two years ago, without having read its predecessor. In fact, it may almost be a better place to start than at the beginning because of the disorientation that results from doing so. Where Xíed Out set up its drifting between dream and reality in a more conventional fashion, beginning in our world and setting up clear visual and thematic echoes between it and the realm of the unconscious, The Hive is more unsettling. The first quarter works like nesting dolls of fantasy, adding both dreamworld comics and their ďreal worldĒ counterparts to the mix, and as youíre jerked among the narratives, you canít find your footing, an experience both nauseating and somewhat pleasurable. Burns seems to be exploring a theme about the function of visual fantasy, but itís never obvious. Heís always been a genius at bringing out the gross side of the uncanny as heís focused on the desires our superegos do their best to quashóa Stephen King who says the horror is in us, not outside us, and more horrifying for thatóand this series is no exception. It will provoke both attraction and revulsion, often within the same panel, as well as a deeply felt sadness veering into depression, ďthe bad thingĒ David Foster Wallace wrote of. Intelligent, carefully crafted and emphatically not for everyone. (HB)

New York Drawings
by Adrian Tomine
Drawn + Quarterly, 2012
Rating: 7.6

More endearing than many of Tomineís earlier works, this volume from Drawn + Quarterly collects his illustrations, many made for the New Yorker and all focusing on the city to which he moved about seven years ago. Informative but not overly rich notes in the back provide context for many but not all of the images, which reproduce beautifully and more than make up a nice portfolio. There are a few multi-panel strips in here, some of which are quite lovely, warmer and more vulnerable than I tend to think of Tomine as being. The one in which he circulates at the magazineís holiday party, endlessly asking if people know where the coat check is to give himself a purpose, is glumly amusing. In some ways, itís as if Tomine is turning into a Harvey Pekar who can draw, a professional complainer who manages to entertain as he bitches. A whole book of this attitude might get old, though, which is why itís nice to have his drawings of Bob Pollard, Batman (drawn for Chip Kidd) and others in greater numbers. His sketches of people around New York are perhaps the greatest pleasure, far less polished than his finished work but more relatable because of it. The bookís not going to convert anyone, but itís a good record of work that otherwise might have been merely ephemeral. (HB)
 
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  Acclaim previews New York Drawings

Updated January 14, 2013


NEW YORK DRAWINGS BY ADRIAN TOMINE
EDITORIAL CARTOONIST, ADRIAN TOMINE, RELEASES A NEW BOOK OF WORK
Posted By ACCLAIM Staff | 25-Sep-2012

For over 10 years Adrian Tomine has been creating covers, illustrations and comics for the New Yorker. With a recognizable style, the illustrations have all been complied into a book titled ĎNew York Drawingsí. Every cover, illustration and comic features in the book along with some sketches and other images not seen before in the New Yorker. With a distinct style, Tomineís images are minimal yet memorable and are well known to many New Yorkers. Check out some pages above.
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Design Week calls New York Drawings, "something to be celebrated"

Updated January 14, 2013


New York Drawings

Wed, 17 Oct 2012 | By Emily Gosling

Adrian Tomine has become about as New York as a lox bagel prepared by Lou Reed atop the Empire State building. In short, very New York indeed.


New York Drawings cover, Adrian Tomine
The cartoonistís works have graced the pages and cover of The New Yorker for over a decade, and now the new book New York Drawings brings together every cover, comic and illustration heís ever produced for the publication.

The volume will also reveal a little about Tomineís practice, showing sketchy notes and dry, often hilarious annotations.


New York Drawings, Pacific St. Station (7/12/04), Adrian Tomine
FranÁoise Mouly, The New Yorker art editor, says, ĎAdrian Tomine arrives in New York, and we suddenly remember why we all love living in The Big City, whatever the hassles may be.

ĎTomineís wit is as sharp as his heart is tender, and his portrait of the city is not only intellectually stimulating, but also emotionally and aesthetically rewarding.í

The book opens with a very sweet, partially autobiographical cartoon of a star struck awkward Sacramento boy arriving in New York, in awe of the bustle and beauty of the city. Thereís more than a hint of New York poet Frank OíHara in text such as, Ďand now here I am: the holiday party for the New York Magazine!í


New York Drawings, ĎDouble Featureí (The New Yorker, August 24, 2009) Adrian Tomine
Tomineís urban vignettes turn quotidian incidents into something special Ė to a packed tube carriage, the girl who Ďdoesnít move a muscle for four stopsí, may seem unremarkable, but for Tomine, itís something to be wondered at.

Thereís the boy on the D Train going uptown, Ďsweating profuselyí; or the woman in the 3 Train Ďmaking subtle facial reactions as one Wall Street guy explains to another his plan for ďscoringĒ with his ex-girlfriend when she comes to visit.í


New York Drawings
Theyíre snippets of observation and conversation that would resonate with any city-dweller, but put through Tomineís witty, sharp lens, they become something to be celebrated.

And who knows, if youíve found yourself on a New York subway over the last decade, perhaps one of Tomineís characters is a portrait of you.

 
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  The List reviews the "lavish pages" of New York Drawings

Updated January 14, 2013


A beautiful and thought-nudging collection from the New York comic artist

Source: The List (Issue 705)
Date: 15 October 2012
Written by: Brian Donaldson

As a subway train passes another, a girlís eyes meets a boyís gaze across the electrified tracks. A clichťd moment is thankfully avoided as they just so happen to be reading the exact same book. Could an image get any more ĎAdrian Tomineí than that? Actually, yes, and there are plenty more where that came from in New York Drawings.

These lavish pages feature Tomineís collected illustrations, drawings and sketches which have adorned the covers and inside pages of The New Yorker since his published debut there in 1999 as well as CD cover work for the likes of Yo La Tengo and Luna. Resplendent with cool, literature-loving women and geeky, awkward men, his collection platforms a fondness for capturing life on the NYC underground in all its oddness and irritations: what do you do when you canít escape a nauseating macho conversation and should a guy help a woman struggling with a pushchair when his train is about to leave? Out on the hectic street, which businesswoman, if any, will back down with good grace as they hurtle towards a vacant cab and what can you say to the owner of a small bookshop next door when he catches you signing for an Amazon package?

Tomineís love of film culture is rampant here, featuring subtle images of Sean Penn, Orson Welles and James Gandolfini while thereís a tricky encounter between Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly. But ultimately the artistís own doubts and neuroses have the greatest impact as he worries about whether he should even be at a party thrown by (postmodern alert) The New Yorker and his loathing of eBooks is undermined by both the younger and older generations. A beautiful and thought-nudging collection.

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Comic Book Resources says New York Drawings "is filled to the brim with beautiful work"

Updated January 14, 2013


Mon, October 15th, 2012 at 9:08AM (PDT)
NEW YORK DRAWINGS
by Kelly Thompson,

As a big fan of Adrian Tomine's work, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of his "New York Drawings." Unfortunately, though the theme of "New York" ties everything together nicely and is clearly a subject matter that Tomine is passionate about, there's great variety when it comes to the quality of the work included.

Tomine always delivers at a high level, but seeing some of his much more detailed and well-considered drawings -- the ones that stand so effortlessly on their own and that "say" something about a variety of subjects (whether that be a love song to the city of New York or some deeper commentary) next to smaller less important sketches -- draws a sharp contrast that's a bit frustrating. The book is filled to the brim with beautiful work, but the bulk of it is made up of work he's contributed to "The New Yorker" over the last ten plus years. Most of those smaller works, when taken out of the context of the story they've been commissioned to illustrate, simply lose their impact. All of them remain lovely, but standing next to more important and more careful work makes them seem less than and it's an unfortunate comparison a reader can't help but draw.

That said, the covers and some of the larger more important New York illustrations are stunning, filled with Tomine's quiet style that is simultaneously precise and effortlessly loose, a quality not easily captured by many artists. Additionally, there's a fantastic section of rare and never-seen-before sketchbook work that's evocative and easily the strength of the book, next to his strips of course.

Though I've immensely enjoyed seeing Tomine's illustration work in "The New Yorker" over the years, and I hope that continues -- both for my benefit and for the steady work I'm sure it provides Tomine -- reading the few strips included here is a reminder that he is so much more than just a talented illustrator. He is an exceptional storyteller, one with a sharp self-deprecating and observational sense of humor that never ceases to make me laugh and think. Reading and absorbing this lovely book really leaves me yearning for more actual comics from Tomine. He's greatly missed, even though he's not really left us.
 
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Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

          



  Papermag reviews the "incredible compilation" of Adrian Tomine's work

Updated January 14, 2013


ADRIAN TOMINE'S WONDERFUL NEW YORK DRAWINGS
By Gary Pini

Artist, illustrator and frequent New Yorker contributor Adrian Tomine just released an incredible compilation of his comics, illustrations and sketches that highlight both the sense of loneliness/non-loneliness that comes with life in New York City. New York Drawings, his seventh book, is published by Montreal's Drawn and Quarterly press and features a decade of work from the California-born writer, now residing in Brooklyn. Tomine is wrapping-up a little tour to promote the book and will be in Berkeley, CA, at Pegasus Books on October 12; Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco on the 13th and in Los Angeles on the 14th at Skylight Books. He returns home for the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival on November 10th. Here's a little taste of NYC, as seen through the eyes of Mr. Tomine.
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Adrian Tomine

          



dig Boston interviews Adrian Tomine

Updated January 14, 2013


EARTH PRIME TIME: INTERVIEW: NEW YORKER COVER ARTIST ADRIAN TOMINE SIGNS ĎNEW YORK DRAWINGSí AT HARVARD BOOK STORE

Posted on October 3, 2012 by CLAY FERNALD

Contemporary comic book artist, writer, cartoonist and New Yorker cover artist Adrian Tomine signs his most current Drawn and Quarterly hardcover at Harvard Book Store tomorrow. New York Drawings is an anthology of New Yorker covers, record covers, and character sketches from in and around New York City. Adrian spend most of his life on the West Coast, cultivating a cult following for his Optic Nerve mini-comic. Here is an exclusive interview with Adrian touching upon his successes, the comic market, and insight into the process behind his signature clean line style.

Thanks for taking the time with us today, Adrian. The preface to New York Drawings is a short autobiographical strip wherein you find yourself at a New Yorker Christmas Party. Like a true artist, you find yourself full of self doubt, even at a point where you can be proud of your successes. Is there a lesson in humility there or was this a passing observation?
Well, I didnít intend for it to be didactic, but I suppose if someone is putting together a book of all their work for The New Yorker, it wouldnít hurt to add a drop or two of humility. Basically, itís just a little story Iíve had in the back of my mind for a while now, but didnít know what to do with.

I initially sat down to write a more traditional prose introduction for the book, and then it just seemed like it would be more interesting to do it as a comic.

Optic Nerve had itís origins as a self-published mini-comic. Do you feel like the kind of success you had at an early age in comics could be duplicated in the market today?
I think the market has changed so much since then that what was considered ďsuccessĒ for me at an early age wouldnít really register now. I was elated when five copies of my mini-comic sold at the local comic shopónow people can track the number of ďhitsĒ to their website, they get big advances for their first book, etc.

If I was any kind of success back then, it was mainly because the stakes were so low!


Adrian Tomine - New York Drawings Cover
Was the leap from autobiographical comics to more in-depth stories about other characters a natural move? In other words, how were you able to start writing more complex stories and building your Ďworldí? Did your English education at UC Berkeley drive your creative writing?
My college classes certainly exposed me to a lot of literature that wouldíve been too intimidating for me to tackle on my own, but I donít know that that had a direct influence on my comics. I mean, if you look at the stuff I was doing back then and then you look at the books I was reading for school, it would be pretty hard to find any kind of direct correlation.

I was reading the best literature ever created and I was drawing the worst comics of my career.

I think that progression towards longer, more fictionalized stories is really the result of a rather embarrassing competitive streak. I was watching a lot of other cartoonists achieve great success and acclaim with ambitious ďgraphic novels,Ē and I felt like I needed to try to at least get in the race. And now Iíve reverted back to short stories, so I guess we know now how that all played out.

Were you the first of your friends to get published and get attention for your work? Optic Nerve put you on the map as a young man.
You assume that I had friends! I actually started doing Optic Nerve in response to being an unlikeable teenage loner, so it wasnít like I was part of some cartooning community then. And when I did eventually make some friends in the comics world, they were basically already seasoned veterans, so any little accomplishment I mightíve experienced wasnít anything new to them.

You are also known for multiple record covers, illustrations, and your famous New Yorker covers. New York Drawings is a hardcover book composed of many of these covers, skits, and sketches. Even your sketches are of high quality and have a clean line. Are you still thrilled when you see The New Yorker on the newsstand with the logo typeset over your art?
I donít think that drawing a cover for The New Yorker is the kind of job I can ever take for granted or become blasť about, mainly because of all the work I do, itís the thing that still garners the biggest response by a wide margin.

If I told some in-law that I got nominated for a Harvey Award or whatever, they would have no idea what I was talking about.

But especially around here, The New Yorker is a big part of peopleís everyday life.


Adrian Tomine - Shortcomings page 21
You capture people in these little Ďmomentsí that life sets us up with. Does the young man help the struggling mom with a baby carriage? He seems like he wants to, but doesnít want to miss the train. Two readers are sharing the experience of reading the same book, stuck between stations, pausing for just a moment as their two trains are aside each other for a tiny second. These are moments that will make you feel alive and connected for a second, especially in a big city. Do you feel like an outsider in New York City? You appear to feel very at home after your transplant there.
Like most cartoonists, I think Iím kind of an observer no matter where I go. Even after living in Berkeley for fifteen years, I still felt like someone who had moved there from Sacramento. And itís the same thing here in New York.

Iíve lived here since 2004 and I still feel like the typical West Coast transplant who complains about the weather and the bad burritos.

Recently Iíve come across two of your books, Scenes from an Impending Marriage and Shortcomings. Impending Marriage was a short and fun read about you and your wife Sarah preparing your wedding. This honest and fun book gave nods to Family Circus and Peanuts while being set in the very real world nightmare of picking guests and a DJ for the wedding. In stark contrast, Shortcomings was the story of a man sorting out why his relationships suffer. In Shortcomings, there is humor, but the laughs are more subtle and conversational. Also, race, gender, and sexuality play a huge part in Ben Tanakaís biases in the book. Does your writing and planning process change to adapt to the kind of book you are working on?
Of course, yeah. When I was writing Shortcomings, I went out of my way to block out thoughts of how it would be received. I knew it was the kind of book that would suffer the more I worried about a hypothetical audienceís reaction. Whereas with the wedding book, I had a very specific target audience (the guests at our wedding) in mind completely, and I was basically trying to create something theyíd enjoy.


'Guest List' Adrian Tomine - Scenes from and Impending Marriage
Do you draw digitally or with pen and ink?
I do all my drawing with ink on paper, and just use computers to color the artwork.


Many will continue to aspire to reach some of the creative milestones you have under your belt, Adrian. Please continue to inspire. In what ways do you see challenging yourself next? Do you have any book projects coming up?
Iím working on a book of short stories in comics form, and Iím challenging myself to approach each story in some different way.

I chose this format mainly because I have a two-year-old daughter at home now, and getting any kind of work done is something of a challenge.

But I think it will be a useful book for me because in a lot of ways, Iím still trying to figure out what my own style is, and itís nice to not feel locked into one big story for the next five years.


Adrian Tomine - WFMU, New York Drawings
ADRIAN TOMINE DISCUSSES NEW YORK DRAWINGS

THU 10.4.12
HARVARD BOOK STORE
CAMBRIDGE
617.661.1515
7PM/ FREE
 
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Adrian Tomine

          



  New York Times Magazine calls New York Drawings "elegant and minimal"

Updated January 14, 2013


Bookshelf | New York State of Mind
By George Gene Gustines
October 2, 2012

ďNew York Drawings,Ē a new hardcover from Drawn & Quarterly that is out today, is a wonderful celebration of the artwork of the cartoonist Adrian Tomine. The book is filled with his work from The New Yorker as well as some of his comics and sketches. The book achieves a great balance between allowing the drawings room to breathe and a notes section that details how the assignments came about and the artistís process.

The cover for the book, ďMissed Connections,Ē which is pictured, was Tomineís first cover for The New Yorker. ďIím sure it never wouldíve happened without the tireless coaxing and immeasurable guidance of art editor FranÁoise Mouly,Ē he writes. ďThe main thing that FranÁoise stressed throughout the process was that the image should contain at least a kernel of a story ó not necessarily a Ďgag,í but something beyond just a pretty picture ó and I think itís that quality that made this drawing resonate with people.Ē Indeed, as someone who reads a lot of graphic novels and who often finds himself focusing more on the words than the pictures, I had a different experience of reading ďNew York DrawingsĒ: I lingered over the illustrations and imagined the narratives that could go along with them. One other image, in particular, stayed with me: ďBe Kind,Ē in which a commuter must decide to get on his train or help a woman up the stairs with her baby stroller.

The book was designed by Jonathan Bennet, and it was Tomineís first time working with a designer. ďIíve always designed all my books from cover to cover,Ē he said. ďThis was the one that I thought would really benefit from an objective eye.Ē The results are pleasing: the book feels elegant and minimal, and avoids any temptations to cram too much onto every page.

ďNew York DrawingsĒ is also a testament, in part, to Tomineís move from the West Coast to the East coast. Tomine was born in California and went to college in Berkeley. ďItís hard to be objective about the two places,Ē he said. ďWhen I was in Berkeley, I was living alone, in a crummy student-styled apartment. It has a lonely, gloom-type of memory. In New York, Iím married and I have a 3-year-old daughter, so I associate New York with a happier, more fulfilling part of my life.Ē He has tried to express his frustrations with the change ó including his struggle to acclimate to the climate ó in his illustrations, to mixed results. One image, ďWaiting It Out,Ē depicts New Yorkers waiting at the base of the subway stairs for the rain to stop. Tomine thought of it as an unpleasantly scented stairwell. Others had a different reaction: ďWhat a beautiful, romantic image of the city,Ē he recalled. ďYou really know all the things that we love about the city.Ē

Tomineís book tour in support of ďNew York DrawingsĒ continues tonight at McNally Jackson Books at 7 p.m.
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Adrian Tomine

          



BoingBoing describes New York Drawings as a "vibrant... portrait"

Updated January 14, 2013


Comics Rack: Boing Boing's comic books picks for October
Brian Heater at 9:20 am Mon, Oct 1

There have been all of, what, three issues of Optic Nerve published in the past decade? Adrian Tomine, youíre given those of us in the indie comics trenches some serious abandonment issues here -- those of us who cite the series along with Eightball and Hate and Love & Rockets as the books that helped up our eyes to the potential of this medium in high school and college. Oh, we know why you havenít been around a lot. We get it it. We live in a world where making a living as a cartoonist is a tricky proposition even for someone whose convention lines wrap around to the other side of the room. And yeah, if we thought for a minute that The New Yorker wanted what we were selling, weíd drop everything in an instant -- and once they did, tales about angsty 20-year-olds might not have the same resonance.

But then you open this collection and realize Tomine is still Tomine. That the sequential floppies have mostly morphed into single-page illustrations (which, wild guess, likely pay orders of magnitude more than full issues ever did), but the cartoonist has used this opportunity to condense short stories into single panel tales. Yeah, some of the content is likely just commissioned supplementals for othersí text stories that do most of the heavy lifting, but divorced of text, Tomine has become a master of conveying real world complexities in the context of a single frame. And as you stare and search, the book store is changed from a stationary object for coffee tables and dusty bookshelves into something more vibrant -- not quite a graphic novel per se, but a portrait, certainly, of the world around him.
 
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Adrian Tomine

          



  FlavorWire recommends Tomine's beautiful New York Drawings

Updated January 14, 2013


Preview Adrian Tomineís ĎNew York Drawingsí
By Emily Temple on Sep 29, 2012

In Adrian Tomineís New York, strangers in two passing subway cars connect, or next door neighbors bashfully turn away from each other, children gaze wistfully at the cityscape or cautiously at its streets, people are all alone, yet inevitably, irrepressibly connected. Tomineís New York Drawings, which hits bookstores early next week, collects a decade of illustrations, sketches, drawings and, perhaps most recognizably, covers of The New Yorker in a beautiful single volume. Weíve picked out a few of our favorite illustrations (the first slide is this writerís favorite cover of The New Yorker, bar none) after the jump. Click through to get just a taste of this great book, and if you happen to be in New York next week, you might consider stopping by to see the artist on October 2nd at McNally Jackson Ė otherwise, catch him at another stop on his tour.
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Adrian Tomine

          



In-depth review of Adrian Tomine's OPTIC NERVE!

Updated February 28, 2012


Comics Time: Optic Nerve #12 (Review)

By Sean Collins
Attention Deficit Disorderly
Feb. 16th, 2012

Man, is this thing ever happy to be a comic book.

The format of a comic doesn‚Äôt matter to me a whole lot, unless the format in question is notably detrimental to the comic it houses. I like the idea of serial alternative comic book series mostly for the promise of seeing a lot of work from alternative cartoonists on a regular basis, but today that need is met by the web. (Which can‚Äôt meet all needs, to be sure ‚ÄĒ it doesn‚Äôt meet the need of retailers to have that kind of material showing up fresh every few months and consequently attracting a different clientele to the shops on Wednesdays, but that‚Äôs not my bailiwick.) But in Optic Nerve #12, Adrian Tomine reminded me what can make an alt-comic such an attractive and pleasurable way of packaging material, something not even the most well-stocked RSS reader can provide.

In addition to the usual letters page, its weirdly personal mix of praise and criticism as po-facedly selected as always, the issue consists of three comics. The first, ‚ÄúHortisculpture,‚ÄĚ feels like an homage to the apparently final two issues of the greatest of the alternative comic books, arguably the two best single alternative comic book issues by anyone: Dan Clowes‚Äôs Eightball #22 and #23. Like them, the story is constructed from individual self-contained strips, in this case a full ‚Äúweek‚ÄĚ‚Äės worth: six black-and-white four-panel strips plus a full-color ‚ÄúSunday‚ÄĚ page, over and over till the end of the story. Said story recounts a family-man landscaper‚Äôs quixotic career detour into the world of contemporary art via his own unique blend of sculpture and horticlture, an unappreciated (arguably unappreciatable) hybrid his pursuit of which upends his life. As a crypto-autobiography it‚Äôs a corker ‚ÄĒ a keyed-up, hyperreal representation of the travails of Tomine‚Äôs chosen form of self-imposed artistic marginalization. It‚Äôs as engrossing to watch him work his way through as, say, Gabrielle Bell‚Äôs similar fictionalizations of her family life. (Plus it allows Tomine‚Äôs customary preoccupation with the intersection of race and romance a new, markedly less hostile environment in which to flower.) Things have gone a lot better for the cartoonist than the hortisculptor, to be sure ‚ÄĒ the former just received some of the best notices of his career for the wide release of the comics he made about his marriage to the mother of his kid, while our last glimpse of the latter is of he and his daughter gleefully smashing his work to smithereens ‚ÄĒ but the anxieties underlying the worst-case-scenario comic are obviously real, and really funny. And once again like Clowes, in Eightball #22 and later in Wilson, Tomine‚Äôs working with a much ‚Äúcartoonier‚ÄĚ style ‚ÄĒ a curvier line, bulbous noses, dot eyes, doughier physiques ‚ÄĒ that enjoyably invokes similar work from Sammy Harkham or Chuck Forsman. It feels right, somehow, to look at art like this on a staple-bound page.

Next up is that staple of one-man anthology series, the reprint from some other anthology. In this case it‚Äôs Tomine‚Äôs ‚ÄúAmber Sweet‚ÄĚ from the broadsheet-sized Kramers Ergot 7, attractively scaled down to the size of the floppy comic, its muted color scheme even more clearly centered around the nutmeg-colored hair of the young woman who discovers she‚Äôs the spitting image of the titular porn star. ‚ÄúSweet‚ÄĚ is fascinating to me in that it‚Äôs about how unsexy sex can be: our protagonist‚Äôs love life, and more besides, is basically destroyed by her resemblance to Amber, a resemblance the men in her life are either daunted by or way too into. Tomine‚Äôs perhaps uniquely suited to explore this plight: his cartooning is as sexy as it gets, I‚Äôve always found ‚ÄĒ his line elegant, his compositions enticingly icy, his character designs very attractive, from Amber and her never-named doppelganger on down ‚ÄĒ but his work relentlessly cuts against that with the awkwardness and selfishness of his characters. Here we see a beautiful girl who looks like another beautiful girl who makes her living by taking her clothes off and having sex have sex herself as drawn by one of alternative comics‚Äô great unsung sensualists, but the story denies us the pleasure on every possible level. It‚Äôs a blast to watch Tomine so successfully negotiate that obstacle course on the way to the story‚Äôs knockout ending, a beautiful and satisfying opening-up of the story‚Äôs emotional claustrophobia.

The third and final strip ‚ÄĒ two pages, 20-panel grids ‚ÄĒ is Tomine‚Äôs Lament, pretty much, a self-effacing mock-autobiographical strip about Tomine as ‚ÄúThe Last Pamphleteer,‚ÄĚ his adherence to the alt-comic format earning him the laughter of his peers and the indifference of his audience. And here, perhaps, he‚Äôs trying a little too hard. Throwing ‚Äútweet‚ÄĚ into sneer quotes as if the term is an affectation instead of just, y‚Äôknow, email or website; saying things like ‚ÄúI even liked it when the artist was obviously just trying to fill a few extra pages, and you‚Äôd get a pointless, dashed-off autobio strip or something!‚ÄĚ, as if both he and we didn‚Äôt notice that he had to cram this thing onto the inside back cover to get it to fit; using D&Q publicist Peggy Burns as an antagonist, as if he weren‚Äôt still core Drawn and Quarterly artist Adrian Tomine; setting up Anders Nilsen and Kate Beaton as models for the new book-driven publishing model, as if they too weren‚Äôt primarily collecting work they published in smaller chunks elsewhere‚ĶHe doth protest too much, and while the result is amusing, who needs it? He‚Äôs Adrian Tomine. He writes great and draws great and is as good at using his chosen format as anyone else is at using theirs. That‚Äôs all you need.
 
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Adrian Tomine

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Optic Nerve #12




  IT'S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON'T WEAKEN and SHORTCOMINGS among the Guardian's 10 Best Graphic Novels

Updated January 12, 2012


October 30, 2011
Rachel Cooke

Itís a Good Life, If You Donít Weaken

Seth (1996)

Seth - the pen name of the Canadian comic artist Gregory Gallant - is perhaps best known as the designer of the complete Charles M Schultzís Peanuts (25 volumes so far). But he is a star in his own right, too. Itís A Good LifeÖ was originally serialised in his comic Palookaville, and details its authorís obsessional quest to discover more about Kalo, an elusive New Yorker cartoonist from the 1940s (whether this is fact or fiction, Iím not telling). Wry, funny and shot through with nostalgia, Sethís sepia tones have an autumnal, elegiac quality all their own.


Shortcomings

Adrian Tomine (2007)

This is the tale of Ben Tanaka and Miko Hayashi and what happens to their relationship when Miko moves temporarily to New York. Miko is a somewhat earnest political activist who is deeply involved in American-Asian cultural issues. Ben is a 30-year-old theatre manager who resents being boxed in culturally, and who has a wandering eye, especially when it comes to Caucasian women. Left behind in Berkeley, and egged on by his randy friend, Alice, Ben basically goes a little nuts. A fantastic book about race, sex and modern life, itís as dry as a good martini.
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Featured artists

Seth
Adrian Tomine

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It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken (PB)
Shortcomings (PB)




Adrian Tomine interviewed on KPCC

Updated January 12, 2012


November 1, 2011
The Madeleine Brad Show


Writer and illustrator Adrian Tomine recently published the highly-anticipated twelfth installment of his comics series, "Optic Nerve." Tomine has helped redefine the graphic novel genre with his stories about average people. Mainly, single people in their twenties and thirties struggling to find some kind of meaning or connection in their lives. Tomine will discuss "Optic Nerve," as well as his other work with Madeleine.

Guest:
Adrian Tomine has published many books. His art has graced New Yorker covers and albums of bands like Weezer and Luna.

Listen to the show here!
 
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Adrian Tomine

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Optic Nerve #12




  CBR advises comic newbies where to start, with SHORTCOMINGS and PAYING FOR IT

Updated January 12, 2012


November 9, 2011
Sonia Harris

How to get new readers addicted to comic booksÖ People who have never read a comic book often ask me where to start. Sometimes the question is only half serious, more of a sort of bewildered curiosity about what I could possibly get out of it. Maybe because of this column or because my house is filled with comic book ephemera, but people come to me when they want to start and Iím starting to see some patterns about where they like to start, and it isnít with superheroes.

Across the board, people whoíve never read comic books before are (at least initially) completely turned off by superheroes. From what I can gather, the way theyíre reading comic books is already challenging enough, asking them to also buy into the idea of spending time reading about people in tight costumes asking too much. Even the comic books that Iíve come to think of as crowd pleasers because they appeal to such a huge variety of readers, like Batwoman or All-Star Superman are just met with a casual brush off.

Despite the plethora of superhero movies, Iíve found that there is still a certain amount of surprise that a grown woman like myself would actually read about them. The stigma of reading superhero comic books is alive, albeit in a slightly less aggressive form.

It is one thing to ask a new reader to buy into taking reading words and imagery, it is another to ask them to also get into a (supposedly) juvenile area like superheroes. It doesnít matter if they like so-called escapist movies with action and science fiction elements, theyíre still going to have some hang ups about the superhero genre. Thatís fine, theyíre be plenty of time to feed them the greats. Initially we just want to take their interest past the amused curiosity and into genuine personal involvement. At most, they might read a crime, fairy tale or horror book, but initially at least, the fastest way to get them to take comic books seriously is to show them books which are as close to real life as possible.

Here is a short list of books which have been my entry point for a number of new readers. These are books which have been happily bought by the people I recommended them to, although I would also recommend these as gifts too, as they are so well made.


Shortcomings
Adrian Tomineís slice of relationship moratorium is a great place for people to start. First of all, they literally always can follow the rule of reading from left to right and top to bottom. He doesnít break this rule and so new readers actually have a chance to get comfortable reading a comic book for the first time. For men or women, at best they recognize the path not taken or at worst, they feel a kinship with these misguided but lovingly depicted people. Most importantly the book is stylish and understated, never asking the reader to make any weird steps out of their own perception of reality. This is relatable and funny and pretty enough to draw people to it. Tomine really ought to design more covers; books, fashion magazines, whatever. Overall, he has a lovely way of creating very normal looking characters and making their lives seem special. It is a feeling which he managed to impart to the mundane life of the reader, allowing us to see the rhythms and beats of the art in our everyday lives.

Paying For It
Chester Brownís diary of being a ďjohnĒ, wherein he writes of his own experiences with prostitutes, not in a lascivious way, but in a rather detached way, as a complete alternative from the messy and challenging business of romantic relationships. A controversial book, in many ways I think that this book was written by Chester Brown simply so that heíd have an excuse to disseminate his long essay in the back (documenting his own feelings about the legality of prostitution.) That aside, I still think it is fascinating. A bit dismal and bizarre, but still fascinating. I would hate to be this man or have his life, or even have to interact with him for any sustained amount of time, but stillÖ there is no other way I can imagine getting this much information revealed to me. He is totally vulnerable and open about his depressing life and it makes for great reading.
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Chester Brown
Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (PB)
Paying For It




OPTIC NERVE #12 is top of Playback:stl's 2011 list!

Updated January 11, 2012


January 10, 2012
Steve Higgins

1. Optic Nerve (W / A: Adrian Tomine; Drawn and Quarterly)
Adrian Tomine has only put out one single issue of his comic in the last three years, yet Optic Nerve #12 was easily the best comic released in 2011. It had humor, it had poignant human interactions, it was beautifully drawn, it was insightfully written. The question people ask should not be ďwhy canít Tomine put out his comics faster?Ē It should be ďif other artists worked at Tomineís pace, would their work rise to his skill level?Ē

Honorable mentions go to Imageís Chew and Oniís The Sixth Gun. They topped my last year, and they continued to be excellent reads this year as well. Greg Ruckaís take on The Punisher brought the character back to basics with great results, while Peter Milliganís version of John Constantine in Hellblazer has taken the character in new and interesting directions. Jeff Lemire is also having a fantastic year, not just with his contributions to the New 52 books from DC but also with his continued ongoing Vertigo series Sweet Tooth, which featured a spectacular three-part story this year with guest art by St. Louisí own Matt Kindt. Finally, speaking of the New 52, DC really knocked it out of the park with their relaunch, creating a ton of new series that featured some of the most solid storytelling in comics. In fact, the new 52 books have been so great, they deserve a list of their ownÖ | Steve Higgins
 
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Adrian Tomine

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Optic Nerve #12




  Adrian Tomine's signed SCENES for a good cause

Updated January 10, 2012


A bit late to get a copy, but read on nonetheless!

November 29, 2011
Deb Aoki

COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: SIGNED AND PERSONALIZED GRAPHIC NOVELS FOR GIVING
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund offers legal support to comics creators, retailers and readers in some pretty challenging times. With the case of Brandon X looming (the U.S. manga reader who had his laptop searched at the US/Canada border and is now facing possible jail time), the CBLDF needs your support more than ever.

This holiday season, 25 top comics creators are offering to sign and personalize copies of their graphic novels for the perfect gift for the comics reader on your list. Get a copy of Sandman signed by Neil Gaiman, a Walking Dead graphic novel signed by Robert Kirkman, or even Adrian Tomine's charming Scenes from an Impending Marrriage is a great gift for any newlywed or soon-to-be wed friend.

Check out the full list of comics creators and graphic novels at CBLDF's "Spirit of Giving" campaign page. But hurry, you'll need to place your order by December 5, 2011 to get your books in time for holiday giving. As an added bonus, The Will and Ann Eisner Foundation will make a donation for every donation made to CBLDF as a part of this campaign.
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Adrian Tomine

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Scenes from an Impending Marriage




Austin Chronicle highly recommends OPTIC NERVE #12

Updated January 9, 2012


September 30, 2011
Wayne Alan Brenner

Who needs it hard all the time?
*cough*

Just because this new volume of short stories by Adrian Tomine
(AKA the comix worldís second coming of Raymond Carver)
isnít a perfectbound bastion of bookcase-puffing proportions,
that doesnít mean that its contents arenít as deep and deft
as that of what some people are calling graphic novels
these days.

In fact, since itís published by Drawn & Quarterly,
that doesnít even mean that, despite the bookís being
saddle-stitched and relatively thin, itís other than perfectly printed
on fine thick paper befitting the creatorís superlative design.

Your sweetheart's skin should have such lovely texture.
But, okay, never mind that Ė

Look: Tomine, whose style may be recognizable to you
from numerous New Yorker cover and interior illustrations
if not from his previous, longer works (Summer Blonde
and Shortcomings, say), offers two main stories in this issue.

ďA Brief History of the Art Form Known as ĎHortisculptureíĒ
is a look at a would-be artist trying to get some recognition & respect
for the creations heís become obsessed with bringing into the world;
itís lighter and funnier than the typical Tomine-eye-view of angst-ridden youth
(and, whoa, there are no angst-ridden youth in this story) and rendered in a style
that nods to the drawings and panels of newspaper funnies
by way of telegraphing its relative levity.

ďRelative levity,Ē we say, although itís often fucking hilarious.

Kind of like, weíre thinking, the Best Episode Ever of some modern, arts-oriented version of
"The Life of RileyĒ starring William Bendix as Riley, from radioís Golden Age.

No, really.

And the other story Ė ďAmber SweetĒ Ė is more along the lines
of what weíve come to expect, atmospherically and stylistically,
from this precise teller of tales: A young woman dealing with
being a dead ringer for a well-known porn star.

Oy, girl, what a world.

The rest of Optic Nerve #12 is taken up with a letters column,
wherein the authorís fans write in to congratulate or castigate him,
and an autobiographical comic about the various consequences
of releasing this sweet collection as a floppy.

ďThis sweet collection,Ē we say, because itís highly recommended.

And because, if more ďfloppiesĒ were this gorgeously produced, weíd be less likely
to wait around for any eventual hardcover compilations that might see the light of day.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

           Featured product

Optic Nerve #12




  CBR interviews Adrian Tomine

Updated January 3, 2012


November 29, 2011
Jorge Khoury


As we get older and the seasons change colors, most of our friends move forward with their lives by entering marriage and building their own families. Inevitably, many of them won't have the time to hang out at their old stomping grounds and fraternize like they once did. With time and distance, the only thing left are warm memories as we think about them, now and then.

It had been three or four years since the last issue (#11) arrived, and after hearing of his wedding in the pages of "Scenes from an Impending Marriage" I sadly assumed that Adrian Tomine's "Optic Nerve" had ended. I thought that the days of writing and drawing biting sagas of unfulfilled romance and despair were over for him. Thankfully, I was wrong. Amongst the DC Comics Reborn hullabaloo in September, there it finally was -- "Optic Nerve" #12 -- and it was more than worth the wait.

The series, published by Drawn and Quarterly, originally began in 1991 as a self-published effort by a teenage Adrian Tomine. All of the Drawn and Quarterly issues have been lavishly designed and collected within three books ("Sleepwalk and Other Stories", "Summer Blonde" and "Shortcomings"). And with his latest issue, Tomine continues to prove that as a writer and artist he's unafraid to push himself towards wherever his creative inspirations take him.

Pop!: The last issue of "Optic Nerve" came out in 2007.

Adrian Tomine: Oh, god, that's depressing. Well, let's try not to dwell on that, okay? Next question!

Were there times over the last several years when you contemplated ending the series?

Well, there were times when I was afraid that I would be forced to end the series, especially as I watched pretty much all of my favorite cartoonists move on to different formats, either by choice or due to demands of the industry. For whatever reason, I still have a real attachment to the old-fashioned comic book, and I'm eternally grateful to Drawn & Quarterly for allowing me to continue to work this way.

Tomine chronicles "A Brief History of the Art Form Known as 'Hortisculpture'" in a series of intriguing newpaper-like cartoon strips.
Were there particular reasons for the hiatus?

Yes, there were quite a few reasons. After finishing "Shortcomings," I felt like it was a chance for me to take a little break from the schedule I'd been on for the past few years and do other kinds of work: illustration, screenwriting, some regular prose writing, etc. Things I'd been interested in but put aside in order to finish "Shortcomings," basically. Some of this stuff saw the light of day, a lot of it didn't, but I think it was all useful in some way. I also took care of some other things I'd been putting off, namely moving across the country, getting married, and starting a family.

When I finally sat down to work on my next comics project, I felt obligated to attempt a real "graphic novel." I was looking at these giant tomes that some of my peers were working on, and I felt really envious of that kind of achievement. It also just seemed like that was the direction everything was moving in, and my old habit of publishing short stories in the comic book format was already an anachronism. So I pursued that for awhile, doing a lot of the kind of preparatory work which is actually the hardest part for me, and the whole time I had these nagging thoughts like, "Do I really want to work on this for ten years? Do I want to draw and write in the same way for that long? Does the material really merit that much of an investment?"

I actually completed about twenty pages of this material -- completely written, drawn, and colored -- and I still couldn't shake the growing suspicion that I was headed down the wrong path. The scope of the project was completely draining any amount of joy from the work for me. Then when my daughter was born and I essentially became a stay-at-home dad, that really changed everything. I felt like that needed to be the main focus of my life for the time being, and I'd need to find a way of working that would accommodate that. So returning to short stories seemed like the right solution, and now I honestly think that, at least at this point in my life, it's the mode that I'm best suited to. I love being able to draw twenty pages in one style, finish that story, then start the next one completely fresh.

With most of your prior stories, issues with the nature of young despair, romances, sex and relationships were at the forefront. As a regular reader, this new entry seemed like a bit of a radical departure in style, tone and format -- was that an intended effect and the sort of reaction you wanted fans of the book to have with the newspaper comic strip presentation of "Hortisculpture?"

Yes, it was very much a conscious choice. Even though I received some nice feedback for "Shortcomings," I was aware that the last thing people wanted from me after that was more of the same. I'd mined a certain vein long enough, so to speak, and I think some readers would've just given up on me if issue twelve was the start of, say, "Shortcomings, Part 2."

"Amber Sweet" involves a young lady facing the burden of looking eerily similar to a porn actress and the personal repercussions that come with being seen as just a sex object.
What triggered the cartoony approach to "Hortisculpture?"

I was influenced by all the great comic strip reprint projects that have been going on recently, especially "Peanuts," "Walt & Skeezix," "Little Orphan Annie," and some of those giant books from Sunday Press. It also just had to do with trial and error. I think I spent a lot of my early career trying to distance myself from some of the more "comic book-y" techniques of the medium, maybe because I wanted so badly to be "taken seriously" or something. But I realized how foolish and weirdly self-hating that was, especially when I found myself having real emotional reactions to things like "Walt & Skeezix" and also being kind of grossed out by some of the more earnest, "realist" comics that had come along. I don't know if that "Hortisculpture" story is entirely successful as it is, but I'm pretty sure it works a lot better than if I had drawn it in a dead-serious, photo-realistic style. And it goes without saying that those classic strips are a great example of using humor and silly drawings as a means of probing some pretty dark aspects of life.

Like your character Harold, do you still find yourself, as an artist, constantly asking why you do what you do, the plight and cost of art on an individual and those around him or her? Do you often question the need to share these stories with your audience as you mature?

Another mandate I set for myself when I started issue #12 was to move away from autobiography, or more to the point, seemingly-thinly-veiled autobiography. I have only myself to blame, but I wasn't prepared for how much that would be the focus of the reaction to "Shortcomings." It was kind of tough when I realized that everyone assumed the main character was me -- and they hated him! I think to a degree that little dance I was doing -- baiting people into thinking about me as the author of the story -- kind of overshadowed a lot of the work I put into the actual writing and drawing. So I tried to move into a more fictional realm, to write about people and situations that were different from my own life, and to just basically allow for a little more creative license. And when I finished the issue, I had the feeling that, if nothing else, I'd achieved that goal. And, of course, a lot of the response I've received has been people trying to "decode" that "Horstisculpture" story, figuring out how various things correspond to my real life and whatnot, and some of my closest friends have actually told me that they thought it was like the most nakedly autobiographical thing I've ever done.

"Amber Sweet" was seemingly the most familiar in tone to your prior work. In it you had a woman who men could not see beyond her outward appearance because of her resemblance to the porn actress Amber Sweet. Were there any particular reasons why you felt this story belonged within this issue?

Did you think it didn't belong in the issue? My hope is that it's an okay story, or at least that it's still different enough from my previous work that it doesn't seem repetitive, but I suppose I'm not the best judge. I guess I thought it was an intriguing idea, and it was a way to play around with some of the issues of subjective narration.

In Tomine's final brilliant strip of the book, he pontificates his place in this comics industry.
In your closing strip, you seem to be having a tough time with all the changes that have happened in the comics industry -- do you feel out of place in today's market? And with release of issue #12, do you remain committed to making "floppies" over doing a "graphic novel?"

I've always felt out of place in the market! My plan is to release several more similarly-formatted issues of "Optic Nerve," collect those stories into a book, and then take it from there. I mean, I'm still very envious of these monumental achievements some of my peers are making with their gigantic graphic novels, but I have to accept my fate for now.

Has maturity given you the confidence to trust your readers to follow along to wherever your work takes you? Do you see future issues taking "Optic Nerve" into more unpredictable possibilities?

I don't know if it's confidence or just not worrying too much. "Optic Nerve" has always been something of a labor of love, so if I can't use it as a venue for doing exactly what I want, I might as well spend my time doing illustration work. At some of the recent signings I've done, I've had the pleasure of meeting readers who've been following the series since the very beginning, and that's really amazing and gratifying to me.

When might readers expect your next issue?

It won't be as long of a wait as it was for issue #12! Because of the nature of my day-to-day life now, I'm in the totally novel position of having a backlog of stories written and roughed out, and the main hold-up is finding the time to draw the finished artwork. So it's still a little frustrating, but it's a lot better than where I was three years ago.
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Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

          



Readings lists HARK!, SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE among best of 2011

Updated January 3, 2012


November 28, 2011
Fiona Hardy and Andrew McDonald

Hark! A Vagrant
Kate Beaton
One of the internetís best webcomics comes to print form: Kate Beatonís illustrations, seen in publications like The New Yorker, are casual, loose sketches done to perfection. From Nancy Drew mysteries (based off the covers alone) to historical figures behaving badly to reality-based Mystery Solving Teens (they do a lot of smoking), youíll laugh, youíll learn, youíll be glad you bought it. Ė Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage
Adrian Tomine
The sheer act of planning a wedding can be overwhelming for anyone on the outside, and now we have Adrian Tomine and his clean drawing style to lead us through the quirks and pitfalls (and name-censored conversations about who to invite) that come with getting hitched. Small, snappy and great fun. Ė Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Scenes from an Impending Marriage
Hark! A Vagrant




  Adam Cadwell names SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE best comic of 2011

Updated January 3, 2012


December 22, 2011
Adam Cadwell

Comics:
1 Ė Scenes From An Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly).
Although this had a spine, you could never call it a graphic novel, itís a comic. Tomine hones his wryly amusing observational style and draws seemingly effortlessly in a looser style that suits it really well. It is somehow curmudgeonly and sentimental all at once. Itís an honest and sweet story of Tomine and his wife made for the guests at their wedding and never intended for publication. I feel lucky to have been able to read such a personal work of art.
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Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

           Featured product

Scenes from an Impending Marriage




A bit belated, but HARK!, PAYING FOR IT, SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE make holiday gift guide!

Updated January 3, 2012


December 6, 2011
Josh Christie

For the friend with a double-major in History and English:

Have a friend that would rather read about the crew of the Nautilus battling a squid than Batman* fighting the Joker? Give them Kate Beatonís new collection, Hark! A Vagrant (Drawn and Quarterly, 19.95). The book collects the best of Beatonís web comic, along with previously unpublished content and additional commentary. Beaton draws heavily on historical figures and classic literature, marrying them with filthy language, absurdity and non-sequiturs. Some of the strips may fall a bit flat if you arenít well-versed in the historical bits, but thereís something here for everyone to love.
* If your friend does need at least a little Batman, the book contains the awesome Sexy Batman strips.

For the friend who doesnít mind incredibly challenging content:

Want a book that will make someone question their moral code? Give them Paying for It (Drawn and Quarterly, 24.95) by Chester Brown. Brownís memoir is an unflinching and honest look at the years he spent frequently employing prostitutes in his home city in Canada. Or, at least, the first 200 pages are. Brown, a former Libertarian political candidate, devotes the back half of the book to a polemic on why prostitution should be decriminalized. Itís a tough read, especially if you donít share Brownís views, but itís an important book that takes an unblinking look at both the subject of prostitution and the memoirist himself.

For the friend tying the knot in 2012:

For those of you planning on popping the question, keep in mind that choosing to get married is the easy part. The planning of the wedding? Thatís where coupledom really gets tested. In his slim hardcover Scenes from an Impending Marriage (Drawn and Quarterly, 9.95), Adrian Tomine looks at his nuptials in a series of short vignettes. This isnít as draining as Optic Nerve, or as dark as most of Tomineís other work. Instead, itís a book that just oozes charm and sweetness. The topics of the comics donít sound engaging (registering, designing invitations, choosing a DJ), but they provide a window into the personalities of Sarah and Adrian, and you pick up enough bit about their personalities that they feel like old friends by the time you hit the wedding day. At under $10, a great stocking for the recently engaged or for the married comic fan, who will surely find echoes of their own wedding in the pages.
 
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Adrian Tomine
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Scenes from an Impending Marriage
Paying For It
Hark! A Vagrant




  Adrian Tomine interviewed in Rumpus Spotlight Series

Updated December 29, 2011


December 29, 2011
Emma Silvers

Like most things I liked when I was 16, I first got into Adrian Tomineís comics because of my older sister, who let me borrow her early issues of Optic Nerve. The series began as a set of self-published mini-comics, Xeroxed and distributed by Tomine when as a teenager in Sacramento. By the late 90s, though he had left his own adolescence behind, his protagonists generally hadnít. They are introverted, creative, awkward souls, and unsurprisingly, the world they inhabit felt closer to the one I lived in than Dawsonís Creek did.

Fast-forward a decade, and Tomineís illustrations regularly appear on New Yorker covers; in the world of graphic novels, heís a household name. He published two books in 2011: an illustrated collection of the trials and tribulations leading up to his marriage, and the long-awaited Optic Nerve #12. In between the two, I had the opportunity to pick his brain on fatherhood, his aversion to e-books, and the evolution of comics over the past decade.

***

Rumpus: So much has changed in comics since you started publishing. If a teenager these days feels alienated and needs something to relate to, do they even walk into comic book shops anymore, or are they doing something on the Internet that I donít even about?

Adrian Tomine: I guess Iím afraid itís more the latter than the former. Look, thereís no denying that comics have moved dramatically into the mainstream in North American culture in the last 10 years, and for someone like me whoís always tried to make a living at it, itís been great, Iím very grateful for it. But at the same time, itís not a subculture-y thing anymore; itís something thatís in the New York Times and the New Yorker. And with this sort of increased visibility, thereís more money going around in the industry, and it changes a lot, in terms of who gets into the business as a creator, who sticks with it, and who gets pushed out. And I do think itís sort of too bad that what once was a safe haven for truly eccentric, outsider artists is no longer that thing. But there are definitely pros and cons. You could also look at it as bringing in a more diverse crowd.

Rumpus: Ten years ago, it was always part of the conversation that graphic novels didnít get any respect as an art medium. And thatís changed with your success, with what Art Spieglemanís done. Daniel Clowes gets movies made.

Tomine: Iíve certainly benefited from it. Just in terms of being able to be a professional artist, but also itís nice to not have to dread introductions. ďWhat you do for a living?Ē It used to be easier just to tell people that I was a magazine illustrator than try to explain that I did comics, but not the kind of comics that they were used to, and no, itís not pornography, etc. And now people even of our parentsí generation are familiar with the term ďgraphic novel,Ē which is kind of amazing.

Rumpus: One thing that feels like it hasnít changed much is that it still feels like a very male-dominated field.

Tomine: Yeah. I think thatís changing, for sure, but thereís such a long historyÖ I think itís going to take a while to balance things out. I think in terms of getting new artists who are not in that sort of stereotypical teenage boy demographic; thereís been a lot of progress recently. And I shouldnít make a definitive statement about this, but my impression is that the main impediment to progress in that regard is the number of people who are choosing to make a go of it. I think, to its credit, this is one of the last forms of popular entertainment that I donít sense to be discriminatory in any way. I think thereís this general hunger for greater diversity, where publishers are really excited about finding different voices than what has been done.

Rumpus: Growing up in Berkeley, the specificity of Berkeley locations always added an extra fun layer for me since so much of your earlier work took place there.

Tomine: Itís interesting. When I was working on Shortcomings, the process that I was going through in my real life was moving away from the Bay Area and to New York, and it was this drawn-out process of going back and forth. Working on that book, it wasnít intentional, but I think wound up having kind of an emotional thought process where in some ways I was saying goodbye to the backgrounds of the old places I was drawing, and looking forward to new ones. And now, the book Iím working on now (Optic Nerve #12) is the first thing Iíve done entirely in New York, and totally by surprise, it seems like most stories are taking place in California.

Sometimes it can be sort of emotional for me if Iím trying to envision the setting for a story. Iíll go ďI donít know why, but I feel like this should be in this certain neighborhood in Sacramento that I remember.Ē And now you can go on Google maps and basically walk through that neighborhood. Thereís something satisfying for me in being able to draw the precise kind of crappy architecture that I had in my mind.

Rumpus: Youíre a father now. Have you thought about your daughter reading your comics for the first time when she reaches a certain age?

Tomine: Yeah, I donít like that idea. Iíve thought about many different things with regard to her growing up and most of them are very disturbing and unsettling to me. Itís not like thereís any content in my work thatís controversial, I donít think sheís going to be disturbed or grossed out or shocked by anything Iíve done. I guess the real fear I have, which will most likely prove to be correct, is that sheíll grow up to be smart and cultured enough that sheíll look at my work and be critical of it. Like, Oh, this is a little repetitive, or, why were you wringing your hands over such juvenile concerns? Get over it!

Thatís heartbreaking to envision. It definitely occurs to me, but I donít have to really face that for some time. Thereís an alternate reality I get to live in for a while, where I can do a quick doodle of a cat face with a crayon and sheíll be delighted by it. But then, a lot of the cartoonist friends I have are older and have children, and I canít think of a single one whose children have grown up to be rebellious. I think we joke about it Ė us being who we are Ė that for our kids to be rebellious theyíd have to be, like, football-playing accountants or something.

Rumpus: When youíre working out of the house, especially, you can imagine that she might absorb some of that creativity or at least an appreciation for art just kind of by osmosis.

Tomine: Thatís the best you could hope for. I do think itís getting more and more rare in this country to raise a kid with the attitude that creativity is something valuable. The idea of trying to make the effort to produce something, to put something out into the world, rather than just taking in all the stuff the worldís putting out at youÖI think itís harder for each generation. Even I just feel completely separate from teenagers today who have access to the Internet. And Iím amazed that this interest in video games has never gone away. It just keeps growing. When I talk to people who have teenagers now, their rooms are filled with screens. There are their phones and their DVD players and TVs and all these things to produce distractions for them, and I think it would be hard to find the time to create something. I think thatís really changing something about adolescence.

Thereís also an immediacy to everything that has changed everybodyís expectations. Now if I canít get a hold of somebody on their cell phone Iím, like, angry with them. And in my mind, all the things that I really value in terms of art, really good novels or films or comics, I know they all take a long, long time to create, and they take a lot of concentration and dedicationÖand I just feel like the training for that is becoming more and more rare when people are used to seeing things like YouTube clips, and being able to acquire things instantly. I get nervous about the effect that the high speed of everything will have on creativity. Itís already sad for me to see that a lot of young aspiring cartoonists are putting stuff on the web, doing animation on the computer rather than making zines or mini-comics, which seem to be going the way of the dinosaur.

Rumpus: What do you make of the whole world of online comics?

Tomine: Basically, I know thereís no turning back the clock, and itís sort of pointless to mourn what has passed, but I donít know if the alternatives now really replicate the learning experience that I had, in terms of what I gained from making mini-comics. There were certain components of it that are completely gone because of being able to just throw stuff up on your blog the minute youíre done with it.

And also, as a consumer now, itís weird that when I used to go to a book signing I would leave with a stack of pamphlets people had made to show off their work, and now I just leave with business cards where people have the URL to their websites. And I never go home and take out those business cards and go to those websites. But if there was a mini-comic here in my hand, Iíd read it while I ate my lunch. Iím also probably one of the few remaining holdouts who hasnít consented to making the e-book versions of all my work, which is annoying to some of my publishers.

Rumpus: What do you have against e-books? What do you think it changes about how you read a comic?

Tomine: I think a lot of the bells and whistles that become available to you would be impossible to resist for some people, so itís just never going to be a real stand-in version of your comic. People will have to take advantage of the ability to have sound, or zoom in and out, whatever it is.

One thing that heartens me about New York is I went to the Strand looking for a couple of books recently and itís shocking, and great, to walk into a bookstore 20 minutes before closing and everybodyís carrying an armload of hardcover books up to the counter and plunking down their money for it. And they still seem to have classic used-bookstore employees, eccentric people who would rather be reading a book but they have to work at the store.

In terms of e-books, though, I havenít quite gotten to the bottom of it yet, but for some reason everybody I know seems to want to engage me on that topic, or convert me. I think there are a lot of people who just want to hear me embrace e-books or finally say, ĎOK, I bought an iPad and itís awesome!Ē There are a lot of people who would get a kick out of it, thatís for sure.

Rumpus: Which freaks you out more, being compared to Raymond Carver [I canít find any original attribution for this Ė some people say it was Dave Eggers at first but nothing I can fact-check] or when people call you the voice of a generation?

Tomine: Oh, God. If I had to pick, probably the second one. The first time I did a reading/signing thing at Codyís, the woman who did the introduction said something like that, and I wasnít the only one cringing. I remember looking out into the audience and seeing peopleís faces and people whispering to each other, and thinking like ďUgh, can we just cancel the whole thing? I canít go out there after she said that.Ē

The Carver one doesnít come up that often anymore, that used to just embarrass me because I was such a fan of his work, and I was so clear-headed about the fact that I wasnít working in the same ballpark as him. Thatís probably even more complicated now since that biography of him that came out. Which, I guess in the authorís head, the point was to paint a true portrait of this guy, but it seems like main effect was to bum out anyone who was a big fan of his.

Turns out a lot of the stuff that I was a big of fan of about his work, he was opposed to or it was the work of his editor. And you know, he was not the best husband, not the best father, and so coming to it as a writer and a father and a husband I kept thinking ďThere has to be some kind of other aspect of his life that I could aspire to,Ē and then, oh no, he fucked up there too. So I guess in the future, if someone makes any comparison, Iíll just keep my fingers crossed that they mean it in a complimentary way, with regard to his work, and not his life as a husband and father.

Rumpus: Ideally, theyíre not calling you an alcoholic who cheats on his wife constantly.

Tomine: It was especially painful for me to read the stuff about his relationships with his children as I was, you know, bottle-feeding my six-month-old daughter. And then I was just recovering from that and I see thereís a memoir by the son of Andre Dubus, whoís a writer in his own right, and Iím like, OK, Iím not ready for this. But then, the older I get the more I realize, if you found out every single thing about the personal life of most artists you loveÖwell, in my case, most of them are just drunks.
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Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

          



OPTIC NERVE #12 ranks on CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2011!

Updated December 29, 2011


December 28, 2011

44. Optic Nerve #12
Written & Illustrated by Adrian Tomine
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

"Tomine jumped back on the pamphlet bandwagon with this new, self-contained comic. While the story 'Amber Sweet,' originally seen in 'Kramer's Ergot' #7, holds up find even in a smaller, black and white format, it's the other story, 'A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture' that's the real gem, as Tomine explores in humorous fashion the travails of attempting to create art and the nagging underlying feeling that you are completely ill-suited to do so."

-- Robot 6 Writer Chris Mautner

"Generally, getting 12 issues of a comic book over 16 years is not a great average, but when the book you're getting is as good as 'Optic Nerve,' you'll wait as long as it takes and you'll like it. Published by Drawn & Quarterly since 1995, 'Optic Nerve' #12 was released this year and with it, yet another wonderful peek into the mind and heart of one of the best creators in the business, Adrian Tomine. Collecting two wildly different fictional pieces that somehow still feel nicely connected, and adding to them 40 brilliant perfectly constructed autobiographical panels about independent comics publishing, 'Optic Nerve' continues to be one of the best independent books around. While I would welcome a gorgeous hardcover collection, or better yet a big beautiful graphic novel from Mr. Tomine, it's nice to see someone still pushing the floppy form, and showing everyone exactly what it's capable of."

-- CBR Reviewer & Comics Should Be Good Columnist Kelly Thompson
 
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Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

           Featured product

Optic Nerve #12




  BIG QUESTIONS, DAYBREAK, OPTIC NERVE #12 highlighted in AV Club's Best Comics of 2011!

Updated December 29, 2011


December 29, 2011
Noel Murray

Top Five Collected Graphic Novels

2. Anders Nilsen, Big Questions (D&Q)
In serialized form, Anders Nilsenís Big Questions was a curious little artifact, featuring page after page of similar-looking birds philosophizing about survival, in between sequences of a grumpy downed pilot and a half-naked, mentally handicapped man wandering through the same sparse landscape. Big Questions reads much differently in book form, where the extended stretches of repetitive, dialogue-light panels feel more deliberate than indulgent. The pleasure Nilsen takes in pure scene-setting is infectious, as he clusters his little animals in and around clearly defined spaces in various configurations. These birds have their own little society, and they are filled with wonder and terror by what they confront as they go about trying to fulfill their purpose. Sometimes they find donut crumbs scattered on the ground, and life is good. Sometimes they find pieces of other birds, blown to smithereens by something beyond avian comprehension.

3. Brian Ralph, Daybreak (D&Q)
Although Daybreak is set in yet another world ravaged by a zombie plague, Brian Ralph takes a slightly different approach to the ďragtag band of humans united against the inevitableĒ genre, by telling the story strictly from a first-person perspective. The reader is put behind the eyes of one survivor, encountering other survivors in a ravaged wasteland, and not always alert to the mortal dangers lurking just outside the panels. While Daybreak doesnít do anything that George Romero and countless others havenít already done satisfactorily, Ralphís first-person approach is brilliantly cruel, locking us into the point-of-view of someone who says nothing and thinks nothing. Weíre left to play judge along with the main character, determining the lines between helpful and unhelpful, hero and villain, living andÖ something else.

Top Three New Issues

3. Adrian Tomine, Optic Nerve #12 (D&Q)
Adrian Tomine is one of the mediumís masters of the short form, and the new Optic Nerve contains one for the canon in ďAmber Sweet,Ē a beautifully brittle story about a young woman who discovers that she resembles a famous porn star. The other pieces in the bookóa funny autobiographical two-pager about the creation of this issue, and a strange, semi-experimental piece called ďA Brief History Of The Art Form Known As ĎHortisculpture,íĒ about a gardener who thinks of himself as an artistóalso explore the line between craft and art, and the difference between a whim and a waste. (Tomine also receives extra credit this year for widely releasing his previously limited-edition Scenes From An Impending Marriage, an amusing and true document of wedding-planning.)


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Optic Nerve #12




The New Yorker features Haruki Murakami's TOWN OF CATS, illustrated by Adrian Tomine

Updated September 8, 2011


Town of Cats
by Haruki Murakam

At Koenji Station, Tengo boarded the Chuo Line inbound rapid-service train. The car was empty. He had nothing planned that day. Wherever he went and whatever he did (or didnít do) was entirely up to him. It was ten oíclock on a windless summer morning, and the sun was beating down. The train passed Shinjuku, Yotsuya, Ochanomizu, and arrived at Tokyo Central Station, the end of the line. Everyone got off, and Tengo followed suit. Then he sat on a bench and gave some thought to where he should go. ďI can go anywhere I decide to,Ē he told himself. ďIt looks as if itís going to be a hot day. I could go to the seashore.Ē He raised his head and studied the platform guide.




 
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  Miami Herald reviews ADRIAN TOMINE's SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated May 26, 2011


Optic Nerve auteur and New Yorker cover artist Tomine documents his final step toward conjugal domesticity in this slim volume illuminating the pre-nuptial preparation. Apparently originating as an idea by his betrothed as a wedding favor for their guests, Tomine wisely decided to share the story more widely, with the serendipitous acquiescence of his publisher. He told interviewer Edward Champion (http://www.edrants.com/the-bat-segundo-show-adrian-tomine/) that the other intent of this collection was to jump-start a college fund for the couple's new daughter. Regardless, it's a sweet mosaic of unashamedly authentic moments preceding a new union. Tomine has tapped a fresh vein of creativity and if he ever chooses, could probably use this as his entree to a newspaper daily strip -- for better or for worse.
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The Library Journal loves ADRIAN TOMINE's SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated May 26, 2011


The challenge facing Adrian and Sarah: navigate their Wedding Adventure without breaking up. In extended vignettes that suggest unpacked New Yorker cartoons, Tomine walks us through the major milestones. Guest list: should an invitation go to "the ex-boyfriend who cheated on you"? Reception venue: "It's my favorite combo: Hideous and expensive!" Invitation: "I can design an invitation with my eyes closed!" Epiphany: "WAAAAH! ... Weíre getting sucked into a black hole of nuptial narcissism!" Remedy: Sarah talks Adrian into doing a little minicomic as a favor for wedding guests: "It would be so CUTE! You could do a bunch of short strips about us getting ready for the wedding!" The result delighted everyone, of course. And so Tomine expanded the wedding favor minicomic into this charming and tender line-drawn collection.

VERDICT Tomine, known more for psychologically darker stories like Shortcomings than for straight humor, reveals considerable talent with goofy comedy. Scenes is far too short, and hopefully Tomine will draw more comedies to come. Recommended for all public libraries and, of course, as an engagement gift for this season's bridezillas and groomzillas.
 
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  The Guardian loves ADRIAN TOMINE's acid wit in SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated May 16, 2011


Do you have a friend who is in the process of turning into Bridezilla (or even Groomzilla, since women certainly don't have a monopoly on wedding madness)? Then I have the perfect gift for her - though on second thoughts, perhaps this is a treat best left until after her nuptials when, one hopes, your friend will miraculously recover her mislaid sense of humour. Adrian Tomine, author of the brilliant Shortcomings and a cartoonist at the New Yorker, has written a "prenuptial memoir" called Scenes from an Impending Marriage in which he lays bare, with ruthless efficiency, the bizarre effect that organising a wedding can have on even the sane and the cynical (and Tomine, as fans will know, is nothing if not cynical). Is it accurate? Yes, as a laser. Is it hilarious? All I can say is that it will make you - if not your good pal Bridezilla - snort like a dragon. Don't, on any account, combine reading it with lunch.

Tomine's specialist subject is angst and alienation among young bohemians; his characters wear heavy spectacles and cool sneakers, they eat a lot of takeout, and they worry excessively about fitting in. It's a world he knows well: Tomine has never flinched from the idea that much of what he writes and draws is thinly disguised autobiography. But because he's so devastatingly observant, he cannot be anything other than hardest on himself. Scenes from an Impending Marriage is more of the same, really, only this time it's explicit: the book began its life when his fiancee, Sarah, begged him to draw a miniature comic book for their guests as a wedding "favour". I wonder what those guests think now. One of the book's funniest sections is about who one invites to a wedding, and why. His list, compared with hers, is tiny. "Come on!" he yells, in a funk before they've even begun. "We've gotta break this endless cycle of obligation and reciprocity!"

It's all here: from choosing a venue, to picking a DJ, to registering for a wedding list ("It's emblematic of our whole culture: 'I want lots of stuff and I want to shoot a gun!'" observes Adrian in Crate & Barrel, where couples must use a barcode scanner to compile their list). There is even a section entitled: "An Even-Handed Acknowledgment of Both Families' Cultural Heritage", whose moral is that taiko drummers (Tomine has Japanese roots) and bagpipe players do not, under any circumstances, mix. The blurb on the back of Faber's British edition remarks that the book is replete with "unabashed tenderness" ‚Äď which is sweet, but not entirely true. I counted just one lovey-dovey frame in the entire book. Even the moment when, late on their wedding night, the happy couple wind up companionably eating greasy burgers in their hotel is shot through with futility. At the wedding, they failed to eat anything at all; in the end, they passed through the fruits of all their labours as if in a crazy dream.
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ADRIAN TOMINE opens up about SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE during radio interview

Updated May 12, 2011


Britain's royal couple has a wedding planner, but what about everyday people who aren't as fortunate to have a fancy wedding planner? Graphic novelist Adrian Tomine offers comic relief in his pre-nuptial memoir, Scenes from an Impending Marriage. Host Michel Martin speaks with Tomine about those "special moments" that capture the humor and absurdity of planning your own wedding.
Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Tomorrow, British cultural officials tell us, an estimated two billion people around the world are expected to watch Prince William marry his longtime love Kate Middleton.

Until now, most details of the royal wedding have been kept under wraps. But one thing is certain; the happy couple has had plenty of help and centuries of tradition to help them plan the big day. What about the rest of us?

Back in the day, perhaps the bride's family, especially her mother, did most of the heavy lifting. But that is a nonstarter for most modern couples today. The groom is invited - no, expected to weigh in. And when you mix that along with the different cultures that many couples bring to the table, well, wedding planning can be a fairly stressful experience.

So says graphic novelist and illustrator Adrian Tomine when he married his love Sarah Brennan. And he decided to chronicle some of those special moments and turn it into a wedding favorite. The result is the book Scenes from an Impending Marriage.

And Adrian Tomine joins us now from our NPR studios in New York to talk about his book and also perhaps his tips for planning the special day.

Adrian, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. ADRIAN TOMINE (Author, Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir): Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Now I have to be honest, in the spirit of full disclosure, I approach this conversation with some skepticism about your role. I see, for example, on the title page there's an illustration where Sarah is seated at the desk with the phone to her ear calling, how to get some information about the wedding, reading a book, How to Plan to a Wedding. The picture of you sitting on the couch chomping some popcorn, watching the tube.

Mr. TOMINE: That's right.

MARTIN: And I kind of think that captures the scene for many couples. Am I right?

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah. That was I think the starting point for the story of this book. And as you read further you'll see that that dynamic didn't last for too long.

MARTIN: How come?

Mr. TOMINE: I guess mainly because I have an annoying personality that feels the need to be involved in every little detail and...

MARTIN: You just couldn't help yourself.

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah. Despite all my intentions, I got swept up in the whole process.

MARTIN: Well, you know, there is some fairly hilarious scenes in the book where, you know, you're taking dancing lessons. And at one point you even go to her hair consultation with her...

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...hairdresser to talk about how she should wear her hair on the - did you really do that or were you taking some liberties there?

Mr. TOMINE: No, no. That's - if I took any liberties it was to make myself look better than I actually behaved in real life.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOMINE: You know, in hindsight I think the hair salon thing might have been a misstep on my part.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You think?

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, in the book the hair consultant, she's giving you the benefit of the doubt. She's like oh how sweet. You know, this is the first fiance who's ever come to a consultation. And Sarah is quoted as saying the truth is he's just a control freak.

Mr. TOMINE: That's right.

MARTIN: So...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Now they're all kinds of preparations that you went through. You know, exercising, learning how to dance. The best one is Sarah plucking your eyebrows. But you say at one point in the book we're getting sucked into a black hole of nuptial narcissism.

Mr. TOMINE: Right.

MARTIN: What is it about weddings that you think seems to bring this out in people?

Mr. TOMINE: Oh, I mean it's definitely a cultural thing. I think, you know, having grown up on so many books and movies that dramatize the wedding process in such a way, you can't help but let some of that seep into your mind.

MARTIN: Well, you know, girls are raised with this at least I was. You know, I think at least girls of my generation were raised with this like what's the wedding going to be like and, you know, fairy tales, happily ever after, that's kind of the endpoint of a lot of romantic novels and so forth. But boys aren't. At least they have not been.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: What I was wondering is and, you know, because you're kind of a culture guy, do you think that now that we live in this reality show world where it used to be that we really weren't privy to elaborate weddings, that now that we've become so much more exposed to it it's something that everybody thinks they have to do?

Mr. TOMINE: Well, I don't know. I think some of the increased media exposures actually might have a little bit of the opposite effect. You watch some of these programs that the focus seems to be on people behaving badly, beating up at the wedding, and we certainly watched some of those shows during our preparations and at least consoled ourselves into thinking we're not as bad as these people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're speaking with graphic novelist Adrian Tomine. His new graphic novel is actually a prenuptial memoir. It's called Scenes from an Impending Marriage. It's about the funny and some of the not so funny episodes he went through with his then fiance, now his wife, Sarah Brennan, as they were planning their wedding.

Now one of the things that you wanted to do is balance cultural differences. Because you are Japanese-American and Sarah comes from an Irish Catholic background. And there's one thing that involved like the music that each of you wanted.

Mr. TOMINE: Right.

MARTIN: Could you tell us a little bit about that - or at least your mothers wanted.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOMINE: That's right. That might be a little more accurate. We got a phone call from my mom who suggested the idea of having some Japanese Taiko drummers perform at the wedding. And if you're not familiar with Taiko drummers, they're generally fairly scantily-clad musicians and pounding very violently on these gigantic drums and chanting and shouting along. So my instant reaction was that there was no chance that that was going to be part of our wedding.

MARTIN: I don't know that sounds kind of fun, but maybe that's me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOMINE: It would have been fun. It would have been fun for...

MARTIN: I don't know, we can kind of - my family would've gone for the loincloth guys making a lot of noise but that's, you know, maybe that's us.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But anyway.

Mr. TOMINE: Well, then Sarah reminded me that her mom had suggested the idea of having bagpipe players at the wedding. She wanted to have them surprise everyone by marching up the street and entering into the ceremony or something like that. And we told her that we didn't want that either.

MARTIN: You say in the name of cultural sensitivity and harmony we'll have neither.

Mr. TOMINE: Right.

MARTIN: Is that how it really went down?

Mr. TOMINE: Yeah. Disappoint everybody instead of favoring one side or the other.

MARTIN: But, you know, on a more serious note, you do say that actually planning a wedding is in fact good preparation for marriage. How so?

Mr. TOMINE: I thought so. I guess I'm always surprised when I hear people who are having sort of a contentious wedding-planning process and they're just thinking well, we've just got to get to the big day and then everything will be fine. And I'm always thinking like well, I'll check in with you in a year and see how that's going, you know, because it's the process - at least in our case involved, figuring out how to communicate and disagree without being hurtful to the other person or the other family, which has actually served us well in our marriage.

MARTIN: Yeah. You had to learn to negotiate, discuss.

Mr. TOMINE: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I mean...

MARTIN: Yeah, kind of put everybody's stuff on the table. Work it out.

Mr. TOMINE: I think I had to do more learning in that area than Sarah did. But, yeah, we both benefited and you know...

MARTIN: Well, how did it turn out?

Mr. TOMINE: It was great. Everything that we had worried about, you know, there's the gag panel about the seating chart where I'm just saying it wouldn't hurt to have a buffer zone between the quiet West Coast Asians and the drunken East Coast Irish or something like that.

MARTIN: I'm not saying that. I'm not - this is you saying that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Send him the letters, not me.

Mr. TOMINE: A fictional version of me in the book is saying that.

MARTIN: Yes, exactly. So did you wind up having a buffer, maybe put the buffet table in the middle? But you didn't have to do all that.

Mr. TOMINE: No. No. And any kind of concerns that we might have had were unfounded. And the main thing is just that a lot of the things that we got hung up on and wrung our hands about, you know, six months or a year later it's like a distant memory.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, you know, the big day for Prince William and Kate is tomorrow. And I'm assuming that they've had no shortage of advice on planning their day. But if they should happen to hear this and you wanted to offer some advice on getting through the big day tomorrow.

Mr. TOMINE: Right. Well, I'm sure the chances are pretty good that they are listening to this and that they're looking for advice from me. From my perspective, the only advice I'd have would be to tone it down. I mean I would...

MARTIN: Wait, wait, wait. You're telling - he's the heir to the throne.

Mr. TOMINE: Well...

MARTIN: I'm sorry I...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TOMINE: That's, you know...

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. TOMINE: I'm coming at it from an American perspective, perhaps.

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. TOMINE: I'm just thinking $32 million or whatever the equivalent would be that it's going to cost and take 90 percent of that and give it to charities and you'd still have an extremely lavish wedding.

MARTIN: I was thinking something along the lines of have the caterer put aside a plate for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: No, we wanted - I think it might be too late to un-invite the 200 heads of state.

Mr. TOMINE: I think so. I think...

MARTIN: Maybe it's me.

Mr. TOMINE: I think it's a bit late.

MARTIN: Adrian Tomine is a graphic novelist. He's the creator of the acclaimed comic book Optic Nerve. He's also a contributing illustrator for The New York Magazine. His most recent work is called Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir. And he was kind enough to join us from our bureau in New York.

Adrian, thanks so much for joining us.

Mr. TOMINE: Thanks very much.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.
 
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  The Brooklyn Rail reviews ADRIAN TOMINE's SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated May 12, 2011


Another memoir out recently from Drawn & Quarterly press is Adrian Tomine's Scenes from an Impending Marriage. Tomine, who is perhaps best known for his New Yorker covers, draws inspiration here from a different set of 20th-century cartoonists: Charles Schultz, of Peanuts fame, and Bil Keane, who draws Family Circus.

Tomine is an excellent storyteller - one of his best covers for the New Yorker was of two people reading the same book on separate subway trains. The perspective is from the train where a woman is engrossed in her book. Through the window, you see the same book in the hands of a man, who has noticed the woman. The mixture of surprise, attraction, and frustration at the impossibility of their ever meeting is readily apparent on the man's face. The cover is both heartbreaking and funny.

Scenes is similarly funny, though because the subject matter is so hopeful, it's much more heartening. He makes you like both him and his fiancee as they navigate the frustrations of wedding planning. The book's style is much less detailed than a lot of Tomine's other work, keeping the references to weekly comic strips. Still, Tomine is adept at drawing a lot out in a single frame, and his mixture of pathos and humor are very much at play. The story is told in discrete sections, each outlining one of the frustrating details, from designing invitations (which Tomine, as a graphic designer, takes way too seriously) to getting in shape, to choosing a D.J. And at the end, when you find out what the book is actually intended for, it feels both heartwarming and special: a gift to his readers from a funny, very conventional person, who has let you into his life a little. These two books couldn't really be more different. And yet, they're both warm and quirky memoirs. In both, the authors present a persona that will make readers feel they want to know the authors a little better.
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Stella magazine loves SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE by ADRIAN TOMINE

Updated May 12, 2011


Adrian Tomine, an illustrator for The New Yorker, drew a series of comic strips detailing his hectic, and at times surreal, journey from engagement to wedding day. It has now been compiled into a delightful little book, Scenes from an Impending Marriage.
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE answers a few questions about SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated April 29, 2011


One of my first buys as an acquiring editor was Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli’s great adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass. We (re)published this book in 2005, along with Picador in the US, and it’s done well ever since. It wasn’t part of a plan to pursue a line in graphic novels, but when we subsequently had the opportunity to publish the brilliant Adrian Tomine, it was too good to turn down, and I soon found out that there were, like me, a number of fans of his work in house here at Faber.

So, after the rapturously received Shortcomings (2007) ‚Äď published simultaneously with his long-term North American publisher Drawn & Quarterly ‚Äď we brought out two of his backlist collections, Sleepwalk (2008) and Summer Blonde (2009) for the first time in the UK. This month, and just in time for a certain ‚ÄėWedding‚Äô (although not by design), we publish Scenes from an Impending Marriage. Already excerpted in the Guardian, and something of a gear change for Adrian, it documents his impending marriage in a uniquely funny and (mostly) sweet-natured way.

To mark publication, I asked those fellow fans at Faber to help put Adrian in the hotseat …
Silvia in Marketing asks …

Scenes … was put together for a very personal purpose. Did you think you would end up publishing it while you were writing it? And do you find it a more nerve-wracking experience releasing something so overtly autobiographical?

A.T.: I honestly thought it would be read by the friends and family members at our wedding, and that would be the end of it. I don‚Äôt think this book would exist if I was given the task to create it for publication. And yes, I did have to consider a number of things that normally wouldn‚Äôt apply to the publication of my fiction. My main concern ‚Äď and one of the things I edited between the original version and the Faber edition ‚Äď was making sure we didn‚Äôt get sued. The wedding industry can be extremely competitive, and I didn‚Äôt want any of the vendors that I depict in the book accusing me of adversely affecting their business! So a lot of those names and depictions were altered between versions of the book. And yes, that means that I did invent the name ‚ÄėDJ Buttercream‚Äô.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage #1
Hannah in Editorial asks …

One of my favourite sections in the book is the ‚ÄėGuest List‚Äô sketch, has the book caused offence to any ‚Äėfriends‚Äô since publication? How well did you disguise the names? Did you use real names and scrawl through to erase them or just invented ones?

A.T.: One friend of mine said that he actually studied those panels closely to see if he could make out the real names beneath the scratch marks. The truth is, that strip, along with pretty much the rest of the book, is basically a simplification or distillation of any real conversation that might’ve transpired. I’d like to point out that the bit about me not inviting someone because they didn’t respond to my previous book is a total fabrication, only written for comedic effect!
Andrew in Sales (who is about to get married) asks …

With reference to the running/getting fit panels: How many weeks before/after the wedding did the nonsense end? And were the dance lessons a waste of time?

A.T.: Without getting too specific, I will say that, contrary to the recurring gag in the book, some of that nonsense did not end the minute I got married. And no, the dance lessons were totally worth it. Unless you’re a naturally good dancer, then I’d recommend it whole-heartedly. As much as the idea of dance lessons might horrify you, just think about being forever haunted by video footage of yourself flailing around on the dance floor, not knowing what to do with your hands, stepping on the bride’s toes, etc. etc. Even though I had the lessons, I was still a terrible dancer, but at least that fear of not knowing what to do was taken away, and that was a relief.
Angus (yours truly) in Editorial asks …

Have you had any good letters from fans yet, in response to this publication? (Anyone telling you you‚Äôve ‚Äėsold out‚Äô?!)

A.T.: Not letters, but there has been some disgruntled responses to this book from long-term readers of my work, both in person and online. There‚Äôs a certain type of fan (not just of comics), who basically wants their favourite artists to stay the same, and to continue to just refine or improve upon the same thing they‚Äôve always done, and some of these types of readers did not appreciate the change in style and tone of this book. And there are some people who‚Äôve made it clear that they just dislike or aren‚Äôt at all interested in the topic of weddings and marriage, which I totally understand. I‚Äôm very up front with people: this is not a ‚Äėgraphic novel‚Äô and it‚Äôs not for everyone. On the other hand, I felt like it was very important that the book I put out after Shortcomings be something rather different, and this certainly fits the bill.

[Angus again]: An early issue of Optic Nerve had a great list of albums you listened to while working on it (Pixies, Stone Roses etc). Is music still important to you, and was there anything particular on the Tomine turntable as you worked on this?

A.T.: Music is still important to me, but I’m not nearly the connoisseur/consumer of current music that I was in my teens and twenties. I still stumble upon new-ish bands that I get excited about every once in awhile, but for the most part, my interest in the latest hip thing has kind of dissipated. I left my fancy turntable in storage when I moved to New York, and now I basically just have an iPod and a laptop plugged into speakers in my studio. And I’m usually listening to classical music. To my younger self: I apologize.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage #2
Ruth in Editorial asks …

How did your design work for The New Yorker come about? Has your style developed or adapted since taking it on? Is it different to the way you’ve worked on your own art?

A.T.: Most of the illustration work I’ve done over the years has kind of fallen into my lap, mainly as a result of someone seeing my comics work. But The New Yorker is the one job that I actively pursued. I put together a portfolio, looked up their address in the phone book, and dropped my samples off in person. It’s a very different working process than my own comics work in that it’s a collaboration between me and at least one other person at the magazine. There’s a fair amount of back and forth, and sometimes I’m asked to make changes I wouldn’t have thought of. I’ve actually developed a pretty close working relationship with a couple of people there, and I really value their input, suggestions, and guidance. It’s a nice counterbalance to my comics work, where I’m totally on my own.
Angus again …

I imagine you’re approached to do commissions quite often, and probably turn a lot down, is there anything you really hate being asked to do?

A.T.: I‚Äôm not a big fan of the ‚Äėtheme sketchbook‚Äô. If you‚Äôre not familiar with this phenomenon, it‚Äôs where a person brings a blank sketchbook to a comics convention or book signing, and goes around asking for free drawings of their particular favorite subject. Sometimes it‚Äôs a certain superhero that I have no idea how to draw, and sometimes it‚Äôs something so specific and weird ‚Äď like a guy falling off a cliff ‚Äď that it‚Äôs just a chore. And the worst innovation to this tradition is that now the drawings (which are invariably not very good) are often scanned and posted on the internet for everyone to see!

This new book has also brought out a lot of requests to ‚Äėmake the same kind of book, only for OUR wedding‚Äô. It‚Äôs tough to decline because some people get very emotional about anything related to their wedding, and can‚Äôt stand the idea of anything not working out exactly as they want.
Silvia again …

Am I right in thinking you call yourself a cartoonist rather than a graphic novelist? And how is it that non-fiction graphic works are always called graphic novels?

A.T.: I‚Äôm pretty sure I‚Äôve never referred to myself as a ‚Äėgraphic novelist‚Äô. And if I do, please come and put me out of my pretentious misery. Obviously there‚Äôs flaws with the term ‚Äėgraphic novel‚Äô, especially, as you point out, when most of the books in question are not at all novels. But what can I do? The term, for better or worse, seems to have stuck, and if the world finds it more respectable than ‚Äėcomic books‚Äô, who am I to argue?
Kate in Publicity asks …

Can you remember when you drew your first cartoon/strip, as such, and what it was? And can you remember first knowing that it was what you wanted to do?

A.T.: I think I first started drawing things that resembled comic strips when I was about six. They weren’t divided up into panels, but they were meant to be sequential images on the same page. So, in other words, I’d draw a bunch of images of the same crude figures on one page, and I was attempting to tell some kind of little story. Usually, it was something along the lines of: this guy punches that guy, then that guy punches him back. Most of my drawings from that time were very science fiction-based … probably inspired by Star Wars and Japanese animation. I think by the time I was in third or fourth grade, I was pretty determined to be a cartoonist when I grew up, although my vision of that at the time was a lot more like a real job: going into an office, drawing alongside a bunch of other artists, etc.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage #3
Ian in the Faber Academy asks …

In third-person (no-picture) fiction, the author‚Äôs voice can always be heard separately to the voices of the characters ‚Äď sometimes even to the detriment of the work. Do you feel that graphic novelists have an authorial voice? Do the same rules of fiction apply?

A.T.: Wow, these are a couple of big questions; probably too big for me to properly answer here. I think, if anything, the authorial voice is more pronounced in comics, if only because every mark on the page is made by the author‚Äôs hand. I think it might be a bit easier for a prose author to recede from the reader‚Äôs thoughts due to the mechanical and often unobtrusive nature of typesetting. But like many qualities of cartooning, I see this as a particular advantage, or a positive quality. I love the fact that even though all of the characters in the Peanuts strip are very much individual and ‚Äėalive‚Äô, I‚Äôm still always ‚Äėhearing‚Äô, in a sense, the voice of Charles Schulz.
Angus again …

Can you tell us anything about the new book? Will it publish as issues of Optic Nerve first, as usual (and, if so, when!)?

A.T.: I can’t say too much right now, only because a lot of it is still in progress or unknown even to me. It’ll be a collection of very loosely-linked short stories, and it will be in colour. I’m approaching each story as a chance to work in a different manner, which is liberating for me, and will, I hope, create some interesting variation within the book. And because I’m pathologically afraid of change, it will be published in the same manner as I’ve always worked: first in the form of several comic books, and then as a book. The first comic book (Optic Nerve 12, for those keeping track), is scheduled to be published at the end of the summer by Drawn & Quarterly.
And finally, Silvia asks …

In classic comic book tradition, who would win in a fight between you and your wife?

A.T.: I guess it depends on if you mean a physical or verbal fight. Scratch that … she’d win either way.
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NEWSDAY calls SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE "refreshingly humble and very, very funny."

Updated March 30, 2011


FANFARE
BOOKSHELF: COMICS
BY SAM THIELMAN. Special to Newsday
20 March 2011
Newsday


[...]
Adrian Tomine's future is secure. Though the slice-of-life cartoonist has made his mark as a graphic novelist (and a New Yorker cover artist) many times over, he's managed to craft the perfect engagement party favor with "Scenes From an Impending Marriage" (Drawn & Quarterly, $9.95). The tiny volume is out just in time for wedding season, and it's certain to change hands over the course of many a nuptial shindig. Its plot is simple: The author recounts the difficulties he and his wife (of Japanese and Irish ancestry, respectively) worked through during their engagement, from managing the guest list to deciding between Taiko drums and bagpipes (in honor of cultural harmony, they choose neither). Tomine's influences are as appealing as they are unconventional: He pays homage to Charles Schulz and even Bil Keane ("The Family Circus") over the course of this short book, portraying himself as an overgrown child. The result is refreshingly humble and very, very funny. [...]
 

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  The Onion AV Club eagerly awaits SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated March 4, 2011


11. Adrian Tomine, Scenes From An Impending Marriage (March 1)
Although he now graces the covers and interiors of The New Yorker, cartoonist Adrian Tomine got his start making a Xeroxed, self-published mini-comic called Optic Nerve that told stories of his own life as well as poignant, understated vignettes about hip young urbanites. He returned to his roots in 2007 with the similarly DIY mini-comic Scenes From An Impending Marriage. A funny, sometimes moving, always immaculately drawn recounting of his prenuptial preparations with his then-fiancťe Sarah, Scenes was issued in limited quantities, after which it quickly disappeared. Finally, though, a hardcover collection of the series is on the way from Drawn & Quarterly, in a half-sized package that perfectly suits Tomineís humble, quirky look at love and tradition.


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ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed on The Bat Segundo Show

Updated March 4, 2011


EXCERPT FROM SHOW:

Correspondent: I wanted to get into the ineluctable autobiographical angle through a different mechanism. Interviewers, critics ó theyíve all said, ďOh, well, Tomine is totally autobiographical.Ē But here, you are tempting fate again with the subtitle of the book: ďprenuptial memoir.Ē

Tomine: Right.

Correspondent: You mentioned in the introduction to 32 Stories that you ďlearned the useful trick of taking a personal experience and veiling it with a sex change or two.Ē

Tomine: Right.

Correspondent: So we have to talk about this. But Iím going to ask you: Which of your characters is least like you? How much of Scenes [From an Impending Marriage] emerged out of your reality? Or is there some liberation, so to speak, in the fabrication?

Tomine: Oh completely. I mean, everybody has been focusing on the autobiographical nature of this book and I think some of the promotional materials are talking about how itís such a personal work or something. But I think in truth, in some ways ó well, I wouldnít say the least personal, but itís certainly no more personal than the other books. And I think that definitely in the fictional stories, I feel a lot of the freedom that you refer to. And the flip side to that is thereís an inhibition that comes along with drawing yourself as the main character. And I think this book, this current one, is all definitely drawn from real experience, but very carefully edited and selected.

Correspondent: Yeah. Starting with the first story, where we see scratched out words of names and places and the like. Which, to my mind, didnít necessarily mean privacy, but possibly meant an ode to the Victorian literature, where you have the first letter and the line long after that.

Tomine: Yeah. And also I think that this was the first time I just embraced the idea that this would be intended for as wide of an audience as possible. So it set up the ending, where I have the one swear word of the book scratched out too. So it doesnít quite jump out as much as it would otherwise.

Correspondent: So wait a minute. I understood that this started out as something to be disseminated to wedding guests.

Tomine: Yes, thatís right.

Correspondent: Okay. So was it always intended for public consumption?

Tomine: No.

Correspondent: No.

Tomine: No. The original version that was slimmer. There were fewer pages. It was basically just Xeroxed and assembled. And it was meant to just be given out at the wedding. So the only audience was really going to be our close friends and family.

Correspondent: Well, this is interesting. Because 32 Stories came back in a third life, I suppose, by having that box of minicomics. And it seemed to me from the introduction that it also came about under a certain amount of duress. Iím wondering if people have to push you or kick you into getting things published these days. How does this come about?

Tomine: Well, I think that if someone really wanted to read between the lines and investigate. The dedication of this book explains a lot about why itís now in stores. Because itís dedicated to Nora, whoís my one-year-old daughter.

Correspondent: Aha! The fatherís fund.

Tomine: Yeah, exactly. We know a lot of people are confused. They say that in the book you say your wifeís name is Sarah. Whoís this Nora that this book is dedicated to?

Correspondent: Your mistress, I thought.

Tomine: (laughs) Right. My Irish mistress.

Correspondent: (laughs) Yes.

Tomine: Yeah, my wife was actually joking about that and saying, ďNobody ever has an Irish mistress.Ē I mean, there were a lot of reasons that went into the decision to actually publish it. But if Iím honest, one of them would definitely be just a bit of that new father panic of ďIíve got a life that Iím responsible for other than mine now.Ē So that was part of the thought process. At the same time, there was also the element of just how off the beaten path this book was for me. And that was appealing. Because when I finished my previous book, and digested a lot of the reviews and the response, that it was really clear to me that whatever it is that I publish next had to be pretty different. I think people had their fill of that specific tone and that meticulous realistic style of drawing. I donít think it was ó well, I take ó the criticisms of that I took to heart. Not that it was poorly done, but that Iíd been putting out a lot of that in that same vein for a number of years. So I didnít really have a plan of what I was going to do next. But then it was kind of a relief to me when I realized that I basically had a complete book just sitting in my sketchbook. And it was as dramatic of a change as I was looking for.

Correspondent: Well, weíve brought up a number of things just in the first few minutes.

Tomine: Right. I derailed you.

Correspondent: No, no. Itís great. I love this. Working on art for money. Working on art for audience response. And then simultaneously mining from your own personal life to generate narratives that often take an immense amount of time. In the case of Shortcomings, four years. So this leads me to wonder whether thereís possibly a double-edged sword here, if you are revolving your creative process around what the audience is telling you. Clearly, you still read reviews.

Tomine: Yeah.

Correspondent: Clearly, there is an interest to stay in this business. Obviously. But on the other hand, the fact that this book, this latest volume, came from a safe place. Where you were almost buffered by the possibility of critics dissecting every little aspect of your work. I mean, how does this work? How do you gravitate between the two? Or is it all one unified theory here? So to speak.

Tomine: No. I think you touched on a lot of the things that were in my mind really. Because this wedding book was definitely the most breezy and loose and ó a word thatís never applied to my work, but ó fun. And I think it was because of what youíre talking about. The idea that it basically wasnít meant to be published. And that no one but a handful of people that I knew and loved would be seeing it. And really, even though I knew the people at the wedding would be seeing it, the only real audience I had in mind when I was creating it was my wife, Sarah. A lot of it was just a question of not ďIs this going to be a great strip?Ē or ďIs this going to be beautifully drawn?Ē or anything like that. But just ďIs this going to make her chuckle at the end of the day?Ē

Correspondent: So really sheís your first audience.

Tomine: For this, especially.

Correspondent: Do you see that being ó sheís going to be your future audience? Her and Nora perhaps?

Tomine: Yeah.

Correspondent: I mean, how do you insulate yourself from the constant probing?

Tomine: Well, I mean, whether I like it or not, sheís going to be my first audience. Just as the nature of working at home, and her curiosity. When she scrolls through my studio each day, she does take a look at what Iím working on. But at least so far, itís been a real asset to me. Because sheís more well-read than I am. She used to work in publishing. And she has editing experience. She also, along with that, knows the fine art of dealing with the fragile ego of the writer or the artist. And she also just has a really good sense of humor. And I think that sheís, if anything, encouraged me over the years to try and tap into that a little bit more in my work.
 
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  Star Advertiser loves SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated March 4, 2011


A graphic walk up the aisle
I'm a big fan of alternative comic book creator/illustrator Adrian Tomine, whose stories of angsty youth drawn in his clean style have been his calling card. The former Northern Californian moved to Brooklyn to be closer to the woman he eventually married, and their journey to legal "couplehood" can now be found in little-book form in "Scenes from an Impending Marriage" (Drawn & Quarterly, $9.95).

Tomine originally drew most of the strips as wedding reception favors, and they have a looser feel than his previous work. Even if you're not familiar with Tomine, you're likely to relate to his wedding-planning travails, such as finalizing a guest list, finding the right reception venue, and picking the right music (no "old rock 'n' roll!").

Measuring about 4-by-5 inches, this is a little joy of a book.
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The Onion AV Club's round up features SCENES, MID-LIFE AND DENYS WORTMAN'S NEW YORK!

Updated March 4, 2011


Cartoonist Adrian Tomine was one of the great success stories of the í90s mini-comics scene, wowing fans of DIY pop-art with both his breezy autobiographical strips and piercing literary short stories. Over the past decade, Tomineís done well for himself as an illustrator and graphic novelist, but while heís been performing on bigger stages, heís done less of the kind of work that made him such an early standout. Thatís what makes Tomineís Scenes From An Impending Marriage (Drawn & Quarterly) such a treat. Originally written and drawn as a gift for the guests at Tomineís wedding, Scenes From An Impending Marriage consists of short, funny vignettes about all the chores of getting hitched, like making an invitation list, hiring a DJ, and striving to look presentable. The book is an unexpected return to the mini-comics formónot unlike a serious rock band stepping back from concept albums to knock out a fun 45 again.
The expanded, hardbound Scenes is still small in size, which befits the light tone and the spare, character-focused art. And though the book isnít meant to be taken too seriously, neither is it completely frivolous. Among its strengths: Scenes From An Impending Marriage accurately captures the peculiar blend of public and private that marks the beginning of a marriage. The betrothed couple is overwhelmed with thousands of tiny details, nearly all of which have more to do with how theyíll be perceived by their families and friends than with the coupleís actual preferences. (Throughout the book Tomine shows himself doing things he wouldnít ordinarily do to prepare for the wedding, all while muttering, ďThis nonsense stops the minute weíre married.Ē) Tomine includes scenes of him and his fiancťe dealing with their guilt over wasting so much money on a party theyíre barely going to get to enjoy, and scenes where he imagines their friends greeting the news of the happy occasion with a shrug. It all feels very honest, and though Scenes From An Impending Marriage isnít exactly revelatory, in a way thatís to be expected, because a newlywedís rites of passage are familiar by design. If anything, itís reassuring to know that even an artist as talented as Tomine had to suffer through the same crap as any other young groom.


Joe Ollmanís graphic novel Mid-Life (D&Q), on the other hand, does feel revelatory, because the protagonistís situation is so particular and painful. The hero, John, is a 40-year-old art director for a general-interest magazine who finds reasons every day to lose his cool: his job, the two snippy grown daughters from his failed first marriage, or his exhausted new wife and their toddler son. When John becomes obsessed with a Laurie Berkner-like kiddie-music star named Sherri Smalls, he risks his family, his career, and his self-image to meet with her while on a business trip to New York. But even without the potential affair clouding his thoughts, John would likely be on the brink of self-destruction, because heís constantly depressed about how much of his youth heís squandered on a lifestyle he never really wanted.
Ollman (who previously wrote and drew the Doug Wright-winning story collection This Will All End In Tears) works here with cramped nine-panel pages, conveying both the drudgery and the clutter of Johnís life. Ollmanís character designs verge on the grotesque at times, and his perspectives on both the childrenís entertainment industry and middle-class family life seem overly influenced by clichťd notions of ďcoolĒ and ďsquare.Ē (Sherri describes her own fans as ďan audience of spoiled kiddies and their yuppie parents,Ē which is reductive even for a character whoís not happy with her career choices, while one of Johnís biggest worries is that his son will never know that he was once a hip, vital guy.) But Mid-Life is remarkably nuanced within its rigid parameters. Ollman is a whiz with facial expressions and body language, depicting emotions as varied as uncontrolled rage, guilt, self-pity, and affection with just the right placement of an arm or an eyebrow. Plus, his characters are genuinely aware of how many of their decisions are based on bullshit obsessions with self-image.
What makes Mid-Life work so well both as fiction and as comics is the way Ollman has John and Sherri engage in running dialogues with themselves, with the better parts of their nature represented in a caption while the worst parts come out in what they actually say and do. The book approximates what itís like to be at the halfway point of life, with memories and past regrets bleeding into daily interactions, even as middle-aged folks retain enough optimism about the future to keep pushing ahead. The second half of Mid-Life considers whether Johnís flirtation with Sherri counts as an example of that optimism or as proof that heís given up. And as Ollman pushes toward the resolution of his maybe-romance, his raw-looking art and frank writing build tension to rival any Hitchcock film.


Denys Wortman drew cartoons and illustrations for multiple New York magazines and newspapers between the í20s and í50s, but never became as well known as some of his peers, perhaps because his dense panels, sketchy lines, and whimsical captions lost some charm when reduced to a quarter-page. The James Sturm and Brandon Elston-edited Denys Wortmanís New York: Portrait Of The City In The 1930s and 1940s (D&Q) arranges hundreds of Wortman originalsósaved in a shed by his sonóinto a tour through the city over the course of a single day. The impressions of city life over a half-century ago are invaluable, but even better, Denys Wortmanís New York features one panel per large-sized page, which does due justice to the artistís detailed, dynamic drawings of fire escapes, busy lunch counters, jumping dance halls, and dimly lit parlors.
 
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  Elle Decor recommends SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated March 4, 2011


Adrian Tomineís wry graphic novels about alienated, hapless twentysomethings have been compared to the stories of Alice Munro and Raymond Carver. But his latest book began life as a party favor. Scenes from an Impending Marriage, originally written for the guests at Tomineís wedding, is a funny, charming memoir of organizing a ceremony that will make both the grumpy artist and his cheerful fiancťe happy. Tomine, a frequent cover illustrator for The New Yorker, takes the couple through the painfully familiar pitfalls of wedding planning, from registering for housewares to hashing out the invite list.
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Town & Country takes a look at SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated March 4, 2011


Conceived as a one-of-a-kind souvenir for his wedding guests,graphic novelist and artist Adrian Tomineís Scenes From an Impending Marriage is a selfdeprecating, witty look at the all-consuming
nuptial-planning process
 

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  Booklist reviews SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated March 4, 2011


Once the initial euphoria of popping the question wears off, the minefield of putting together a wedding takes shape. In small, nine-panel-grid vignettes, Tomine documents the perilous process, fraught with onetime decisions that few are qualified to make, from settling on the reception venue to making tactful negotiations on whittling down the guest list, agonizing over invitations that invariably wind up in the trash anyway, and picking from an assortment of cookie-cutter DJs. Interspersed are a few full-page panels that take a subversive, Family Circus spin on exercise (ďThis nonsense stops the minute weíre married!Ē), dance lessons (ditto), and eyebrow-tweezing (ditto plus expletives). With the obsessive self-awareness bred into all great autobiographical cartoonists, Tomine incisively depicts the monumental-feeling pressures and expectations that can toss a fledgling couple into ďthe black hole of nuptial narcissism,Ē or, in Adrian and Sarahís case, provide ample proof that they should be making the plunge after all. The institution of marriage as a whole just might benefit from having this little book as required reading.

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SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE reviewed by Publishers Weekly

Updated February 18, 2011


The sweet scenes in this little book are a contrast to the sometimes jaded tone of Tomine's work in the great Optic Nerve series and his previous books, Summer Blonde, Shortcomings, and Sleepwalk. Many have suspected an autobiographical subtext in those previous works, but this intimate tome is billed as the artist's "first nonfiction book." As such, it casts a gentle light on Tomine's nuptials and relationship with Sarah. The two are pictured discussing the guest list, DJ, seating arrangements--in short, all the nightmarish details of wedding planning--and throughout we see their personalities emerge. Adrian starts out insisting he doesn't really want to invite most of his friends, but then gets obsessed over every detail of the invitation's design. Meanwhile, Sarah navigates caterers, florists, and gift registries, fielding Adrian's oddball requests at every turn. We watch as the two get sucked into the vortex of wedding consumerism in spite of themselves. It's a familiar scene, but a sweet one, and the ending is as tender and satisfying as a wedding day should be. A lovely personal book from a great comics creator, and it's sure to end up getting unwrapped at many an engagement party.
 
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  Dan Kois recommends SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE for The Vulture

Updated February 18, 2011


Adrian Tomine's Scenes From an Impending Marriage
A death-defying quest of a different sort, as the sharp-edged New York cartoonist (Shortcomings) writes about his own wedding.
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The Comics Journal reviews SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated February 18, 2011


Halfway through reading Adrian Tomineís new release, Scenes From An Impending Marriage, I was baffled. This comic was certainly funny and strangely sweet in the way it tweaked himself, his wife-to-be Sarah and (most especially) the borderline-psychosis that can occur when planning a wedding. What was baffling to me was why on earth he would do this, and why it would be so short. The work was far too polished and considered to simply be sketchbook fodder. It also felt very ďin-the-momentĒ, not something that was done long after the wedding was done. The reason why it was baffling was it made me wonder why on earth he would attempt to do this sort of thing in the middle of planning a wedding? The answer is contained in the comic itself: because his fianceí asked him to. How could he say no?

What Tomine captures so perfectly in this book is the way the most reasonable person can devolve into a frantic, obsessive-compulsive state. What would seem to be a cute, personalized touch for a wedding (like making oneís own invitations, or in the case of this book, crafting a minicomic as a party favor) can wind up taking over oneís lifeĖand often to no effect whatsoever. Reading this book only made me shake my head at the memory of the dozens of hand-made chocolate lollipops my wife & I made for our wedding that went uneaten. Tomine nails that feeling with the ridiculous lengths he went to in order to create the perfect wedding invitation (down to using hand calligraphy on each envelope), only to imagine each guest casually tossing aside the lovingly-crafted envelope.

Tomine is ordinarily an astute observer of the ways in which our unspoken obsessions wind up destroying all of our most treasured relationships. His protagonists are frequently selfish, jealous, petty and incapable of putting the needs of others ahead of themselves. To a degree, his characters have always incorporated bits of Tomineís own personality, though perhaps exaggerated for narrative effect. Even in this mini, Tomineís self-depiction demonstrates a lack of patience for the stupidity of others and exhibits a sort of hurtful bluntness, as opposed to his more conciliatory fianceí. That said, Tomine in real life understands his own flaws, the ones that he likes to write large on the page, and is even willing to mock them here. The same is certainly true of his fianceí, he cops to her own need to be liked while avoiding the gaze of a ridiculous DJ (ďDJ ButtercreamĒ, whose name alone demanded that this comic be made) that they chose not to hire because of his awful musical taste.
Tomine varies his formatting between a 9-panel grid and single page/single panel comics page-style cartoons. He uses the same drawing style throughout, a variation on Charles Schulzí simple character design. Indeed, Tomine borrows a number of elements from Schulz, like his characters saying ďWAAAAH!Ē with their heads thrown back. The single panel strips use a number of repeating motifs for a single punchline, like Tomine repeatedly noting that ďnonsenseĒ like dance lessons, exercise and eyebrow tweezing will stop the moment theyíre married. The result is a breezy, relaxed lookĖmuch looser than his normal pages, but every bit as expressive. For an artist as fastidious as Tomine, itís refreshing to see a project like this see the light of day. Itís not unlike Seth releasing Wimbledon Green, a quickly-drawn project thatís mostly just for fun. Just as Sethís sense of whimsy and imagination are qualities that are underplayed in his regular work but brought to the fore in his more relaxed comics, so are Tomineís gag timing and sense of affection for his characters qualities that one doesnít normally see in Optic Nerve. While I certainly wouldnít want his work reduced to those qualities, it would be nice to see more of them from time to time.
 
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  The National Post reviews SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated February 18, 2011


In As You Like It, Shakespeare described weddings as a ďblessed bond of board and bed.Ē However, that line was written for the god of matrimony ó like todayís florists, jewellers and stationers, he had a certain bias. Iíve never come close to proposing, but I have seen commercials for those three-monthsí salary engagement rings, the ones designed to inflame modern anxieties. Though the bloated wedding industry serves as Adrian Tomineís comic foil throughout Scenes from an Impending Marriage, this sprightly book never spares its own creator (or his fiancťe) for going along with the madness. The graphic vignettes documenting months of frazzled planning turn out to be his breeziest, most immediate work yet, inviting for romantics and formalists alike.

For Tomine, this is a stylistic departure. The cartoonist made his name with austere yet meticulously drawn stories about frustrated, self-deluding young people; even if a particular anti-hero was flailing around in desperation, their body language and surroundings would be almost mathematically precise. Scenesí nonlinear strips are looser and less realistic: They were drawn in Tomineís sketchbook after his future bride, Sarah, suggested the autobiographical minicomic as a wedding favour.

Thatís not to say these miniatures are unpolished. Alternating between a snug nine-panel grid and full-page jokes, the strips have a fetching slim-lined style reminiscent of Charles Schulz ó at one point Tomine simply throws in a direct Peanuts homage. The nonchalant, semi-improvised bent of the cartooning extends to his lettering: Instead of redrawing panels that once mentioned real friends or family members, he just scratched their names out.

When it comes to the betrothed couple, Tomine eschews such discretion. Heís gentler than in past books, but still great at capturing awkwardness. One panel depicts his dancing lessons with Sarah: Heís stepping on her foot, sheís frowning down at it and heís staring nervously off into space. Encouraged to spend absurd amounts of money and time on every aspect of the ceremony, Tomine and fiancťe see themselves falling into a ďblack hole of nuptial narcissism.Ē He asks: ďDo you think they still need help at that AIDS dinner?Ē

The pairís guilt-ridden volunteering ends up happening off-panel. That clever elision is a mark of Tomineís light touch here: Working with barely 50 pages and what must have been a tight matrimonial deadline, he manages to preserve some nuance even in this happy relationship. Tomine the character is fixated on controlling minute details and is politely curt towards awful wedding DJs, while Sarah tries to remain diplomatic even when faced with inane obstacles like, well, DJ Buttercream.

Every spouse has their limits, though. Wandering through the single personís hell, a Crate & Barrel store filled with blissful registering couples, the cartoonist finally has a mini-meltdown: ďWhatís with these bar-code scanners? It looks like everyoneís casually aiming a gun at wicker tissue box holders or whatever! Itís emblematic of our culture: ĎI want lots of stuff, and I want to shoot a gun!í Ē Then his wife-to-be holds him up with a scanner and demands a flatware preference.

In 2005, the Canadian cartoonist Seth published a sketchbook-spawned graphic novel of his own. If anyone saw the unexpectedly whimsical Wimbledon Green as a trifle at the time, they probably donít now; it presaged a growing vein of dry humour in his characteristic nostalgia. Turning point? Recreational detour? Regardless, Iíd be glad to see more Tomine comics like Scenes from an Impending Marriage, even ones that simply elaborate on its stylistic experiments. Constrained by space, time and autobiography, heís drawn an artistic exemplar of John Donneís very debatable phrase: ďTo enter in these bonds is to be free.Ē
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Emily Flake of More Intelligent Life interviews ADRIAN TOMINE

Updated February 18, 2011


Adrian Tomine, a Brooklyn-based cartoonist, is something of a poster boy for a certain kind of carefully studied mopery. His spare, elegant lines bear the influence of such comics greats as Dan Clowes ("Ghost World") and Jaime Hernandez ("Love and Rockets"). But his dialogue and stories skew more Woody Allen, if Woody Allen were a young Asian guy from the West Coast.

His highly regarded comic book "Optic Nerve" began life as a mini-comic in 1991 when Tomine, who is Japanese American, was still in high school in Sacramento. It was picked up in 1995 by Drawn + Quarterly, a Montreal-based comics publisher, and Tomine remains with the outfit today. "Optic Nerve" was most recently collected and released as the graphic novel ďShortcomingsĒ (2009), which found Tomineís protagonist and possible alter-ego Ben Tanaka navigating the fraught territory of romance, desire and identity with his girlfriend, Miko. Benís fondness for the white ladies spins the couple out into the kind of conflict at which Tomine excels, his sharp ear for dialogue limning both the political and the highly personal.

Those not initiated into the comics scene might recognise Tomineís work from the New Yorker, where his clean, stylish drawings and muted colour palette grace the cover from time to time. His covers carry a strain of his usual melancholy, but the mute, single-panel format tempers it into something more like wistfulness. Still, Tomineís figures seem to be strangers to happiness, or even contentment, which is why his latest offering, "Scenes From an Impending Marriage", comes as such a nice surprise.

Originally conceived as a party favour for his 2007 nuptials, "Scenes" is tender, funny, andóthereís no way around itódownright cute. The little blue book takes us through the usual frustrations of planning a weddingófinding the perfect venue, the perfect DJ, the perfect hairstyleóand executes them in a style looser and freer than Tomineís usual fare. This lightness of touch lets some air in without letting the final product get too frothy, and the size announces the book as a thing that doesnít take itself quite so seriously.

More Intelligent Life caught up with Tomine via e-mail for a chat about romance, weddings and new directionsóas the city around us entered the anxious frenzy of Valentineís Day.

As a cartoonist, Iím very curious as to what form the original wedding mini-comic took. I can very easily see myself saying ďSure, Iíll just make a comic!Ē and then handing out hastily scribbled nonsense straight off the Xerox machine.

Yeah, it's one of those situations in life where you're kind of punished for being an artist. Like, if I sent someone a Hallmark card for their birthday now, it would be a slap in the face. So when the topic of these "wedding favours" came up, I knew there was no getting out of it. Unless I wanted to give out chocolate bars with our faces embossed into them.

How much of the book as it exists today was included in the mini?

I tinkered with some of the original pages, re-drew a few, and added a bunch. Obviously, the whole post-wedding epilogue was done after the fact. Basically I would just pull out that sketchbook and add to it whenever I was waiting to hear back from an art director, or if I felt like I needed a break from the other, more "serious" book I'm working on.

What made you decide to release it into the world at large?
I probably first started thinking about publishing it when a copy appeared on eBay. I assumed that since it was only given to close friends and family, that would never happen, but I was wrong. And like I said, since I was slowly adding pages to the book, I eventually found myself with 50 or 60 pages worth of material, and I just proposed the idea to my publisher. If he had declined, I would've happily filed it away, but he seemed to think there would be some interest in it.

Were you upset that it ended up on eBay? I wondered if that would have happened.

Well, it's a whole sordid story that I probably shouldn't go into, but the short answer is "yes." But then after some further investigation, I ended up feeling really bad and almost wanted to send the eBay seller in question a whole stack of the stupid comics to sell.

The subject matter also seems a bit outside your usual wheelhouse; how do you suppose fans of "Optic Nerve" will feel about a happy, well-adjusted Adrian Tomine writing about a conventional rite of passage, especially one in which everything seems to have gone so well?

If the hypothetical reader's life has progressed similarly to mine, they'll probably enjoy the book. If it hasn't, then they might want to sit this one out. What can I say? I took a gamble! The one thing I'd say is that the only thing this book really whole-heartedly endorses is a good relationship. I should mention that another impetus for publishing this work was the simple fact that it was time for me to do something different. I think the worst thing I could've done to follow up ďShortcomingsĒ would be to do another book with a similar tone and drawing style. So it was kind of exciting for me when I realised that kind of departure that I was aiming for was already completed and ready to go.

Do you see this as a permanent shift, or just something you needed to get out of your system before returning to the ďOptic NerveĒ universe?

I think of this wedding book more like a fun little detour. It's a mode that I'd be happy to return to at some point, and will continue to use in my sketchbook. But right now I'm actually working on something that's pretty different.

You and your wife Sarah now have a young child. How has becoming a family man affected your comics work?

On a practical level, it's made the comics work more difficult. Working from home used to be the world's greatest luxury to me, and now with a one-year-old daughter, it can be tricky. On a broader level, having a kid is one of the only events in my life that significantly changed my perception of a lot of things, so that's probably going to show up in some form.

You've called ďOptic NerveĒ "thinly veiled autobiography". Will we see a happily married Ben Tanaka navigating fatherhood and marriage?

If a character of mine is widely criticised and reviled, then it's all fiction. If the character is admired and beloved, then that's pretty much straight autobio. Having said that, what does Ben Tanaka have to do with me?
 
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  See Magazine talks with JOE SACCO and ADRIAN TOMINE

Updated February 18, 2011


According to comics journalist Joe Sacco, every cartoonist probably has a bit of a masochistic streak.

ďArtistically, what I do is exhausting, very labour intensive,Ē says Sacco, who won an American Book Award in 1996 for his comics journalism series, Palestine.

Just glance at almost any given page of Saccoís art ó whether itís from Palestine, The Fixer (2003) or Footnotes in Gaza (2009) ó and you can see the sheer grinding effort staring back at you. The painstaking line work of a torrential rainstorm in Palestine suggests untold hours of wrist-cramping action at the drawing board.

Look at the meticulously ordered and precisely designed panels of Chris Ware in his Acme Novelty Library series. By contrast, thereís a laboured chaos in the work of underground Quebec artist Richard Suicide; his technique in 2007ís My Life as a Foot sometimes seemingly consists of blanketing the page with drawing from one side to the other.

For decades, the roughly standard comics industry practice was for various hands to complete various aspects of the finished book or strip; one person penciled, another inked, etc. The division of labour increased productivity.

However, with the rise of so-called ďalternativeĒ or ďliteraryĒ comics, emphasis has shifted back to the individual artistsí visions. Which means some of the most celebrated artists today are people who insist on making a lot of work for themselves.

ďDrawing is generally like digging a ditch,Ē Sacco says. ďI basically know how far Iíll get each day.Ē

On average, he completes two pages every five days.

Adrian Tomine, whose 2007 Shortcomings was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book, required about a week to complete a page for that project. Of course, he utilized what he admits was perhaps an ďoverly obsessive drawing style.Ē

ďI think Ďlabouringí is the perfect word,Ē Tomine says. Thatís evident in Tomineís precise style in Shortcomings ó a certain minimalism, or reductionism, that looks deceptively simple on the surface, but suggests great effort put into the final look of every panel ó reflected most prominently in the exactness of the charactersí facial and body language.

ďItís hard to break down whether form follows function or the other way around,Ē Sacco says.

Sacco felt it necessary to provide readers a genuine sense of place.

ďThereís that journalistic imperative to draw things as I saw them: cars, buildings, clothing, etc.,Ē he explains. ďBasically, the work calls for accuracy and detail.Ē

Of course, the ever-present risk for any comics artist is overworking the image, which on the reduced page will be unforgiving of excess.

By contrast, during the drawing of Shortcomings Tomine ďwas constantly fighting against an undercurrent of stiffnessĒ that usually comes from photo referencing. (For that matter, when he looks back now, the work still looks too detailed.)

The art in Tomineís brand-new, Scenes from an Impending Marriage, by contrast, has a looser, more ďcartoonyĒ look. And itís not wrong to think the style is less labour intensive or that Tomineís use of it had only to do with stylistic experimentation.

ďThe style of Scenes from an Impending Marriage was completely reactionary ó almost like an antidote,Ē he says. This is likely because the project wasnít originally intended for publication and Tomine felt totally uninhibited, and emancipated in terms of drawing style. He completed one to two pages daily.

ďIt was a welcome reminder that drawing comics could actually be fun,Ē he says. ďNot just an arduous slog towards a very distant goal.Ē

It prompts the question of if the time and labour invested is worth it.

The trick, Sacco says, is to choose projects wisely. Not that we would consider simplifying his style for journalistic work. But in answer to the question: ďI think the payoff is worth it, yes.Ē

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Slant Magazine analyzes SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated February 18, 2011


Given its Tiffany Blue cover and petite size, Adrian Tomine's Scenes from an Impending Marriage seems less like a book about someone getting married than an inexpensive gift for someone getting married.
This is a shortó54 tiny, square-shaped pagesócollection of comics about what it's like to be engaged to be married for a pair of liberal, PC, urban-dwelling yuppies. As such, we get vignettes and anecdotes about consumer guilt, respecting ethnic difference, getting in shape, passive aggression, and self-consciousness. All these themes and their accompanying minor epiphanies occur along the common route of how one gets ready for a wedding: selecting guests, finding a venue, designing invitations, hiring a D.J., registering for gifts, etc.
Most of the comics are two or three pages long and involve the bride and groom to be talking to each other, pondering nuptial necessities, and picking out marital must-haves. They're drawn in Tomine's black-and-white, clean-line style, a couple of scenes paying visual tribute to Peanuts and The Family Circus.
The title of the book is a play off Ingmar Bergman's five-hour teledrama Scenes from a Marriage, and the cover drawing of Mr. and Mrs. Tomine trotting off to, presumably, their conjugal coitus, looks a lot like Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann. Bergman's film, however, was long and intense, portraits that let you really gaze at two people and peer into their relationshipóugly, embarrassing, and frustrating (and also hopeful, comforting, and passionate) as it could be.
Tomine's scenes, on the other hand, feel airbrushed, glossed over; they're close-up without being intimate, deprecating without being revealing. Surely to be engaged involves some doubts and disappointments, despite the mood of general hopefulness. And surely to be a conscientious fan of Ingmar Bergman involves at least some bleak pessimism creeping into your day to day life.
However, the tone of Tomine's Scenes from an Impending Marriage makes sense when you learn the origins of the book. They're revealed in an obligatorily self-referential scene toward the end, a vignette called "Favors." The future Mrs. Tomine suggests that Mr. Tomine make a little comic as a wedding favoróa comic about planning the very wedding for which it would be a take-home trinket.
Is it a literary sin to make a front-cover allusion to Bergman, but instead of a dense, high-fiber feast, you get served a sugary alt-comics cupcake written as a thank you gift for in-laws and cousins and well-wishers? Maybe. Regardless, Tomine's book is cute and quaint. It's as easy to swallow as the proverbial piece of cake, and takes about as much time to get through too. It was born as a party favor and it lives as a party favor. Purchase accordingly.
 
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  Westender.com reviews SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated February 18, 2011


In the uneventful, latter half of February, gone are the fancy dinners, beautiful flowers and, for some, edible garments that comprise Valentineís Dayís showy, ritual displays of affection. Those of us who are in love (to use a phrase which is, in any public context, admittedly obnoxious) will settle back into sharing quieter, everyday moments: buying groceries, taking public transit, gossiping about friends, family, and co-workers.

New Yorker cover artist Adrian Tomineís charming, winning new book of comics, Scenes from an Impending Marriage, captures a couple in one of the rare phases that combines both romantic ritual as well as mundane organization and preparation: planning their wedding. What becomes abundantly clear is that the lionís share of the love, intimacy, and humour is to be found in the humble day-to-day.

Like any good engagement, the book (published by Montreal-based imprint Drawn + Quarterly) is short (54 pages!) and sweet. In a series of multi-page, multi-panel comics ó punctuated by occasional one-page/one-joke wonders that were described by a friend as ďlike Family Circus, but funnyĒ ó we watch Japanese-American Adrian and his Celtic-American fiancťe, Sarah, as they book DJs, register for gifts, and navigate the politics of the guestlist.

The couple is self-consciously privileged, skeptical of the marital hullabaloo, but ultimately excited about a beautiful wedding. Itís this semi-detachment, the ironic distance between the couple and the traditions that theyíre nevertheless indulging, that makes Scenes from an Impending Marriage such a success: at once cutting and sweet, world-weary but genuinely excited.

So we get the groom-to-be angrily dressing-down a potential DJ (a self-styled ďmusicologistĒ) on the subject of Bob Seger: ďWe do [like old-time rock and roll]! We just donít like bombastic songs about old-time rock and roll!Ē Then sheepishly, in the next panel, he turns to his fiancťe: ďRight?Ē We get Sarah busily working out details for the big day over the phone while Adrian eats chips and watches The Wire. We also get her aiming a department storeís wedding registry scanner at her fiancť like a gun and demanding, (literally) point blank, that he choose between the ďĎGrand Hotelí flatware or the ĎCharlemagne.íĒ Adrian earnestly questions why he has to buy a $100 necktie, and canít just wear the one he bought for Sarahís grandmotherís funeral.

Eventually, they volunteer at a soup kitchen for AIDS patients and have their trivial worries thrown into sharp relief.

Adrian and Sarah also engage in negotiations that will be immediately recognizable to many Vancouverites: working with, and around, differences of ďCultural Heritage.Ē Adrianís parents want Taiko drums at the reception, Sarahís want bagpipes. In a particularly hilarious sequence (with one of the best punchlines in the book), Sarah gently accuses Adrian of only wanting to hire a particular florist because they are of Japanese descent. When he protests this assessment, she demands the names of his accountant, optometrist and dentist (who are, respectively, ďKen Takahashi,Ē ďPeggy Ouchida,Ē and ďMariko FujiwaĒ).

In the North American context, there is little or no widespread prejudice against relationships between white folks and East Asians. Even if no one wants to stop us from being together legally or socially, cultural differences linger. Usually itís the stuff of minor frustration, the coal that makes comedy diamonds. More than three years into this reviewerís interracial marriage, weíre still catching each other up on what it means to be Chinese, French-Canadian, or British. (Last year, I had to explain what a meatloaf is.)

Tomineís gentle, probing insights on this score are one of the real triumphs of the work. Scenes from an Impending Marriage captures what stays exotic in a partner, and what quickly collapses into instant familiarity and everyday intimacy.
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The New York Times' ArtsBeat takes a look at SCENES FROM AN IMPENDING MARRIAGE

Updated February 18, 2011


The ups and downs of planning a wedding are many: where to do it (and how much to spend), whom to invite (and what the invitation will look like), what to serve, how to entertain your guests and more. In ďScenes From an Impending Marriage,Ē which lands at No. 2 on our hardcover list this week, the cartoonist Adrian Tomine chronicles his own march down the aisle in a series of comic strips. The end result also served as an atypical wedding favor for the guests at his nuptials. The publisher, Drawn & Quarterly, has a six-page preview available for download.

A previous graphic novel of Mr. Tomineís, ďShortcomings,Ē a novella about Asian-American characters and how they handle being in a minority, was one of The New York Times Book Reviewís 100 notable books of 2007. ďVaguely misanthropic and sexually insecure, Ben is the not-so-lovable protagonist of ĎShortcomings,í a meticulously observed comic-book novella by Adrian Tomine,Ē Jim Windolf wrote in The New York Times Book Review. ďWhen Miko leaves Berkeley for an internship in New York, Ben finds he dislikes his own company even more than he disliked hers.Ē

ďBen is a fascinating, maddening character, a young fogey whose snobbishness doesnít prevent him from enjoying DVDs with titles like ĎSapphic Sorority,í much to Mikoís chagrin. She accuses him of having a thing for white girls, which really sets him off ó and Tomine takes voyeuristic delight in capturing every gruesome facial expression of a couple in mid-argument. The author is an expert at hooking the reader without tricks or obvious effort, and youíll be tempted to buzz through ďShortcomingsĒ in an hour. But youíll want to slow down to take in the detailed black-and-white panels that casually document the way we live now.Ē Drawn & Quarterly has a six-page preview of ďShortcomingsĒ too.

As always, the complete lists can be found here, along with an explanation of how they were assembled. See you next week!
 
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  Scenes From an Impending Marriage in the National Post

Updated February 9, 2011


Scenes from an Impending Marriage
By Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly
56 pp; $10.50
February 4, 2011
Reviewed by Chris Randle


In As You Like It, Shakespeare described weddings as a ďblessed bond of board and bed.Ē However, that line was written for the god of matrimony ó like todayís florists, jewellers and stationers, he had a certain bias. Iíve never come close to proposing, but I have seen commercials for those three-monthsí salary engagement rings, the ones designed to inflame modern anxieties. Though the bloated wedding industry serves as Adrian Tomineís comic foil throughout Scenes from an Impending Marriage, this sprightly book never spares its own creator (or his fiancťe) for going along with the madness. The graphic vignettes documenting months of frazzled planning turn out to be his breeziest, most immediate work yet, inviting for romantics and formalists alike.

For Tomine, this is a stylistic departure. The cartoonist made his name with austere yet meticulously drawn stories about frustrated, self-deluding young people; even if a particular anti-hero was flailing around in desperation, their body language and surroundings would be almost mathematically precise. Scenesí nonlinear strips are looser and less realistic: They were drawn in Tomineís sketchbook after his future bride, Sarah, suggested the autobiographical minicomic as a wedding favour.

Thatís not to say these miniatures are unpolished. Alternating between a snug nine-panel grid and full-page jokes, the strips have a fetching slim-lined style reminiscent of Charles Schulz ó at one point Tomine simply throws in a direct Peanuts homage. The nonchalant, semi-improvised bent of the cartooning extends to his lettering: Instead of redrawing panels that once mentioned real friends or family members, he just scratched their names out.

When it comes to the betrothed couple, Tomine eschews such discretion. Heís gentler than in past books, but still great at capturing awkwardness. One panel depicts his dancing lessons with Sarah: Heís stepping on her foot, sheís frowning down at it and heís staring nervously off into space. Encouraged to spend absurd amounts of money and time on every aspect of the ceremony, Tomine and fiancťe see themselves falling into a ďblack hole of nuptial narcissism.Ē He asks: ďDo you think they still need help at that AIDS dinner?Ē

The pairís guilt-ridden volunteering ends up happening off-panel. That clever elision is a mark of Tomineís light touch here: Working with barely 50 pages and what must have been a tight matrimonial deadline, he manages to preserve some nuance even in this happy relationship. Tomine the character is fixated on controlling minute details and is politely curt towards awful wedding DJs, while Sarah tries to remain diplomatic even when faced with inane obstacles like, well, DJ Buttercream.

Every spouse has their limits, though. Wandering through the single personís hell, a Crate & Barrel store filled with blissful registering couples, the cartoonist finally has a mini-meltdown: ďWhatís with these bar-code scanners? It looks like everyoneís casually aiming a gun at wicker tissue box holders or whatever! Itís emblematic of our culture: ĎI want lots of stuff, and I want to shoot a gun!í Ē Then his wife-to-be holds him up with a scanner and demands a flatware preference.

In 2005, the Canadian cartoonist Seth published a sketchbook-spawned graphic novel of his own. If anyone saw the unexpectedly whimsical Wimbledon Green as a trifle at the time, they probably donít now; it presaged a growing vein of dry humour in his characteristic nostalgia. Turning point? Recreational detour? Regardless, Iíd be glad to see more Tomine comics like Scenes from an Impending Marriage, even ones that simply elaborate on its stylistic experiments. Constrained by space, time and autobiography, heís drawn an artistic exemplar of John Donneís very debatable phrase: ďTo enter in these bonds is to be free.Ē
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SCENES on The Daily Cross Hatch

Updated February 1, 2011


Scenes From an Impending Marriage
By Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly
January 17, 2011
Brian Heater

The news of Adrian Tomineís new book no doubt sent a wave of excitement out amongst the cartoonistís loyal fan baseónot only due to the fact that his comics output has seemingly slowed over the past several years, it also promised to offer a certain level of insight into the psyche of the man himself. Tomine, after all, has largely stayed away from overt autobiography in his Optic Nerve series, and while readers have, no doubt, attempted to read flashes of his own person into the rotating cast of characters, such connections are largely the fabrications of amateur psychoanalysts.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage promised both glimpses of the man behind the work and a belated invitation to one of the biggest moments in his life, as a mass produced reprinting of a wedding favor created by Tomine at the best of his soon-to-be-wife. The news of the extremely limited run mini-comic hit the Internet around the time of the artistís 2007 wedding, and no doubt drove many a fan a bit crazy with the knowledge that there was non-Optic Nerve work out there that they would likely never actually see.

But while the bookís title is a tongue-in-cheek homage to Ingmar Bergmanís much-beloved, but utterly devastating 1973 film, Scenes from a Marriage, the book doesnít offer much in the way of stripped naked critiques on the state of matrimony in contemporary societyóa fact that likely wonít come as a revelation to those aware of the bookís origin. After all, stripped naked critiques on the state of matrimony in contemporary society make for lousy wedding favors.


Rather, the book is a suitably breezy and light-hearted collection of strips taken from real life vignettes in the months leading up to marriage. The art is some of the simplest weíve seen from the notoriously meticulous Tomineósmall ink drawings that look as though there were pulled directly from a sketchbook, often borrowing from Schulzís drawing book both for comedic effect and to offer up a quick distillation of a scene in cramped panel real estate.

Insights are offered into Tomine and his relationship with his fiancťe, Sarah, but for the most part, they exist to serve punch lines to cute stories about eccentric wedding DJs and tie shopping. In the end, those bits and pieces do come together to form a picture of its leadsóSarah attempting to pull together her dream wedding and Adrian doing what he can to make his future wife happy in that respect, while tripping things up a bit with minor resistance and little obsessions along the way.

An epilogue, created specifically for this collection, offers a warm reminder of precisely what this whole story is about: two people really in love, willing to look pastóor perhaps even embraceótheir respective shortcomings. The warmest and strongest moment in the book emerge once the pomp and circumstance of the special day has come to a close, a reminder that, once the DJ has stopped and the bar has closed, weíre left with two people who have pledged themselves to one another

To that end, Scenes from an Impending Marriage will likely have a life beyond those Adrian Tomine fans happy to see their artist stretch his legs outside his often somber subject matter for a funny and breezy take on a serious subjectóthis $10 hardcover pocket book will likely be gifted to many young newly-engaged couples in the coming years. Itís a small book that is ostensibly a lighthearted take on the trials and tribulations of planning a weddingóbut in between the lines, itís a reminder about why we put ourselves through such difficulty in the first place.
 
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  The Comics Reporter reviews Scenes from an Impending Marriage

Updated February 1, 2011


Scenes From An Impending Marriage
posted January 20, 2011
Tom Spurgeon

Creator: Adrian Tomine
Publishing Information: Drawn & Quarterly, hardcover, 40 pages, February 2011, $9.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781770460348 (ISBN13), 1770460349 (ISBN10)

As you've probably suspected, Scenes From An Impending Marriage is certainly the most adorable comics effort to stroll down the red carpet in quite some time. Writing critically of it feels like it would be a faux-pas on the level of refusing a gift -- literally; most of what's contained within its covers are the comics that were in a different form the actual wedding gift from the happy couple to their assorted guests. Tomine uses a stripped-down style here, attractive and lean; it's partly reminiscent of some of the essay comics he published in his early mini-comics and partly the obvious end result of years of cartoon-making since. The cartoonist employs this body of techniques to depict tableaux from the various wedding planning absurdities that crop up between I will and I do. Each is affectionately relayed, even the ones involving people that might be unpleasant to meet on different terms. It all comes together in the end and because we know this, everyone else is forgiven.

The serene and lovely thing about Scenes From An Impending Marriage is that the couple seems blissfully united against these various not-exactly-earth-shattering obstacles, to a degree that their seeming compatibility almost all by itself puts a smile on your face. You're happy for them to have a relationship that can be depicted in that way, and additionally happy for the cartoonist to be coming from such a position of apparent joy that this kind of art is the result. Most fans don't get enough of Adrian Tomine to suit them, and I include Myself in their number. This isn't Tomine's fault: he is very earnestly focused on making comics according to certain standards he has for art and certain issues he wants to see explored there. These impulses are a large part of what makes him worth reading in the first place. But that means a long time between comics, and an even longer time -- somewhere between 12 years and forever -- to see him work in a different style, say, or towards an effect far removed from his grim, taut, bitterly humorous portrayals of human weakness. The nicest thing I can say about Scenes From An Impending Marriage is that it satisfies an itch I thought I might never see scratched. Let's hope the marriage lasts forever, but that there are more such works in Adrian Tomine's future. If this is all we get, that's okay, too.
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WSJ Profile on Adrian and Review of Scenes from an Impending Marriage

Updated February 1, 2011


Negotiating the Union: A Local Cartoonist Gets Real in His Book About Marriage
By Bruce Bennett
February 1, 2011

Immortalizing a wedding via video has become nearly as commonplace as pre-vow jitters. But for Brooklyn-based cartoonist and illustrator Adrian Tomine, the preparation for his 2007 wedding was an experience the artist couldn't resist documenting on paper.

Originally handed out as a 16-page Xeroxed favor to the couple's guests, Mr. Tomine's wryly confessional cartoon depiction of the leg work, negotiations, logistical decisions and procedural compromises that he and his fiancťe, Sarah Brennan, encountered en route to the altar comes out Tuesday in a 54-page volume called "Scenes From an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir."

The book's easygoing humor represents something of a tonal departure for Mr. Tomine, who is perhaps best known for his ongoing graphic-novel series "Optic Nerve." His 2007 graphic novel, "Shortcomings," was a bracingly detailedóand fictionalórelationship forensic that novelist Jonathan Lethem compared in look to the work of French filmmaker Erich Rohmer and in character complexity to the prose of Alice Munro.

"The wedding book is by far the cleanest and least cynical and least sarcastic thing I've ever done," the artist acknowledged recently over coffee near his home in Park Slope. "Not just because of the subject matter, but also because originally the only audience that was going to read it was going to be our grandparents and distant aunts."

Mr. Tomine, a 36-year-old native of California, pointed out that the lighter tone of his new volume is largely due to the two-part nature of its genesis. "This book was created during two unusually chaotic times in my life," he said, referring to his wedding and the subsequent birth of his daughter in 2009. "The original stuff was done as we were really coming to the finish line of the actual wedding itself, which was overtaking my life in a way that was insane."

When the process of parsing out, pricing out and putting together the big event proved too much, he said, he could always find respite in the calm of applying himself to a related task with which he was more familiar. "It was fun to be able to say, 'Well, I've gotta go work on the favor, and then sit there with my headphones on and draw."

But it became more difficult with a baby on the way, as Mr. Tomine worked to expand the book to publishable length. "The finishing touches and the stuff I added was done right after our daughter was born," he said. With a newborn in the household, "The idea of getting serious work done was just out of the question."

Within "Scenes From an Impending Marriage," Mr. Tomine, who is fourth-generation Japanese-American, pokes fun at the differences between his own family and his wife's Irish-American forebears. At one point in the book, the couple strikes a compromise by denying suggestions from the groom's family to include traditional Japanese Taiko drummers in the ceremony and from the bride's side to have bag pipes. But the author, who moved to Brooklyn from the Bay Area to be with Ms. Brennan, said the marriage process also led to a West Coast-East Coast culture shock.

"I think I'd probably been to one or two weddings in my life prior to my own," he said. Being from California, "my sense of a wedding even at its most grand scale was like a glorified barbecue in someone's back yard that's been nicely decorated. There's just a lot more rules or expectations [in New York]. Out here I really felt more like I was plugging into this industry."

While "Scenes From an Impending Marriage" lampoons much of that industry, Mr. Tomine said the experiences that provoked humor in the book also inspired real-life empathy for those whose jobs it is to fulfill New Yorkers' wedding expectations.

"I felt their pain," he said of negotiating with caterers, DJs, florists and other wedding enablers. "Any time I got that little prickly vibe from somebody, I thought, 'Who knows who did what five minutes before we walked into this room.' We're not rude, we're not pushy, we're not having temper tantrums, but we're still annoying and it would still suck to have to cater to us. I imagine that we're on the reasonable end of the spectrum of people getting married, but just imagine what the spectrum is."

While his vocation qualified him to interpret the pre-wedding experience, Mr. Tomine said it did little to prepare him to co-direct it. "I've never been in any position where I was a boss," he said. "It was very uncomfortable, especially when you're looking across the table at some 75-year-old woman from Japan who really just wants to work on her orchids for the orchid show at the Javits Center, but instead she's got to do your stupid bouquets."
 
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  BoingBoing profiles Scenes from an Impending Marriage

Updated February 1, 2011


Adrian Tomine's "Scenes from an Impending Marriage"
February 1, 2011
Mark Frauenfelder

I like autobiographical comics, especially because they are about the lives of cartoonists. Adrian Tomine's (Optic Nerve, Summer Blonde) Scenes from an Impending Marriage (Drawn & Quarterly, 2011) is a 54-page book with 1-4 page vignettes of the events leading up to his marriage with his fiancťe Sarah. The stories include making a guest list, booking a reception venue, designing the invitations, hiring a DJ, registering at Crate and Barrel, hiring a florist, etc.

This may sound humdrum, but the events are funny, and anyone who has gotten married will see a little of themselves in these comics. Adrian comes off as a slightly grumpy cheapskate (doesn't it seem like most good cartoonists are?), but the sweet-yet-firm Sarah has no problem getting her way and making Adrian come to his senses (see sample above).

This book was originally designed as a little gift that Adrian and Sarah gave to each of the wedding attendees. I'm glad they are sharing these entertaining and endearing personal stories with a wider audience.
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Scenes from an Impending Marriage on the LA Times Jacket Copy Blog

Updated February 1, 2011


David L. Ulin on Adrian Tomine
January 30, 2011

Adrian Tomine's "Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir" was first conceived as a party favor for guests at his wedding, or at least that's what we're supposed to think. Whether or not this is really true is beside the point, since either way, it offers a useful strategy for thinking about the book.

Tomine has always been a master of the small gesture, as anyone familiar with his work knows. Such encounters motivate the deceptively informal stories in his series "Optic Nerve," as well as his graphic novel "Shortcomings," which explores the limits of identity and intimacy. With "Scenes from an Impending Marriage," though, he seems almost willfully understated, tracing, in a series of offhand comics, the peculiar rigors of the wedding dance, from guest lists to seating charts to invitations and beyond.

That this is the perfect approach to an event that has become fetishized in our culture should go without saying: Tomine's point is not to play into (or even against) perceptions about marriage so much as to particularize his account. It's not even the wedding that's important (it does not appear here), but rather the interaction between Tomine and his fiancťe Sarah as they try to create a ceremony that will have meaning for them.

"You need to stop approaching this like you're doing people a favor by not inviting them," Sarah tells Tomine about his reluctance to add to the guest list. "Okay," he replies, "but I also think you shouldn't use this as an opportunity to make amends or re-connect with everyone you've ever known." It's a vivid interaction, made moreso by its kicker -- "Boy ... People would really be appalled if they ever heard some of these discussions," which, of course, suggests the irony and revelation of the autobiographical form. And yet, for anyone who's ever made up such a guest list, the details resonate, highlighting the ability of such a story to extend beyond itself. That's what Tomine does so beautifully, here as in his other work, using his experience to create a portal into our own.

"Scenes from an Impending Marriage" is a short book, barely 50 pages, but it reverberates with an unexpected depth. This is a function not only of content but also of form, which, at times, reflects some unlikely antecedents. A one-panel strip called "Exercise" is reminiscent of the syndicated strip "The Family Circus," with its circular frame. Elsewhere, Tomine and Sarah cry out, "WAAAAAAAHH!!" in exasperation, their heads back and mouths open like Charlie Brown and Sally in "Peanuts."

That's part of the fun of the book, finding the points of reference, as it were. But more essential, Tomine has created a heartfelt, recognizable portrait of the anxiety that surrounds the public declaration of love. "My hero!" Sarah declares on their wedding night, after he goes out at 4 a.m. to bring back food. The two of them sit on their hotel bed, eating and looking at each other. "Holy ....," Tomine says. "We're married."

-- David L. Ulin
 
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Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

           Featured product

Scenes from an Impending Marriage




  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Here

Updated December 14, 2009


Two books deal with different social issues

by Bernard C. Cormier

Like it or not, we're all born into groups.

That fact is largely the focus of both books reviewed this week: Shortcomings and The Big Kahn.

The first one we look at, Shortcomings, written and illustrated by Adrian Tomine, is a reprint book collecting Optic Nerve#9-11.

Its protagonist is Ben Tanaka, a 30-year-old Japanese-American movie theatre manager in Berkeley, California. His girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, also Japanese-American, is involved with the local Asian-American cultural scene.

Their relationship appears to be headed off a cliff because they regularly argue. Miko continuously accuses him of being "ashamed to be Asian" and accuses him of cheating on her after seeing his new employee, a cute 22-year-old blond named Autumn.

One day, the heat goes up in their arguments when she finds porn DVDs in his desk. "The thing that kind of bothers me is that all the girls are white", she tells him.

Not long after that event, she moves to New York for a four-month internship at the Asian-American Independent Film Institute. Due to her departure, they inevitably take some time off from each other.

After a brief fling with a bisexual woman, Ben receives a telephone call from his best friend Alice, a Korean-American lesbian, while she's in New York visiting friends. She tells him to join her there because, as she puts it, there's something he has to see with his own two eyes.

Tomine's art and storytelling style are absolutely top-notch. He presents the characters in a realistic way to the point where all of them have noticeable personal problems and flaws. Adding to the realism, the dialogue between characters is as realistic as it can get in a graphic novel.

Via empathy for his characters, Tomine forces readers to ask themselves important questions. Of course, based on the story, as you may have guessed, most of those questions are related to race and sexuality. However, it does contain moments of humour, like when Ben is watching Autumn's band perform at a gig.

The second book this week is The Big Kahn.

Written by Neil Kleid and illustrated by Nicolas Cinquegrani, The Big Kahn is about Rabbi David Kahn who is, once deceased, revealed by his brother to never have been Jewish in the first place.

It focuses on how such devastating news about the rabbi, along his death, affects his immediate family, which consists of his wife and three children.

Before the revelation of his faith, his eldest child, Avi, was to be his successor as a rabbi in their synagogue. Unfortunately, now some people with influence and power in that synagogue don't see it that way anymore because Avi's not "100 per cent Jewish".

He's not the only person being treated differently. His mother and brother are, too, in different ways. Oddly enough, his sister, the family's bar-hoping rebel, is becoming more spiritual.

The Big Kahn touches the fact that there are always snobs in all groups, including religions. As a result, there's always the chance of discrimination, too.

I don't know if the problems Avi had in the book would happen in real life but, really, so what if a Rabbi's parents weren't Jewish?

In brief, the book's visuals look good. Its overall message, despite a (spoiler alert) cliffhanger-style ending, appears to be too pro-religion/faith, especially when one of the characters is described on the back cover as "re-awakening".

Don't get me wrong: being religious can be okay except, in my opinion, it doesn't make much sense for the characters to be discriminated by the religious institution that they are members of and then continue to want to be affiliated with the organization.

Generally speaking, Shortcomings and The Big Kahn are still good books to trigger thoughts within the readers of their own lives.

Shortcomings: 8/10

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

The Big Kahn: 8/10

Publisher: NBM
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Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (HC)




SN&R discuss Sacremento's comic scene and ADRIAN TOMINE

Updated November 9, 2009


Four ordinary, 30-something guys gather around a dimly lit table at the back of downtownís Fox & Goose restaurant. Anthony Leano, a key player in the local comic-book scene, taps away on his laptop; heís compiling a list of names, nearly three decadesí worth of Sacramento comic-book writers, pencilers, inkers, publishers and store owners.

He tilts the screen and leans over the laptop as if shielding a confidential CIA manuscript. A roughed-up cardboard box loaded with comics, all created by local talent, rests on the table next to a pitcher of Guinness.

Nowadays, comics are more mainstream than ever, but vestiges of comic-book ignominy are something these artists still endure. Parents no longer feel mortified by their kidsí affinity for Technicolor tights and improbable cleavage, but it still isnít that easy to escape the ďgeekĒ stigma or make money as a comic artist.

But, as Leanoís secret list attests, Sacramento apparently has a thriving, semi-underground comics community, complete with famous legends, steadfast fans, scene boosters and aspiring newbies. So who are these geeksóand will they ever make it?

Leano goes over the list, name by name, while artists and pals Paul Allen, Brandon Bracamonte, and Mike Hampton interject with pertinent infoóand one-linersóamid beer gulps. Leano praises illustrator Dan Brereton, of Lincoln, ďone of the few whoís been hand-painting comics his entire career.Ē Then Bracamonte jokes that he also ďhas an awesome beard.Ē

This overview takes hours; pitchers refill, Bracamonte moves on to the hard stuff, and everyone eventually opens up, revealing hopes and fears.

ďWeíre all about 30,Ē says Hampton, peering through his messy, chin-length hair. ďThis is what we want to do with our lives.

ďWe want to draw.Ē


Resurrecting Sacramentoís comic-book scene (left to right): Brains co-writer Anthony Leano, Hot Zombie Chicks and Captain Asshole creator Mike Hampton, Brains and this weeksí SN&R cover illustrator Paul Allen, and Hey Rube! illustrator and local tattoo artist Brandon Bracamonte zombie-ing around Empireís Comics Vault on Arden Way.
PHOTO BY MIKE IREDALE

Sacramento back story

In the early 1980s, a local comic geek named Sam Kieth would tote a weekís worth of illustrations over to Tim Fosterís house, and they and local artist Dane McCart would evaluate each otherís drawings. Foster remembers that he and McCart usually brought a decent amount of work, but that Kieth would always arrive with a stack of artwork as thick as ďa phone book.Ē

ďIt was just inconceivable that a guy could do so much good work,Ē Foster says.

Some 25 years later, Kieth is Sacramentoís most accomplished and well-known comic-book artist.

Foster says parents, and society in general, discouraged their interest in comics. ďBeing into comic books was like being into really obscure pornography. You didnít tell anyone. In high school, youíd get no respect,Ē he says. Teachers would catch his friends reading comics in class and demand, ďWhatís wrong with you?!Ē he remembers.

There wasnít much of a comic-book scene in Sacramento at this time, either. Artists like Robert Crumb lived out in Winters, building a comic underground, but Foster, Kieth and McCart wanted to do superhero comics in the city, obsessed with what Foster calls ďa weirdo subcultureĒ that was difficult to break into.

Enter Kris Silver.

Foster says Silver was a ďstrange, nunchuck-wielding nerdĒ who owned Alexanderís Comics in south Sacramento on Freeport Boulevard. He published books out of this storefront under the Silver Wolf banner. Foster, McCart, and even local artists like Ron Lim and Tim Vigil ended up doing work for Silver Wolf.

Many say these comics were bad; Foster calls them ďunreadableĒ and ďpoorly drawn,Ē noting that Silver would employ such slapdash methods as using a typewriter to jot out captions and inelegantly pasting them onto the panels.

But collectors during the mid-í80s were eating up black-and-white comic books. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series had brought about a boon, and Silver Wolf rode its coattails. Fosterís first comic sold 35,000 copies.

Vigil, a local artist known for the popular horror comic Faust, started off at Silver Wolf on Grips, which essentially was an X-Men knockoff. Most of Silverís comics, in fact, were rehashes of familiar mainstream brands; Grips was Wolverine, but with only one blade instead of three. But Grips sold like gangbusters and was Silver Wolfís most popular title.

While Foster and McCart were raking in the doughómaking upward of $90 a page, a goldmine for two kids fresh out of high schoolóKieth had different plans. He wanted to do Marvel and DC comics, so heíd mailed clips to all the major editors across the country and finally landed a gig penciling Sandman.

Later, he worked on Wolverine, Marvel Comics Presentsí Alien series, X-Men, The Hulk (with McCart). Big-time gigs. In 1996, his original comic The Maxx became an MTV cartoon.

The mid-í90s saw the largest U.S. comic-sales windfall since World War II. Kiethís issues sold upward of 1 million copies. Other local artists benefited, too, moving hundreds of thousands of books during this time. Lim and Kelley Jones, whoíve worked on Marvelís Silver Surfer and DCís Batman & Dracula: Red Rain series, respectively, made good and are two of the more recognizable industry names out of Sacto.

Eventually, Kieth got to work on the big ticket: Batman. Twice, in fact: Once in the í90s and again in 2007ís Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious graphic novels. Back in the day, Dave Downey, frontman of former local band the Lizards and owner of Worldís Best Comics on Watt Avenue, and Foster even posed as the Joker and Batman for Kiethís photo-reference work.

Kiethís Batman: Secrets series stands out: The Dark Knightís earsí and backís arc are sharp, pointed, but his face is stoic. His Joker is the other extreme: no defined lines, creating a sense of constant motion, with wiry, spinning red eyeballs and a playfully crooked, evil lipsticked smirk.

Back during when Kieth first drew Batman, he and Foster would often browse local comic stores. Hundreds upon thousands of issues were at their fingertipsóthis was the superhero comicsí heydayóbut one day Kieth zeroed in on a locally made microcomic called Optic Nerve by a young kid named Adrian Tomine.


Zombies take over world, guy locks up zombie girlfriend, guy photographs hot zombie pin-ups, girlfriend zombie gets jealous, girlfriend eats guyóMike Hamptonís Hot Zombie Chicks comic has tapped into a weird but increasingly all-the-rage demographic: living-dead centerfold fanboysóand girls.
Click on the image for a larger version.

Indie ink

ďWhen I was in high school, I kept my interests in comics totally secret,Ē says Tomine. ďI was actually doing a monthly strip for Towerís PULSE! magazine, and no one in my school knew about it. When youíre a goofy-looking guy with enormous Ray-Ban glasses who drives a broken-down yellow 1973 Chevy Sportvan, the last thing you need is for your peers to know that youíre a comic-book fan!Ē

Tomine, who told SN&R he had ďa lot of free time on his handsĒ as a teenager, says he was a semi-regular at local comic stores, but was mostly loyal to Beyond the Pale, which shut its brick-and-mortar operation in 2007, and Worldís Best Comics. ďI also went to a Comics & Comix if I happened to be near one,Ē Tomine adds of the regionís then-most-popular chain. ďThe Comics & Comix on K Street actually wouldnít let me buy an issue of Love and Rockets, so I started taking my business elsewhere.Ē

The comic artist went to high school in Carmichael but eventually left Sacramento for Berkeley, where he roomed with Ghost World scribe Daniel Clowes. His longstanding Optic Nerve series and subsequent books earned Tomine critical praise, likening him to the Eric Rohmer or Woody Allen of comics.

But Tomineís work had strong local ties. In an early Optic Nerve episode, a character ends up working as a manager at Taco Bell; this in fact was well-known local Matt O. Shrugg, who until recently didnít realize Tomine, a high-school classmate, had put him in a story line some 10 years ago.

Tomine says he remembers getting into R. Crumb as a teenager and marveling at all the Sacramento and Davis locations he noticed in his strips.

Back at Fox & Goose, Anthony Leano plops his right arm on the table and shows off a triptych comic-strip tattoo; the panel right over Leanoís wrist is a black-and-white rendering from Tomineís Optic Nerve. Brandon Bracamonte, whose day gig is at Fallen Angel Tattoo on Auburn Boulevard, is the artist to blame.

Now, Tomine lives in New York City and often draws covers for The New Yorker. Heís married; he and his wife expect their first child any day. Sam Kieth has left Sacramento proper and lives east of Placerville, and pretty much any comic enthusiast around Sacramento labels Kieth as a ďrecluse,Ē noting in particular that he no longer does conventions, or press, and rarely has his photo taken.

Foster says this typecast is bogus; Kieth used to sign comics for hours on end at conventions all over the country. Kieth, however, declined to be interviewed for this story.

In the end, though, these artists were instrumental in penciling the way for Sacramentoís next comic-artist wave, those whoíll ink the future.


Cruising for comics: Dan Bethel, a.k.a. Ninja Dan (left), and Eben Burgoon, a.k.a. Eben07, of local Web comic Eben07, typically brainstorm over burgers and friesóand evidently pass off top-secret comic-book intelligenceóat Midtownís Suzie Burger fast-food joint.
PHOTO BY MIKE IREDALE

Geek and publisher

Tucked away in a salmon-colored strip mall amid such retail antiquity as the locksmith, the watch repairman and the cocktail lounge, is Sacramento comicís mother lode: Empireís Comic Vault. Inside, superheroes and single issues live in perfect harmony with indies and trade paperbacks, free from the comic industryís manacles. Empireís is here to please only the most discriminating of comic-geek connoisseurs.

Ben Schwartz owns this nerd haven, which he took over seven years ago. ďThe bad economy hasnít had a huge impact. Comics are only three bucks,Ē Schwartz explains. ďAnd comic-book fans are die-hards.

ďThey are going to get the next issue of Spider-Man.Ē

Whatís interesting about Schwartz, though, isnít just his popular store; he also runs the areaís only independent comic publisher, ECV Press.

ECV put out its first book in 2006, a 48-page, four-story, black-and-white anthology called The Continuum. Schwartz and his crew at Empireís took the book on the comic-convention circuit and did well, although, he says, ďItís really hard to get attention for these indie books with all the Marvel and DC events.Ē

Schwartz also learned that people werenít necessarily into big anthologies, so subsequent ECV titles have been in-color singles. Now he has five books in production.

The Hunters, a sci-fi military series written by Schwartzís wife, Jennifer Schwartz, is ECVís most popular.

ďThe indie market is extremely, extremely hard,Ē concedes Schwartz, who explains that most independent publishers do all the writing and drawing themselves. But this is not the case with ECV; theyíre a bona fide outfit.

ďWe have to pay every single person down the line. Weíre happy to break even. This is more a labor of love,Ē Schwartz says.

Diamond Comic Distributors, which has a monopoly on the entire industry, has effectively cut the indies out of the market, according to Schwartz, ďso that retailers will buy more DC and Marvel back catalog.Ē This doesnít bode well for indie publishers, but Schwartz is optimistic.

ďComics are extremely popular right now. Everybody wants to read one. And everybody wants to do one.Ē


The World Wide Web is not enough: Eben07 escapes an exploding St. Basilís Cathedral (discharging into Tetris pieces, no less) in Eben Burgoon and Dan Bethelís Eben07 Internet comic. Yes, Burgoon named the hero after himself.

Case of the Mondays

On Wednesdays at Big Brother Comics in Midtown, the UPS guy shows up with a new shipment around noon. Hopefully. Because soon thereafter, the storeís hundreds of hungry regulars file in to snatch their favorite titleís latest issue.

ďItís pretty much all on the UPS guy,Ē Big Brother owner Kenny Russell jokes.

Russellís shop has been around for four years; Big Brother spent its first year on K Street, near Seventh Street, before the city vacated the block and he relocated to its current J and 17th streets digs.

On a recent Monday, the new-releases rack is bare in anticipation of Wednesdayís bum rush. Russell, sporting a gray hoodie and cap with a barracuda bottle-opener keychain dangling from his black pants, says the recent bad economy hasnít impacted business that much, either.

ďIt makes sense to me. The average customer doesnít spend too much,Ē he says. A three dollar comic is a lot less than a $20 DVD.

Christopher Alvarez, a thin, bearded guy in his late 20s, works for Russell and has been at Big Brother almost since the beginning and, before that, he worked at the Comics & Comix locations in Folsom and Citrus Heights. Russell and Alvarez currently are working on a post-apocalyptic comic, their first collaboration but not the only comic to emerge from the Big Brother.

About a year ago, Alvarez posted a Craigslist ad announcing drawing club on Mondays at Big Brother. Local artists actually started showing up. ďMost artists I know are great procrastinators. So buckling down for a night of work for three hours, itís amazing what you can do,Ē Alvarez says.

Jim Shepherd, a fellow comic-book-store employee in Elk Grove, regularly attended the Monday get-together. And he invited a friend, Hannah Moore.

Moore says she got into superhero comics such as X-Men during high school, which led to her getting a comic strip, Gum on Asphalt, in the UC Davisí California Aggie newspaper while earning a bachelorís degree in studio art.

Big Brother Comics became a hub for artists who wanted to do more than just pound coffee at 3 a.m. while nurturing an unhealthy rapport with their index-finger blisters. And in the end, the Monday crew put out an anthology, aptly titled Mondays, which features short, multipanel stories and full-page illustrations, this time last year.

In the end, too, Alvarez and Moore started dating. The Monday group, though, dissolved earlier this yearóbut not without lessons learned.

ďI think the local scene could be brilliant if people just start things,Ē Shepherd explains, praising local efforts like Drink and Draw Sacramento, a club that meets every third Thursday to imbibe and ink.

Russell agrees. ďTen years ago, the comic industry was very unknown to people. Now, the indie scene has exponentially grown,Ē he says. He walks over to a pile of Jeffrey Brown books, a Michigan-based comic artist featured prominently atop a bookshelf in Big Brotherís indie section.

ďGirls read these books and generally fall in love with this guy. ĎOh, he knows!íĒ Russell intones, chuckling.


The raunchyóand evidently quite randyóresidents of Creepsville have a problem: The cemeteryís dead wonít stay dead. So it goes in Anthony Leano and Paul Allenís Brains, a local horror comic.
Click on the image for a larger version.

Soccer dad

Folsomís earthen-toned, stucco shops dot the foothill terrain for miles on end along Bidwell Street, the suburbís answer to Sin City. And even though consumer spending is down, as it is in Las Vegas, thereís even more big-box bang for your buck under construction for blocks, too.

Inside the cityís Borders bookstore, though, youíll find something unexpected: a local comic-book author, one Matt Maxwell, seated behind a table, graphic novels stacked high, a towering promo banner featuring the crimson, bloodthirsty wolf from his bookís cover that has to scare most of the kids coming in to buy Twilight on DVD.

Borders has placed Maxwell just inside the storeís entrance; he gets two hours to move books the new old-fashioned way: DIY, but inside the corporate American bookstore, the proverbial heart of the dragon.

For Maxwell, itís just another weekend at a convention/event/brouhaha/fill in the blank. Another weekend missing his two kidsí soccer games and wife in nearby El Dorado Hills.

ďIf you donít want to do this, get out,Ē he deadpans, making light of an indie publisherís plight. Minutes later, a shaggy-haired 20-something asks Maxwell for his autograph. He obliges, signing a copy of Strangeways, his first graphic novel.

This is will be the last book he signs for at least 45 minutes.

The idea for Strangeways came to him in the early í90s. ďWhy hasnít anyone done Westerns and monsters?Ē he wonderedóDances With (Satanís) Wolves, perhaps? Anyway, in 2003, he finally got around to writing the book; late last year, he hit the circuit with his 133-page comic, which was illustrated by Luis Guaragna.

But between carpooling, soccer games and bedtime stories, Maxwellís only time for working on comics is a few short hours each day, from 8 a.m. to 11. It took four years to finish Strangeways, but the reception has been good, if limited.

ďWhen you move away from newsstands and into comic stores, you lose awareness,Ē Maxwell argues. A weekend at Borders brings comics back to the masses, though, one blissfully oblivious suburban reader at a time.

Maxwellís next comic, however, wonít be signed or sold in stores; heíll join the thousands of Web comics online, a veritable Costco of geek lit, accessed shame free in the privacy of oneís home and with the simple click of a mouse.


Left to right: Jim Shepherd, Hannah Moore and Chris Alvarez and their drugs of choice at Big Brother Comics, where the trio collaborated with a dozen other local comic artists on Mondays, a DIY comic anthology.
PHOTO BY MIKE IREDALE

Funny (Web) pages

Dan Bethel and Eben Burgoon slowly make their way through Suzie Burgerís generous heaps of fries and robust, greasy cheeseburgersóa routine the two comics know well: Suzy is where they convene to brainstorm their successful Web comic, Eben07, which started up in 2007 and updates every Tuesday at www.eben07.com.

Yes, thatís right: Bethel and Burgoon named the comicís characters, Ninja Dan and Eben07, respectively, after themselves. ďThatís the rub,Ē says Bethel, conceding that maybe, if they could go back in time to their days together in high school in San Luis Obispo, they might not have given the protagonists their very nomenclatures. But itís too late now, at any rate.

So the 29-year-olds move forwardóand even embrace it. Burgoon, who manages Eben07ís Twitter page, in fact never breaks character, responding to Tweets as the comic hero, an agent for a fake government agency that ďcleansĒ up historyís botched government covert-intelligence operations.

The Web site plays straight the concept of U.S. spies and operatives ďdeclassifyingĒ covert ops and features an extensive, fabricated, tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek back storyóa sort of Coen brothers meets Howard Zinn approach to comic lineage.

Bethel attends grad school at Sacramento State, studying English, and Burgoon works at a local grocery store. They meet over burgers, Burgoon goes home and writes the comic on ďhis corner of the couch,Ē then Bethel draws it up at a proper desk. Then it goes live online.


Matt Maxwellís Strangeways: Murder Moon, a self-published, horror Western graphic novel, tells the story of a mysterious wolf tormenting men of the frontier. Find out more about the novel at www.highway-62.com.
Click on the image for a larger version.

Itís a good system, but monetizing the Web comic and turning a profit, though, is still a mystery. Nevertheless, they make enough to finance their print comics.

The next in the series to go tangible, Eben07ís Operation: Mongoose, will be out in early December.

Critics say the duoís comic is too serious, but Eben disagrees. ďThis is a janitor trying to assassinate Castro: Whatís serious about that?Ē he demands, jokingly, shaking a french fry in the air. Bethel calls the premise ďabsurdist,Ē but definitely not pretentious.

The Web comic industry, however, is a serious deal.

Last year, The Sacramento Bee revamped its comics section, giving the panels seven-days-a-week full color and a bit more prominence. The problem industrywide, though, is that increasingly more comic artists are taking their panels online and giving stories away for free.

No joke: There are an estimated 15,000 Web comics on the Internet.

Sarah Sawyer lives out in Roseville and commutes sometimes almost an hour to her Rancho Cordova job, but when she writes her twice-a-week Web comic, The Godís Pack, she needs only coffee and her nifty Wacom tablet to print her online strip, a series about talking wolves.

ďMy readership is too young for paper,Ē Sawyer saysóan outlook thatís probably too baffling for anyone inside The McClatchy Co.ís ivory tower. Or anyone over 35. But this is the future: Sawyer explains that Godís Packís readers are 12- to 16-year-olds, and they simply donít read print papers or books.

ďNewsprint comics are dying, and theyíre not dying with grace,Ē notes Sawyer, 22. ďThey say ĎIt doesnít make sense; youíre giving away something for free.íĒ

ďYeah, well, your way isnít working, either.Ē

Godís Pack (www.godspack.com) went live in September 2005. Sawyer says that when she started, there werenít a whole lot of women doing comics, but now, however, she says that artists like Kate Beaton, Renee EngstrŲm and even Citrus Heights Web comic artist Brittany Lore are influential.

Godís Pack certainly caught the eye of one reader, in Maryland, who whipped up a YouTube video to show his appreciation. Sawyer saw the clip; ďI want to talk to that guy,Ē she thought. And she did.

Sawyer now does another Web comic, called Beyond Rapture, with this video guy, a wildlife biology student. He also became her boyfriend. He writes. She draws.

The Web is working out.

ďYou find a lot more humor in Web comics,Ē she says. Thereís no ďsuperhero or nothingĒ ethos. Just innovation.

Dan Bethel of Eben07 agrees. ďWe do it for fun.Ē


ECV Press is the brainchild of Ben Schwartz, who also own venerable comic-book den Empireís Comic Vault on Arden Way. This comic, Little Kori in Komaland, was written by Benís wife, Jennifer Schwartz. Find out more at www.ecvpress.com.
Click on the image for a larger version.

I dream of being an artist

A gang of zombies and vampires gathers outside the Colonial Theatre on Stockton Boulevard in south Sacramento. Itís the annual Sacramento Horror Film Festival, but the vibeís not unlike a comic convention. Even Anthony Leano, Mike Hampton and Paul Allen are here, too, shilling wares.

Itís a familiar gig: This past January, the trio embarked on an epic road-trip tour, from Arizona and up the West Coast, to get the word out about their comics.

Leano and Allen sold out of their comic, Brains, a grisly black-and-white single issue about zombies that rise from the dead and killóor have sexówith a small burgís quirky inhabitants. Hampton too moved tons of Hot Zombie Chicks and Captain Asshole books and merch. He also started a national comic-con trend: charging five bucks to draw convention-goers as a zombie.

Inside the theater, the crewís in the dark, watching a tedious B-movie about a girl who cheats death by calling herself in the past with a magical cell phone. When the flick ends, the trio scampers behind merch tables and sells, sells, sells. The horror festival crowd is their bread and butterógore geeks, women who actually get excited about dressing up as dead people.

Hampton tells of the previous evening, where more than a dozen ladies participated in a zombie beauty pageant; the winner will get a full page in his forthcoming Hot Zombie Chicks, volume four, which drops next year.

Considering its very Girls Gone Wild subject matter, Hamptonís Hot Zombie Chicks is a pretty decent comic. Touching, even. The story is simple: zombies take over world; guy locks up zombie girlfriend; guy takes pinup photos of girlfriend zombie; guy starts photographing other zombies; girlfriend zombie gets jealous, eats guy.

Each issue includes a few full-page pinup illustrations of, you guessed it, hot zombie chicks, some gamely based on iconic pinups of yesterday, including Marilyn Monroe and the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.


Hannah Mooreís Bite Sized comic strip appeared in Mondays, a collaborative comic book created on Monday nights at Big Brother Comics with nearly a dozen others, including her boyfriend, Chris Alvarez, and Jim Shepherd.
Click on the image for a larger version.

Hot Zombie Chicks seems to be a metaphor for Hamptonís artistic plight. A documentary filmmaker recently followed Hampton for an entire year for the forthcoming I Dream of Being an Artist Ö And It Makes Me Sick. The film shows Hampton on the aforementioned tour. In one scene, heís holding a sleeping bag, moving into a new apartment after his marriage has fallen apart. In another, heís drunk in the middle of the night talking to the camera in the dark. In another, heís owning the comic-convention floor, signing books and talking game.

Back at the Fox & Goose, Leano, Hampton, Allen and Bracamonte pack up their comics and laptop. Leano has to get home; he sold his hearse on Craigslist to pay off an inordinate comic-art debt and has to sign the paperwork. They laugh and stumble off.

Hampton reappears minutes later with a copy of his 2007 Do-It-Yourself Award-winning book, How To ďDoĒ Comics!, a snarky treatise on how to make it in the biz. You flip to the last page and it reads:

ďWait! Itís not too late to turn back now! Throw away your comic books and art supplies and tell your girlfriend that you love her! Get married, have kids, become something exciting like a plumber, lawyer, pharmacist, doctor, or something else you have no passion for, and live life!Ē

So the story goes: Win, lose or draw.

 
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  CECIL AND JORDAN, 32 STORIES AND GEORGE SPROTT reviewed by the Star Tribune

Updated September 1, 2009


Masters of melancholy ; Three new graphic novels to make you laugh, cry and feel everything in between.
23 August 2009

Loneliness, sorrow and sadness never looked this good.

In the hands of the comic-book world's top cartoonists, doomed relationships and daily doldrums are a sight to behold. Seth, Adrian Tomine and Gabrielle Bell do not disappoint with their latest collections from powerhouse publisher Drawn & Quarterly.

.

"George Sprott: (1894-1975)," by Seth. (Drawn & Quarterly, 96 pages, $24.95.)

The characters who inhabit Seth's stories are never terribly interesting. Typically, they are aging white guys plagued by nostalgic memories of the good old days.

Even so, Seth (the pen name of Gregory Gallant) is one of the medium's best. For him, it's the way you tell the story. And his latest graphic novel might be his most ambitious yet. First off, it's huge. Measuring 12 by 14 inches, the hardcover barely fits in your lap.

Over 96 full-color pages, Seth tells the life and death of fictional Canadian TV personality George Sprott, an oaf of a man who once fashioned himself an Arctic explorer.

The dimensions of the book are an essential part of telling this story. The traditional comic-book page contains no more than nine panels. Here, Seth sometimes packs in 30 panels to a page. Many of these pages feature interviews with people who loved and loathed George -- echoing "Citizen Kane." Most panels simply capture their changing facial expressions as they ramble on about the George they knew -- lover, cheater, idol, absentee father.

"George Sprott" was first serialized in the New York Times magazine. There, Seth's overstuffed panels let him tell a single, contained thread in one page. Now collected (and with added material), Seth's technique feels cinematic -- if at times, overwhelming.

At the very least, this is a sad story about a selfish man. At its best, it is a story about how comic-book stories are told.

.

"32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics," by Adrian Tomine. (Drawn & Quarterly, 104 pages, $19.95.)

"The book you hold in your hands would not exist had high school been a pleasant experience for me." So begins Adrian Tomine's introduction -- one of two included in this collection of short stories. Today, Tomine is one of the biggest names in comics. His illustrations regularly appear in the New Yorker, and his 2007 graphic novel, "Shortcomings," solidified his place as one of the medium's most gifted storytellers. That 108-page story -- about a young man struggling with his Asian-American identity -- was a masterpiece of nuanced pacing and clean, realistic pencils.

"32 Stories" is a "special edition" of a collection first published in 1995. It collects Tomine's eight "Optic Nerve" mini-comics, which he self-published while still in high school. Drawn & Quarterly has manufactured replicas of those rare mini-comics and packaged them in a fancy box.

These old stories are a fascinating look at the roots of Tomine's obsession with everyday dejection. His stories are brief, just two to four pages, and often revolve around the daily miseries of ordinary people. They're also quite funny. For Tomine, even a trip to the barber can go awry. His black ink artwork was messy, but drawn with purpose.

These 32 tales are a far cry from the craftsmanship of "Shortcomings," but they give a unique glimpse at the genesis of a major talent.

.

"Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories," by Gabrielle Bell. (Drawn & Quarterly, 112 pages, $19.95.)

In comics, the best art is sometimes the simplest.

Gabrielle Bell's minimalist pencils work wonders in her latest collection of short stories about youthful malaise.

Bell rarely frames her characters in close-up. Rather we observe from afar. It's an appropriate distance, because many of the situations Bell creates for her characters sting with the tension and awkwardness of real-life relationships.

Emotional truth is her objective. In "One Afternoon," a young woman learns that her husband has died in a plane crash. At first she is sad, but then quietly elated -- she's finally free of a relationship that bottomed out long ago. Days later her husband returns very much alive. He says he was bumped to another flight, when in fact he hadn't flown anywhere -- he was with his mistress. The two are once again stuck together, lying to each other.

These stories are all slices of life, but a couple wander off course into surrealism. Cecil (of the title) feels unappreciated by her boyfriend. Out on the street she transforms into a chair. She's picked up and brought into a stranger's apartment, where she concludes, "I've never felt so useful."

These dreamy pieces seem out of place among the rest of Bell's stories. But they still illustrate what is most interesting to her -- that we either triumph over daily rejection, or we allow it to consume us.

Tom Horgen



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32 STORIES reviewed by PopMatters

Updated August 12, 2009


32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics
Writer: Adrian Tomine

Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly

May 2009, 104 pages, $19.95
By Erik Hinton

One night, my roommates and I settled down to a lazy evening browsing HBOís decades-old on-demand catalogue of ďReal SexĒ. It became obvious that the Ď90s were categorically unattractive. Similarlyóalthough unaided by frizzed up-dos and genitally inspired facial hairóindependent comics from the same era suggest that the decade was ridden by ugliness. Replete with sloppy art, a zine (read: lazy) mentality, and fragile, memoir narratives, the legacy of Ď90s comics is one of slipshod vanity. Panel after panel is scrawled with weepy girls in their bedrooms and brooding boys with comical glasses, suggesting that the broken family stories and social disquiet almost everyone endures is terribly interesting if illustrated as quickly as possible.

Even now, as young hipsters of tomorrow buy Ghost World graphic teesóWhat hath Clowes wrought?ócomics have struggled to recover from the confessional sloth and egoism of the Ď90s.

In many ways, Adrian Tomineís Optic Nerve mini-comics, now collected in Drawn and Quarterlyís box set 32 Stories is no different. The art is imprecise, the author features himself prominently, they are printed on copy paper, and there is no shortage of panels of downtrodden suburbanite youth. Throughout the minis, Tomine insists on the truth of these personal stories, even devoting an entire piece to the issue of his biographic accuracyóas if to suggest the reader might miss how very open the author was being.

However related to the deluge of Ď90s trash Tomineís work may seem, the likeness ends at the superficial. 32 Stories effectively demonstrates how the dolorous Ď90s diary comic might pull itself out of the mire of its similar contemporary pieces. It is Tomineís command of form that ultimately redeems the genre.

The 20th century hemeneutician Paul Ricouer once wrote that the meaning of the Bible doesnít occur in any of its stories of in any one of its narrative forms, but, rather, emerges from the subtle interstice of all the stories and forms. Tomineís 32 Stories work in much the same way and its is this narrative holism that prevents them from ever feeling like they are weighted down by authorial self-obsession. Tomine never directly comes out and says, ďI felt lonelyĒ, or ď
Modern

life is hellĒ. Rather, he presents the reader with many snippets of storiesósome only a few panels longóthat express Tomine instead of drawing him out. Tomineís portrait becomes a wonderfully indirect one, in which, for the most part, the author is inferred as simply the central point around which all the fragments revolve.

It is an incredibly rewarding activity to try to construct the author in this way and one that avoids all the pitfalls less discreet memoir. 32 Stories takes on a life of its own as well, maturing from its half-baked first issue into the masterpiece issues five and six and finishing with the awkward #7, seated on the cusp of being picked up by Drawn and Quarterly (the mini-comics were self-published).

Much of this vitality, may be attributed to the admirable way in which Drawn and Quarterly has chosen to treat this reissue. Rather, simply stamp the Optic Nerve mini-comics in a tradeócf. Sleepwalk, Summer Blonde, ShortcomingsóDrawn and Quarterly has gone the facsimile approach and recreated them exactly as Tomine originally published them. The change in the stock as the mini-comics go on, as well as the introduction of spot and color and treats such as stickers, allow the reader to experience the evolution of Optic Nerve.

Although now eclipsed by his later work which secured Tomine a spot in modern comics indie pantheon, the Optic Nerve mini-comics are an endearing and eminently readable glimpse into the authorís earlier life and career. Easily appreciable by both Tomine fans and newcomers alike, 32 Stories is a successful reminder of what the Ď90s should have shaped up to be.
 
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  D+Q artists in San Diego Tribune

Updated July 27, 2009



Robert L. Pincus | Creative Reading
Treasures lying in wait to be discovered

By Robert Pincus
Union-Tribune Staff Writer

2:00 a.m. July 26, 2009

As Comic-Con has evolved into a juggernaut for the promotion of everything pop culture, it's easy to overlook one of the event's prime pleasures: the chance to learn about lesser-known writers and artists and often meet them, too.

My prime example: Adrian Tomine, who has developed into a gifted creator of sophisticated comics and graphic novels. If you don't know him for Optic Nerve, his series of urbane comics, you may have seen one or more of his illustrations for The New Yorker, Time and many other publications. They have a crisp, linear style thick with atmosphere.

Like Daniel Clowes, who also does covers for The New Yorker as well as his own acclaimed comics and books, Tomine has an understated visual style that combines wit, social commentary, psychological insights and elegant drawing. And like Clowes, he can write, too.

The year I met Tomine, in 2002, he had just come out with ďSummer Blonde,Ē which assembled stories from issues of Optic Nerve into a book with a particularly stylish cover. Its four stories featured typical Tomine protagonists: sensitive malcontents in their 20s and early 30s who struggle to figure out what to do with their lives.

Tomine, born in 1974, concentrates on his own generation, though you never get the feeling that he is trying to make any sort of grandiose statement about people in their 20s and early 30s. He's intrigued by their singularity: a writer who succeeds with his first novel but develops a creative block for his second and becomes obsessed with a girl he adored in high school; a Chinese-American woman who loses her job, loses her bearings in her life and, then, as the story ends, begins a new romance and tries to face up to a death in her family.

He was something of a comics prodigy, too, self-publishing the first seven issues of Optic Nerve before signing on with the now well-established publisher of comics and graphic novels Drawn and Quarterly. These early comics are now reissued in facsimiles of the originals, as ď32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics.Ē And while this is apprentice work, it's awfully good in that respect. Tomine would refine out his drawing style markedly, but early on, he could convey a lot about a face and he offered moments of keen insights about the marginal and the disaffected.

In high school, he counted himself among them. And he contributes a new charming self-deprecating introduction for this ďbox setĒ of the original comics, which appeared in book form a few years ago. (They are packaged in a nifty cardboard case.)

ďIf you're a 'glass half full' kind of person,Ē Tomine writes, ďyou might say that these comics are youthful, energetic and even enlightening in terms of the evolution they chart. If you're feeling less charitable, you'd probably describe them as amateurish, scattershot, affected and deeply derivative.Ē

Both views are true. And seeing them helps someone to understand how far he had traveled. In fact, his best book to date, ďShortcomings,Ē the story of a sarcastic, sensitive and troubled Ben Tanaka, has recently come out in paperback. Reading ďThirty Two StoriesĒ and ďShortcomingsĒ side by side bookends his evolution.

Tomine isn't appearing at Drawn and Quarterly's booth this year. But notable peers are. Today, from noon to 3 p.m., Jason Lutes will be signing the second book in his evocative saga of 1930s Germany, ďBerlin, City of Smoke,Ē and Bob Sikoryak will be joining him during those hours to promote his new ďMasterpiece ComicsĒ book, which blurs the line between classic literary tales and vintage comics. (For example, Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray is recast as a dandyish Little Nemo.) Check out the publisher's blog for updates: drawnandquarterly.com/blog/index.php.

Fantagraphics (fantagraphics.com), another leading graphic novel publisher, has a significant list of writer-artists making appearances today, including Gilbert, Jaime, Mario and Natalia Hernandez (ďLove and Rockets #2Ē) and Monte Schulz (son of Charles M., with his new novel, ďThis Side of JordanĒ).

But leave time to seek out smaller presses like San Diego's Murphy Art Books (murphydesign1.blogspot.com), and you'll find publications that merge the image and the word in myriad other ways. And as was the case with my introduction to Tomine at Comic-Con, you are likely to come across the work of someone you'll want to follow in the years to come.
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32 Stories, Cecil and Jordan in New York and George Sprott reviewed by The Montreal Gazette

Updated July 27, 2009



Graphic Lit: Get Used To It

By Ian McGillis 07-19-2009 COMMENTS(1) Narratives

Filed under: Pavement, George Sprott, Adrian Tomine, comics, graphic novels, Chris Ware, Clyde Fans, comix, Kaya Oakes, Seth, Gabrielle Bell, Quarterly, Drawn &

I was drawn to Kaya Oakesís Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture because of the titleís shout-out to Pavementís debut album, a work that hogged my Walkman circa 1992-93 to the point where Iíll probably never need to listen to those songs again. (And I mean that in the kindest of possible ways.) But Iím glad Oakes pulled me in, because among her bookís many astringent perspectives on all things indie is a chapter that helped me crystallize why Iíve been feeling so evangelical about the increasingly ubiquitous but still frequently misunderstood corner of the literary marketplace tagged variously as comics/comix/graphic literature.

Tracing the form from its early-20th-century stirrings, Oakes eventually identifies the point where comics publishers (Fantagraphics being at the forefront) twigged that a whole new market could be opened up with a simple repackaging expedient: gathering serial comics into single-volume collections ďthat could be sold in any respectable bookstore.Ē That use of ďrespectableĒ is of course laced with deliberate irony on Oakesís part, acknowledging as it does the long and tangled history of the formís stepchild status within the wider literary world. Sometimes, as Oakes astutely points out, itís a mere matter of labeling: ďCalling comics Ďgraphic novelsí also opened them up to an audience that accepted the idea of comics as Ďrealí literature more easily than it swallowed the concept of a comic book, which can carry an air of disposability except for an audience of collectors.Ē

Confession time: I was, from a very early age, one of those ďreal literatureĒ high-and-mighty types. I didnít grow up with comics. As a child I looked askance at my peers with their Archies and Green Lantern and Mad obsessions, occupied as I was with weightier tomes like Stan Mikitaís I Play To Win, Harry Sindenís Hockey Showdown and Farley Mowatís The Dog Who Wouldnít Be. (Mowat was a near neighbor of my grandmother in Port Hope, Ontario; as a young boy I once espied him on the street and was convinced for years afterward that all writers had to smoke pipes and have big bushy beards and that therefore I would never be a writer. But thatís a whole other story, I guess.) It was only shamefully recently, with exposure to Chris Wareís mind-bogglingly complex and beautiful Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, that the richness of which this form is capable was made manifest to me. Suitably humbled, I worked my way back through Art Spiegelman and R. Crumb and forward to their inheritors. And discovered that one of the two or three most prominent proponents of this culture was Montrealís own Drawn & Quarterly, whoówouldnít you just know it?óhave a varied line of spring and summer titles for our consideration.

32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics by Adrian Tomine is the publishing equivalent of one of those finely curated demos-and-outtakes collections beloved of indie music labels. If you love the band, you need to have it; if you just like the band, youíll be curious to check it out but will probably find you can live without it. Tomineís Summer Blonde and Shortcomings are note-perfect portrayals of young educated urbans adrift: shitty service industry jobs, romantic disaffection, identity confusion, all depicted with crisp visual line, deadpan dialogue, and a willingness to look closely into seamy corners of life many would be content to leave private. Fans of those perpetually popular titles now have the chance to see Tomine working toward his mature style in 32 Storiesí seven facsimile editions, gathered into an attractive box, of the Optic Nerve mini-comics that originally drew him to D & Qís attention. For review purposes, well, I couldnít really put it any better than the author does himself, in his introduction:

ďIf youíre a Ďglass half fullí kind of person, you might say that these comics are youthful, energetic, and even enlightening in terms of the evolution they chart. If youíre feeling less charitable, youíd probably describe them as amateurish, scatter-shot, affected, and deeply derivative.Ē

Iím glass half full guy myself, but there you have it.

Working similar thematic and stylistic terrain to Tomine is Gabrielle Bell. Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories divides roughly in two. The first halfís stories are set among the New York art world, where the struggling often rub up against the fabulously rich. In ďFelixĒ a middling art student finds herself in the home of a famous sculptor, hired to give drawing lessons to the artistís alienated adolescent son. Teacher and student form a touchingly awkward bond while the father develops a suspiciously noblesse oblige attraction to the young woman. Multiple layers of emotion and psychology are implied with minimal dialogue and spare visuals: the settings are almost exclusively interior, the characters defined and confined by their environment. Bell can convey all we need to know about a relationship by how far apart or how close she places two people on a couch. The second half, more autobiographical if Bellís available bio is anything to go by, focuses on a teenage misfit in rural Northern California. Here Bell allows herself a more relaxed line and a broader emotional palette, even venturing, in the remarkable ďMy Affliction,Ē into the realm of full-blown surrealism. Readers may well be reminded of The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, and will feel an agreeable frisson on learning that Bell is now indeed collaborating with Michel Gondry.

Seth first came to my attention with his stunning design of Aimee Mannís Lost In Space CD, a package that very nearly single-handedly redeemed the visual limitations of a format soon to pass away unmourned. Born in Clinton, Ontario in 1962, Seth is the established master of a subject he has made his own: the stultifying melancholy of past-their-prime small towns and the thwarted lives therein. Itís a world heís able to depict so well because of his own clearly conflicted relationship with his subject matter. Here is a man not at home in the modern world, drawn instinctively to the mood and aesthetic of a fading place and time even as he puts that bygone worldís pathos under an unsparing spotlight. If youíre looking for a cinematic equivalent, think David Lynch, but without the gratuitous unpleasantness. The title character of the magnificent new picture novella George Sprott: 1894-1975 is of a type that will ring bells with readers of Clyde Fans, Itís A Good Life, If You Donít Weaken and Wimbledon Green. Emotionally repressed, a distant ineffectual father, a serial philanderer, small-town TV host Sprott nonetheless manages for decades to pass himself off as a cuddly avuncular minor celebrity. That heís an unknowing figure of fun to anyone with experience beyond his constricted worldóthat he is in many ways a deeply unlovable manódoesnít compromise the sympathy with which Seth draws him.

Another favoured Seth theme, the unreliability and subjectivity of memory, gets a good airing here, as figures from Sprottís life recall events in a contradictory tangle of accounts that only serves to underline the ultimate futility of any attempt to ďsum upĒ a life. Visually George Sprott takes all Sethís customary strengthsósubtle shifts in framing, a limited colour palette that can render the slightest variation powerful in impact, dialogue and text-heavy pages melded seamlessly with wordless passagesóand by dint of the bookís lavish outsized format, brings it all to a whole new level. Quite aside from its undeniable literary and artistic merits, George Sprott is a downright beautiful thing, an artifact youíll like holding in your hands and having in your home. Which brings me to an x-factor about graphic literature, something I think of whenever I hear non-converts complain that graphic novels can appear a bit pricey. At their best, these books provide the strongest possible bulwark against the feared death of the book-as-object: they give us something that Kindle will never be able to duplicate.

In a near-future posting on this very blog, Iíll explore in some detail the world of the late Tove Jansson, the sui generis Swedish/Finnish writer-cartoonist whose complete Moomin comic strips are being gathered by Drawn & Quarterly in a sumptuous series that is now at four volumes and counting. Meanwhile I urge all good people to at least dip their toes into the pool of graphic literatureóthe water may feel cold at first but that never stopped you from learning to swim, did it?--and leave you, for old timesí sake, with something from a band who knew a thing or two about the bittersweet task of taking the underground to the masses.


 
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32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




  ADRIAN TOMINE in the SF Chronicle

Updated July 23, 2009


In the right hands, comics are an excellent medium for revealing character with a few concise words and lines. Former Berkeley resident Adrian Tomine made a name for himself with his self-published "Optic Nerve" mini comic, now reprinted and collected as a boxed set, 32 Stories (Drawn & Quarterly; 104 pages; $19.95). His black-and-white graphic novel, "Shortcomings" (Drawn & Quarterly; 112 pages; $14.95; trade), dissects the dissolution of a modern-day romance. Young slacker Ben Tanaka resents his girlfriend for heading off to New York for a film internship, but he doesn't mind being left to his own devices on the West Coast to date a bisexual blonde. With a clear eye, a steady hand and a mordant wit, Tomine spins a low-key story energized by astute observations about race and gender.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/10/RVEV18I6JF.DTL&type=books#ixzz0M5nTw9S9

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SHORTCOMINGS, 32 STORIES reviewed by PopMatters

Updated July 14, 2009


Truth Against Truth: The Work of Adrian Tomine
[7 July 2009]

Tomine has a gift for capturing body language and facial expressions -- his characters often say more in a silent panel than most say with an entire word balloon.
By Monte WilliamsAdrian Tomine has gotten so good at what he does that Iím starting to take him for granted. Reading Shortcomings, his latest graphic novel from Drawn and Quarterly, I kept thinking of ďBusinessĒ, wherein Eminem sings, ďYou ainít even impressed no more; youíre used to it.Ē

That said, while Iím perhaps not as grateful for Tomine as I should be, I am plenty impressed. Tomineís illustrations are as seductive as ever, and Shortcomings boasts plot developments that are not predictable, but inevitable; we roll our eyes at each characterís mistakes, not because we recognize tired tropes, but because we recognize human nature.

Adrian Tomine has a gift for capturing body language and facial expressions, with the result that his characters often say more in a silent panel than most comic book characters say with an entire bloated word balloon. And oh, the things they say; characters in Tomineís comics share a trait with characters in the films of Todd Solondz, meaning theyíre some of the most authentic, believable assholes and screw-ups in modern fiction.

That may not sound particularly appealing in light of the fact that popular culture in the US is filled to bursting with assholes both fictional and non-fictional, but whereas the men and women in US reality television shows and brain-dead Hollywood comedies tend to be brash, cartoony assholes, I want to emphasize again that the people who populate Tomineís pages are uncannily believable.

And again like Solondz, Tomine crafts stories that are uncomfortably intimate and brutally honest. Shortcomings in particular is so convincing that it hits too close to home at times, only its protagonist is presented in such an unflattering light that you wonít likely admit to polite company that you can relate to him.
I knew Shortcomings would be provocative and perhaps a bit unsettling when I read its back-cover synopsis:

Ben Tanaka has problems. In addition to being rampantly critical, sarcastic, and insensitive, his long-term relationship is awash in turmoil. His girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, suspects that Ben has a wandering eye, and more to the point, itís wandering in the direction of white women.

Coinciding with the publication of Shortcomings is a re-release, in a new format, of 32 Stories, collecting Tomineís early work in the Optic Nerve periodical. Though nothing in 32 Stories can hope to match Tomineís current work, students of the comic book medium will delight in the opportunity to trace Tomineís development as a storyteller, and even novices will find his early tales endearing and entertaining.
Happily, the standard graphic novel format has been abandoned in favor of reprinting each issue of Optic Nerve in its original mini-comic format, all collected in an attractive but humble cardboard box. Tomine explains in a hilarious introduction that he was so taken with the idea of being published as a proper graphic novelist that he got a bit carried away when it came to design the first 32 Stories collection, and so he wrapped his clumsier, humbler early efforts in a comically pretentious, overwrought package.

Indeed, while I donít want to take away from the artistís early work, I might go so far as to suggest that Tomineís self-conscious introduction is the highlight of this new edition of 32 Stories; it is so lovably embarrassed, self-effacing and apologetic that it comes across like a less gimmicky version of the 60 or so pages of disclaimers and footnotes and parenthetical asides that precede the narrative proper in Dave Eggersís A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

Still, Adrian Tomine is clearly an artist who is always looking forward, and so should we; 32 Stories is a worthwhile collection, but it merely has something to prove, whereas Shortcomings has something to say.



 
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  Adrian Tomine in the Hour

Updated July 13, 2009


Adult contemporary
Roseanne Harvey

Adrian Tomine's '90s teenage wasteland, newly replicated for authentic nostalgia

32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics and Shortcomings show us how much Adrian Tomine has grown

"If you're a 'glass half full' kind of person, you might say that these comics are youthful, energetic and even enlightening in terms of the evolution they chart," writes Adrian Tomine in his introduction to the special-edition box set of 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics. "If you're feeling less charitable, you'd probably describe them as amateurish, scatter-shot, affected and deeply derivative."
Realistically, 32 Stories falls somewhere in between. At times, the adolescent awkwardness is cringeworthy, and at other times Tomine brilliantly captures the universal experience of high-school alienation. It's like reading an artist's sketchbook, and we can see Tomine experimenting with the comic form and emulating his idols. We can also watch him mature, as an artist and as a person.

The boxed set compiles Tomine's first seven issues of Optic Nerve, a comic pamphlet he published while still a high school student in Berkeley, California, in the early '90s. After being printed as a bound book in 1995 and reprinted several times, this time around the original comics have been completely replicated, including cover stock, letters, an out-of-date Berkeley PO address and stickers (seemingly as a way to keep the comics in print - the reluctant Tomine simply intended for this box set to be viewed as "an artifact from my teenaged years").

Tomine made a name for himself in the American underground comics community because of his prodigious talent and his support for DIY

culture. At the age of 20, he was signed to Montreal-based press Drawn & Quarterly, and went on to produce another 11 issues of Optic Nerve.

We see his talent in full bloom in 2007's full-length graphic novel Shortcomings (a serialization of Optic Nerve issues 9-11), made available in compact paperback this spring as a way to introduce even more readers to Tomine's work. Here, Tomine has mastered not only comic timing, but the arts of storytelling and character development. He's found a style that suits him - minimalist, stark, brilliant use of darkness and light - and a story that he wants to tell.

Shortcomings focuses on Ben Tanaka, a sarcastic, self-deprecating Japanese-American guy in his late-20s, as he deals with relationships, race and place. The witty dialogue is impeccable and the story moves along at a pleasurable pace, with tightly woven images and text that never give way to comic stand-bys such as thought bubbles or internal narration - Tomine wanted the story to be as readable as possible and accessible to the non-comics reader.

32 Stories and Shortcomings are like bookends in Tomine's illustrious and continually ascending career. Recently, the 35-year-old Tomine moved on from comics and graphic novels to producing distinctive covers for The New Yorker and publishing in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Giant Robot and Rolling Stone. He is currently working on a collection of interconnected short graphic stories.

Adrian Tomine's 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics (Drawn & Quarterly), 96 pp.
and Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly), 112 pp.
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Adrian and Seth in SF Weekly

Updated June 16, 2009


Adrian Tomine and Seth
Date/Time:Thu., June 18, 7:30pm
Price: Free
Contact Info: | Event Website

From Sacto, Northern Cal
By Michael Leaverton

Most writers hate their juvenilia: Adrian Tomine spends nearly the whole introduction of 32 Stories, a rerelease of his collected early work, slamming it. He uses the words ďamateurish, scattershot, affected, and deeply derivative.Ē The title he picked ďkillsĒ him, because he put himself in the company of J.D. Salinger (Nine Stories) and Donald Barthelme (Forty and Sixty Stories). So, why is he putting it all out there again? Because he has a smart, persuasive publisher, Chris Oliveros of Drawn & Quarterly, and both of them had a great idea: Release the seven issues of Optic Nerve, which Tomine started self-publishing during high school in Sacramento, in the original Kinkoíd, pamphleted form, then ship them out in a box. Itís like opening a time capsule from the early '90s, when Pavement ruled and everyone was tired. The copies, going from raw and dark to slick and clean as Tomine's stature rose, are faithful to the original works, right down to the letters, notes, ads, and Berkeley mailing address (which you should not use; God knows who owns it now). Today, at In Conversation: Adrian Tomine and Seth, he trades stories and pictures with a fellow now-aboveground hero (and fellow New Yorker illustrator) Gregory Gallant, to celebrate the release of five books between them.
 
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Seth
Adrian Tomine

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George Sprott: (1894-1975)
32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




  Seth and Adrian Tomine in The Chicago Reader

Updated June 4, 2009


Antiques Road Show
Young fogey cartoonists Adrian Tomine and Seth discuss their own work and some neglected masters at Quimbyís.

Seth George Sprott (1894-1975)
Doug Wright The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist (1949-1962)
John Stanley Melvin Monster, Volume 1
Adrian Tomine 32 Stories, Shortcomings
Yoshihiro Tatsumi A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly)

By Ben Schwartz

t the height of his fame as Americaís ďhappy hippy cartoonist,Ē Robert Crumb turned down an offer to do an album cover for the Rolling Stones. Though his artwork graced the sleeve of Big Brother & the Holding Companyís Cheap Thrills, Crumb had no interest in the Summer of Love, and especially not in its music. Janis Joplin was a personal friend and a comics fan, and anyway he needed the $600. But he considered the Stones insufferable posersólike Blueshammer in Ghost Worldóand found it lamentable that women preferred Mick Jagger to, say, your average underground cartoonist. A few years later he even formed his own band to play more authentic roots blues and country. Not that it slowed the Stones down any.

Crumb mightíve been the first cartoonist to wear his anachronism on his sleeve, but he wonít be the last: that gamut runs from Kim Deitch to Drew Friedman to Chris Ware to Jason. Two members in good standing of this society, Seth and Adrian Tomine appear this week at Quimbyís to discuss their most recent projects, all of which are backward-looking in one way or another.

The two have six ďnewĒ products between them. Sethís plugging an expanded version of his serial for the New York Times, George Sprott (1894-1975), as well as the first volumes of The Collected Doug Wright, which he conceived, edited, and designed, and The John Stanley Library, which he designed. Tomineís got reissues of his own Shortcomings and 32 Stories and a new autobiographical work from Japanís Yoshihiro Tatsumi, A Drifting Life, that he edited, designed, and lettered.

Sethís George Sprott is the ďbiographyĒ of a fictional Canadian TV personality. ďArctic explorer, television host, raconteur, beloved uncle or opportunist, philanderer, deadbeat father, self-centered bore?Ē asks the jacket copy; itís no spoiler to say the title character is all of the above. Sprott, inspired by an actual Detroit talk show host who had a habit of falling asleep as his guests droned on, dreams of his past as he dozes. The defining episode is an affair he had with an Inuit woman during his travels; though he fathers a child with her, he never sees her again. Framing his own memories is a Citizen Kane-style reconstruction of his life as retold by friends, family, and coworkers.

For the book version, Seth grew the story by half and even included photographs of Dominion, a fictional midcentury Canadian city heís been building out of cardboard for the past decade that serves as the setting for Sprottís life. He has a real gift for creating comforting locales and exteriors populated by emotionally collapsed (if well-attired) figures.

Tomine may not have built himself a 1950s city out of cardboard, but heís immersed himself in the mid-20th century as seen through the eyes of pioneering Japanese cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Readers know Tomine best from his New Yorker fiction-issue covers and his autobiographical Optic Nerve, which he began in high school as a series of minicomics xeroxed at a Kinkoís in Sacramento and from which both 32 Stories and Shortcomings were culled, but heís also been editing and designing Tatsumiís North American releases since 2005.

On the surface, there probably couldnít be bigger gap between Tomineís coming of age in sleepy Sacto and Tatsumiís during the American occupation of Japan. Then again, the struggle to put out independent, literary comics in the North American market of the late 80s and early 90sódominated as it was by direct sales superhero shopsóhas its parallels in Tatsumiís story. Tatsumi more or less invented literary comics in Japan, a style he called gekiga (which translates as ďdramatic picturesĒ) and in A Drifting Life sets his own struggle to break free of the boysí world of manga comics against Japanís struggle to redefine its identity after the war. He opens the story on the day of the emperorís surrender in 1945, with his countrymen literally on their knees, and ends it in 1960, during the riots over the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which trigger in the cartoonist an epiphany about the nature of his own work.

To begin oneís career in literary comics when Seth and Tomine did also meant breaking your own ground. A young Jonathan Lethem or Rick Moody could read any number of new novels by his peers. But for an aspiring graphic novelist, there was Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner, the Hernandez brothers, Harvey Pekar . . . after that, the list got thin. If you wanted more, pre-eBay, you started scouring used bookstores and the dime bin at the comics shop. And once youíd done all that legwork, of course, you wanted to share.

Seth, for instance, ran across John Stanleyís mid-1960s work in the dime bins. Best known for scripting Little Lulu (currently in reprints from Dark Horse), Stanley quit comics, reportedly with some animosity, in the early 70s. But before he did he created several titles of his own, including Melvin Monster, Kookie, and Thirteen Going on Eighteen. Seth would eventually write a piece on this later work for the Comics Journal, under editor Tom Devlin. It was Devlin, now at Drawn & Quarterly, who contacted Seth about designing the new Stanley series.

An idiosyncratic humorist, Stanley often opened with a simple premise that heíd extend far beyond a one-dimensional joke. With Melvin Monster, publisher Dell surely hoped to cash in on the mid-1960s craze for sitcoms like The Munsters and The Addams Family: Melvin, the good little monster, is a huge disappointment to his evil parents, Mummy and Baddy. But Stanley pushes beyond the obvious gags, and Melvin becomes a somewhat disturbing mix of child abuse and slapstick, set in monster suburbiaóa Monsters, Inc. without the Pixar sugar. In one story Baddy sends sissy Melvin to their horrific basement to make a real monster out of him, forgetting about the caged-up beasts that will surely devour his sonónot that he tries to save him once he remembers. Melvin survives, then tricks his dad into going down into the basement himself.

Seth also designed The Collected Doug Wright: Canadaís Master Cartoonist, Volume 1. Wright (1917-1983) drew the perennially popular Doug Wrightís Family, aka Nipperó the name of the monkey wrench of a toddler thrown into the familyís postwar largesse.

Nipperís sole focus appears to be destroying family propertyótoys, cars, clothes, foodóat maximum inconvenience to his father. Wright drew the strips vertically, to be read from top to bottom, and without dialogue, and made trademark use of a single spot color, bright red, to compose panels, emphasize emotion, or simply identify the main character to the reader. One strip might have a red coat or hat, another red shadows, another a single red z over a snoozing baby.

Wrightís appeal to Seth is obviousóthereís his perfectly executed, light design and line, and then thereís the simple central conflict of a family just trying to do anything peaceablyópicnic, shop, fish, eat dinner. The anachronists only wish life could be so simple. Thatís the difference between them and the nostalgists, who believe it was.

In the introductions to both the 1995 and the new edition of 32 Stories, Tomine admits that many of his early minicomics still send a chill of embarrassment up his spine. For the í95 edition, they were edited into a single slender volume, with ďpatterned endpapers, metallic Pantone ink, and whatís referred to in the book business as ĎFrench flaps,íĒ as if to give them more collective weightówhich he now thinks just made things worse. When he reluctantly agreed to a reprint, Tomine made a compromise with his publisher, who wanted the book expanded: he would include everything, but in the original formatóa box set of xeroxed pamphlets and minicomics. Nostalgic on the face of itóbut from Tomineís point of view, more honest. One thing it undeniably showsóthis generation of literary cartoonists finally has a past of its own.


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Seth
Adrian Tomine

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George Sprott: (1894-1975)
32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




Adrian Tomine interview on Gothamist

Updated June 3, 2009


Adrian Tomine, Graphic Novelist
It's been a while since we last checked in with Brooklynite, cartoonist, illustrator and graphic novelist Adrian Tomine (who you may know best for his ongoing comic series Optic Nerve, or his New Yorker covers). In fact, at the time his new book Shortcomings had just come out, and now it's hitting paperback. He's currently on a book tour with Seth, stopping by the Strand tomorrow night, and the MoCCA festival this weekend. Recently he told us about living in Chris Rock's former apartment and, for you graphic novel newbies, where to start if you're intrigued by the illustrated world.

What influences your illustrations and novels? I was talking to someone recently who announced that they were thinking of trying their hand at fiction writing. I asked, somewhat incredulously, if this was something they knew how to do. And this person responded by saying, "Well, all you do is take a bunch of stuff from your life and change a few names, right?" I do draw on my own experiences and observations for inspiration, but I'd like to think this person was simplifying my creative process quite a bit.

How do you feel about comics and graphic novels becoming feature filmsówould you ever experiment with that medium? I know there's a lot of comics fans out there who get a big thrill simply from the fact that a comic they love was very faithfully translated into a movie, and I don't quite understand that. I feel like it's a little bit insulting to the comics medium when a film adaptation is viewed as like the ultimate form of validation. I think comics can be the basis for great films, but I think the focus of such a project should be on making the film as good as possible, not on painstakingly replicating the comic.

What are you working on for the futureówhat's next? I'm working on a new, as-yet-untitled book, which is a collection of inter-related short stories. I can't say much about it at this point, other than that it will be in color, and that it's pretty different from my last book.

Are there any up and coming graphic novelists whose work you're excited about right now? It really is an amazingly great time in terms of emerging talent in the world of comics. It's very humbling and inspiring to see this influx of talent, especially as so much of it seems to be coming from a very diverse range of backgrounds and influences. There's a lot of people in anthologies like Kramers Ergot, Drawn & Quarterly Showcase, and Mome that really impress me. I don't know when it's coming out, but I can't wait for Vanessa Davis' new book. And Jonathan Bennett, who's published some short stories in Mome, is one of the most naturally gifted cartoonists to arrive in awhile.

If someone is just starting to get into the world of comics and graphic novels, which ones would you suggest they start with? It depends on the person, but I'd feel pretty comfortable putting Ghost World, Maus, I Never Liked You, or The Complete Peanuts in someone's hands. Not only are they all classics of the medium, they all have that power to instantly draw you right into their world.

What was it like when you first saw your work in, and on the cover of The New Yorker? Is there anywhere your illustrations haven't been yet that you'd like to see them? I feel like I've been pretty lucky in terms of where my illustrations have appeared, so to be honest, there isn't one particular call I'm waiting around for. There have been a handful of assignments over the years that I've had to turn down due to time constraints, and I was fairly envious when I saw the finished product, beautifully illustrated by someone else. But don't ask me to elaborate, as that would probably be poor form.

In Shortcomings Ben is living in California and seems to have a thing against NYC, did you have any of these feelings before moving here? No, I'm actually quite different from Ben in that regard. I grew up with a very romantic, idealized vision of New York, probably because of all the books I read and the movies I watched. I still have those moments where I come upon some New York landmark or some great view of the city, and I feel like an awestruck tourist, and I don't think that Ben allows himself that experience.

Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. I used to live in Chris Rock's former apartment. I've got some junk mail for him, if he wants it. Also, I recently was waiting at the Broadway/Lafayette station when I saw an inebriated gentleman lose his balance and fall onto the tracks. Two other guys instantly jumped down after him and pulled him back up onto the platform. When the first fellow stood up, he looked down at his filthy t-shirt and began angrily berating his rescuers for ripping it in the process.

Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? When I've been dragged to an over-priced, watered-down Mexican restaurant in Manhattan.

Do you have a favorite New York celebrity sighting or encounter? I recently saw the singer Seal in the Apple store dressed in a black ankle-length trench coat, garish scarf, and huge sunglassesósinging along dramatically with the music coming out of a nearby computer while his assistant talked to an employee about setting up Seal's new iPhone. A good example, I suppose, of how celebrities are just normal people who don't want to be noticed...

In a typical, cheap uptown diner, I found myself sitting in a booth adjacent to Liza Minelli, who sang a part of her order ("chicken and avocado wraaaaap") and then erupted in laughter.

Years ago, I sat next to Woody Allen in a bar. He shot me a totally expressionless glance, then proceeded to assemble his clarinet. Okay, I admit it: It was at the Carlyle, and I had paid the exorbitant cover charge just for that experience.

What's your current soundtrack? Right now I'm listening to an abbreviated, out-of-tune version of the "William Tell Overture," which emanates from one of those coin-operated kids' rides in front of the restaurant across the street from our new apartment.

Best cheap eat in the city. Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches. Soup dumplings at Shanghai Cafe. Onigiri at Cafe Zaiya. Knishes at Yonah Shimmel.

Best venue to hear music. Well, if you're into abbreviated, out-of-tune versions of the "William Tell Overture," our living room.

 
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  Seth and Adrian Tomine interveiwed by Newcity Lit

Updated June 3, 2009



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George Sprott: (1894-1975)
A Drifting Life
32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




SHORTCOMINGS and 32 STORIES reviewed by The Houston Chronicle

Updated June 1, 2009


Collection of comics shows Adrian Tomine's growth as an artist
By ANDREW DANSBY Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
May 29, 2009


Hand Adrian Tomine a business card and a pen, and he can sketch out a fully realized narrative on the back.

The young artist is as deft as anyone working in comics today at creating efficient but arcing narratives full of zippy dialogue that rings true and simple panels infused with information.

The most recent case in point is the excellent Shortcomings, new in paperback. What couldíve been a simple event (just a breakup, really) ends up being a sullen musing on race, region and inadequacy.

Tomine is also daring enough to create characters like protagonist Ben Takaka, who are more relatable than likable.

Even more intriguing is a new edition of 32 Stories, Tomineís previously anthologized Optic Nerve mini-comics, which he began inking as a teen. Though theyíd been collected in a single book edition, this slip-cased set breaks them back up into seven separately bound volumes complete with price tags and original reader letters.

Tomineís original introduction from 1995 is included with its fantastic opening sentence: ďThe book you hold in your hands would not exist had high school been a pleasant experience for me.Ē

A new short introduction written more recently finds Tomine still a little uneasy about putting this early work out for consumption. Must be like looking at a yearbook photo, right? In a cheeky turn, heís put his own yearbook photo ó awkward smile and all ó on the front of the introduction with a story about how another cartoonist put it on the Web against his wishes.

Heís grown less protective about his past now. And as for the minis themselves, they remain a document of a developing artist. Even the earliest and roughest of them (such as ďAdrian Tomineís 10,553rd Dream: Steph the Lure!Ē) features the mix of wit and bullied awkwardness that would inform his subsequent work.

Some of the obvious touchstones are here: ďBack Break: A True Story of PainĒ includes a couple of Ralph Steadman-y frames. But Tomine isnít above calling himself out. In the intro he mocks Optic Nerve No. 7 for its obvious debt to Daniel Clowes, whose moody bluntness remains an influence, albeit one Tomine has absorbed and learned from in developing his own style and voice.

And even that Clowes-heavy No. 7 includes the brutally concise introvertís nightmare ďStammer,Ē which crams a lifetime of social awkwardness into just nine drawings, several painful thought bubbles and a short, icy exchange of words.

Andrew Dansby is an entertainment columnist for the Chronicle.
 
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32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




  TCAF event coverage in Now Magazine

Updated May 28, 2009


An impressive trio at TCAF
Seth, Adrian Tomine and Yoshihiro Tatsumi at Toronto Comic Arts Festival
Jay Dart

To kick off the 2009 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the Authors at Harbourfront Centre series played host to a presentation by three renowned comic book artists, aka cartoonists, aka graphic novelists, aka graphic artists, aka artists.

While it may not be clear what they prefer to be called, one thing that can definitely be said about Adrian Tomine, Seth and Yoshihiro Tatsumi: their collections of bound visual narratives near perfect examples of this popular medium.

drian Tomine (above) began the evening by reading the self-deprecating introduction included in the 10th Anniversary edition of 32 Stories, a compilation of his early work that is being re-released, much to his chagrin, by Drawn & Quarterly after the first printing recently sold out.

Although Tomine explained that he would rather these "quaint artifacts" from his past just disappear, they will continue to be available alongside Optic Nerve, a popular alternative comic series, and his most current novel, Shortcomings.

Guelph-based comic artist, Seth, then took the stage and treated the standing room only crowd to 12 of his own stories relating the life of one humble cartoonist. Seth's unconnected tales took us back to his formative years when he would rush home from school for Charlie Brown, and then eventually Marvel Comics.

Looking back now, he realizes that when he did his own comics featuring the heroes from Marvel, he bridged the gap between his inner and outer realities by drawing his thoughts out in a tangible form, and thus paving the way for his own unique style of biographical tales such George Sprott (1894-1975) which, in 2007, was serialized in New York Times Magazine in 25 installments and is now being released as a stand alone book this Spring.

The rest of his presentation was also filled with more insightful Ďwisbitsí as he shared his experiences writing his weekly comic strips, his thoughts on the poetry of comics, and his days spent isolated in his basement, dedicated to this artform.

Tomine then returned to the stage to interview Yoshihiro Tatsumi (pictured above), one of Japan's most influential comic artists.

Most of the audience were only introduced to his works in 2006 when Drawn & Quaterly, and specifically Tomine, first brought his collections to the West.

During the interview, Tatsumi shared partial stories of how friends and family reacted to being featured in his recent auto-biographical masterpiece, A Drifting Life, and what it was like when he first met his idol.

Tatsumi also related stories of his upbringing in the slums of Osaka and rising to the forefront of the "Gekiga" style of comics Ė a term that he coined to describe a new style of Japanese comics meaning "dramatic pictures" which opened the medium up to more mature audiences and was adopted by cartoonists who did not want their art being called manga or "irresponsible pictures."

In the end, he also imparted some wisdom for maintaining a long and successful career: take care of the body first, then the mind. So, aspiring graphic artists take note: do some push-ups and run a few laps before inking in those panels!

This event also marked the opening of the exhibition Graphic Novels: The Creation of Art and Narrative which runs until June 21st in Harbourfront Centreís York Quay Centre and features Canada's Jeff Lemire, Kagan McLeod, Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki, Doug Wright (by Seth) as well as Anke Feuchtenberger (Germany), Emmanuel Guibert (France), Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Japan) and Adrian Tomine (USA).

All pictures by Jay Dart.
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Seth
Adrian Tomine
Yoshihiro Tatsumi

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George Sprott: (1894-1975)
A Drifting Life
32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




TCAF event writeup in The National Post

Updated May 28, 2009



Tomine, Seth, and Tatsumi talk shop at TCAF
Posted: May 09, 2009, 6:18 PM by Lia Grainger

The 4th annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival opened with a bang last night at Harbourfront Centre, as three legends of the genre captivated a packed house with stories and art. Adrian Tomine spoke about a new edition of his collection 32 Stories, Seth told twelve tales plucked from his long career as a comic book artist, and Yoshihiro Tatsumi discussed his seminal new autobiographical graphic novel A Drifting Life.

It was an inspiring evening. Christopher Butcher, founder and director of TCAF, and owner of The Beguiling Ė one of the most valuable comic art and graphic novel resources in the country Ė introduced the eveningís speakers to an enthusiastic audience.

Adrian Tomine, best known for the ongoing comic series Optic Nerve and his recent graphic novel Shortcomings, humbly presented the repackaged version of his first collection 32 Stories. Tomine was painfully self-deprecating, recounting that when his publisher initially told him it was going out of print, his response was ďThank God, finally.Ē He quickly learned it would be reprinted, and with the aid of a slideshow, Tomine walked the audience through the story of its original creation, painstakingly pointing out what he perceived to be the many ways in which the collection was naÔve and amateurish.

At one point, after agonizing over the hideousness of the bookís original dust jacket, Tomine described a dream in which Raymond Carverís widow comes across the collection in a second-hand bookstore and is horrified. Tomine also noted that actor Keanu Reeves' band Dogstar released a song in the '90s with the unfortunate title, "32 Stories", and proceeded to play the song, accompanied by images of Keanu rocking out. The presentation was understated and hilarious, and though Tomine seemed intent on tearing down his early work, I was left with a strong desire to run to the sales table down the hall and buy a copy of the new edition. It includes several bonuses, including angry letters from now-famous cartoonists and the rejection letter he received upon his first submission of the piece to Drawn & Quarterly, way back in 1993.

Next to take the stage, dressed in an impeccable 1940s pea-green suit and looking very much like one of his characters, was Seth. With work characterized by clean, delicately tapered lines and a deep, muted palette, Seth is best known for his comic Palookaville and graphic novels (though he hates the term) like Wimbledon Green and Clyde Fans. A legend in his own right, Sethís presentation reaffirmed the reputation he has earned over his long and groundbreaking career. With elegance and panache, Seth told twelve deliberately random stories from his life, and noted the beginning of each new tale with the ringing of a small gold bell. His points, in brief, were:

1. Comics provide a concrete link to a vivid inner reality.
2. Cartooning is a solitary pursuit.
3. Times have changed: in the beginning, it was difficult to be serious in comics.
4. Seth resists technology. When he learned he could Google himself, it was not a good thing.
5. Comics have the rhythm, and require the deliberate decision-making, of poetry.
6. Peanuts comics are haikus.
7. Seth is pretty sure someone stole his theory that ďPeanuts comics are haikus.Ē
8. Sethís college 3D art teacher was an angry, talented man, and Seth is glad for it.
9. No matter how hard you work, you canít change your intelligence or your talent; Chris Ware disagrees.
10. Style in comic book art is extremely deliberate, like a pompadour.
11. Comics appear to be silent and still, but theyíre not.
12. According to Crumb, ďThereís nothing wrong with repeating yourself, so long as you dig a little deeper each time.Ē

While he spoke, images of his work flashed on the screen behind him. He assured the audience that they were entirely unrelated to what he was saying, and yet at many points the art seemed to unintentionally fit with the words, giving the speech a calming rhythmical cadence that was a pleasure to hear and observe.

The main event was Japanese manga legend Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Tatsumi is credited with inventing gekiga, a form of manga with complex mature themes designed for adult readers. In a Godzilla t-shirt, blazer and brown driverís cap, Tatsumi looked cool and relaxed. With the help of a translator, Adrian Tomine interviewed Tatsumi about his new book, A Drifting Life. Tatsumi was animated and forthcoming about his early years, explaining that, ďThe country was getting rich, but for me and the people in my life, nothing was changing, and I wanted to make work about that, as a form of protest.Ē Tomine asked several questions about Tatsumiís relationship with Osamu Tazuka, best known for Astroboy. Tatsumi discussed how their careers had diverged, as Tatsumi tackled darker themes and Tezuka continued with fantasy. When asked if he had any advice for artists, Tatsumi cheekily replied, ďI agree with what Seth said. In fact, I really learned a lot from him.Ē

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival runs until Sunday. For more information visit www.torontocomics.com.
 
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Featured artists

Seth
Adrian Tomine
Yoshihiro Tatsumi

           Featured products

George Sprott: (1894-1975)
A Drifting Life
32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




  Adrian Tomine and Seth Tour

Updated May 27, 2009


05/8-10TCAFToronto, ON
06/02, 6:00Brattle TheaterCambridge, MA
06/04, 7:00The StrandNew York, NY
06/06-7MoCCA FestNew York, NY
06/09Free LibraryPhiladelphia, PA
06/10, 7:00QuimbysChicago, IL
06/17, 7:30Skylight BooksLos Angeles, CA
06/18, 7:30BooksmithSan Francisco, CA


Featured artists

Seth
Adrian Tomine

          



32 STORIES reviewed by LA Times

Updated May 25, 2009


Adrian Tomine: "32 Stories" (Drawn & Quarterly)

Here, to conclude, is an absolute treat, a boxed set of the complete set of mini-comics that Adrian Tomine originally self-published back in the early 1990s. Tomine, who was then in his late teens and early 20s, wrote and drew these things, got to work with glue and scissors, then hauled himself off to Kinko's. This new edition reproduces the originals in all their downbeat glory, slices of small-time California life, telling tales about adults, kids, dogs, Kerouac, etc. Loneliness is a theme, inevitably, but the work resounds with passion and wit, growing more and more polished as Tomine ages and matures. The art is great, and the tone somehow mingles Raymond Carver with that of the Japanese manga maestro Yoshihiro Tatsumi.
 
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Adrian Tomine

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32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




  32 STORIES BOX SET reviewed by Georgia Straight

Updated May 19, 2009


A pair of Adrian Tomine reissues to tickle your Optic Nerve
By Amanda Growe

At the recent Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Montrealís Drawn & Quarterly released two publications by one of its best-loved authors.

Shortcomings , which collects issues 9 through 11 of Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve comics, was released in paperback. (The hardcover came out in September 2007.)

The more notable, and unusual, release was a boxed-set version of 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics.

The original 32 Stories came out as a regular old paperback book in 1995. While both versions collect the seven Optic Nerve mini comics and chart Tomine's rise to the upper ranks of the comics world (and from print runs of 25 to sales of 6,000), the great thing about the boxed set is that it reproduces the mini comics exactly as they first appeared: folded and stapled, low-tech, comfortable.

It's really something to hold (exact reproductions of) self-published comics in your hands after a long time away from them. Much more than the 32 Stories book, it gives you an appreciation of just how amazing it is that an untrained high-school kid created these things. And you can observe how, in a short space of time, Tomine's talent progressed.

The art in Issue 1 is pretty rough around the edges, but by Issue 2, there's beauty in a number of the panels in each story.

If you read 32 Stories or the original self-published mini comics ages ago, going through the boxed set will feel like visiting an old friend. There are any number of losers and outcasts, vignettes and dreams from Tomine's life, as well as stories starring the nocturnal Amy. Amy, the girl we'd all like to hang out with, the one who says of a friend she's drifted away from, "But every once in a while, I miss that bitter reject I used to hang out with."

One great extra you get with the boxed set is the letters page of each mini comic. The Optic Nerve letters page has long been a source of amusement, and these early letters don't disappoint: writes fellow comics artist Megan Kelso, "Please God, let Adrian continue to have no life so he will finish [ Optic Nerve ] #6 extra fast." There's even a bonus sticker included in one of the issues, as there was in the original.

Besides the seven issues of the mini comic in the boxed set, you get an introductory "issue". This includes Tomine's introduction to the original 32 Stories book, annotated with self-deprecating footnotes, as well as a new introduction, replete with extensive self-examination. There's also a piece by Drawn & Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros and a letter Oliveros sent to Tomine about his work, which take you back to the beginnings of their relationship.

This boxed set, with its slip-on case and loose contents, isn't for reading on the bus; it's for enjoying in the comfort of your own home, again or for the first time.
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Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (PB)
32 Stories: Special Edition Box Set




Adrian Tomine intervewied by Guttersnipe

Updated April 30, 2009



Tomineís Shortcomings out in trade paperback
By Shawn Conner

Montreal publisher Drawn & Quarterly has just reissued Shortcomings, Adrian Tomineís graphic novel first published in 2007, in trade paperback. We retrieved an interview with Tomine written around that time, in which he sheds some light on the controversy around the book.

After years of writing and drawing short but elegant snapshots of relationship angst, the cartoonist decided he wanted to stretch his storytelling ability and reach a broader audience, while still maintaining fans of his comic Optic Nerve. But maybe things didnít turned out exactly as planned.

ďI donít know if I was choosing one audience over the other, or specifically trying to reach out to one,Ē Tomine said at the time, reached at home in Brooklyn, where he was working on a New Yorker cover. ďI just wanted to create a book where the focus is primarily on the contentÖand to make the language of the comic storytelling more invisible.Ē

With its emphasis on precise facial expressions and body language, Tomineís clean, realistic style has become one of the most recognizable in alternative comics. Signed to Montreal publisher Drawn & Quarterly, he produces an issue of Optic Nerve once or twice a year and does frequent commercial illustrations. But it was Summer Blonde, a 2003 collection of short pieces gleaned from Optic Nerve, that introduced him to the mainstream press, with critics likening his minimal storytelling style to that of short story champ Raymond Carver.

In its subject matter, Shortcomingsófreshly squeezed into a trade paperback editionóis familiar Tomine territory, as characters struggle with their own worst enemyĖthemselves. In this case, Ben is a dude with a perennial chip on his shoulder, and his disposition doesnít improve as life throws a series of obstacles in his way. What isnít said is as significant as the carefully selected information in the panels.

This is sophisticated, adult work. And so, in the world of alternative comics, itís suspect. Since the 35-year-old began publishing mini comics in his teens, his pieces have struck some of the mediumís watchdogs as the epitome of hipster navel gazing. Shortcomings, which took him five years to complete, has stirred controversy as well, partly because of the protagonistís ambivalence about his Asian heritage.

ďFor the number of new Asian readers Iíve gotten, Iíve probably turned away an equal number,Ē said the artist, whose parents spent time in American Japanese-internment camps during World War II. ďIíve learned long ago that when it comes time to do the work, itís best to try and shut out thoughts about how people are going to react to it.Ē

Some readers seem to have assumed Shortcomings is autobiographical, including its rather unsympathetic protagonist. ďThat misunderstanding has been at least one component in some readersí less-than-enthusiastic response,Ē said Tomine. ďItís almost like they had some illusion of who I was, and by confusing me with this character some of those notions had been [further] confused.ÖItís certainly not by accidentĖthere are a lot of things thrown in there for no other reason than to create that confusion.Ē
 
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Adrian Tomine

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  Adrian Tomine interviewed in Words Without Borders

Updated April 6, 2009


Dot Lin

An Interview with Adrian Tomine

Over 800 pages and eleven years in the making, A Drifting Life is a monumental achievement and the long-waited autobiography of legendary Japanese cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Called the father of gekigaórealistic or mature-themed manga that predated the literary graphic novel movement in the U.S. by decadesóTatsumi was formally introduced to English-language readers with the acclaimed Drawn & Quarterly publications of his short stories: The Push Man and Other Stories, Abandon the Old in Tokyo, and Good-Bye. These stories ranged from dark and haunting depictions of mundane and urban Japanese life to bleak insights into a conflicted nation struggling with post-war recovery and identity.

A Drifting Life encompasses the years from August 1945 to June 1960 and features entirely new work from Tatsumi. The sprawling narrative covers his young adult years in Osaka, his family life, and his beginnings as a manga artistóincluding the oft mentioned meeting with manga idol and future mentor Tezuka Osamu (Astro Boy). The story also unfolds against a detailed background of social and cultural history, much of it dealing with the years after World War II and the evolution of the Japanese manga industry.

In the 1980s, while still a teenager, American comics artist Adrian Tomine discovered Tatsumi through an unauthorized U.S. release. Tomine had been looking for comics other than the traditional superhero ones, and in the process, found Tatsumi and American figures in the underground comics scene such as Jaime Hernandez and Dan Clowes.

Tatsumi and Tomine are very different artists from different generations, but critics have drawn a few similarities between the two: both started drawing comics professionally as teenagers; both have been known to create character-driven stories of relatively ordinary people; and both received some critical recognition at a young ageóTatsumi with his groundbreaking gekiga (he even coined the term) and Tomine with his popular Optic Nerve comics.

Many years after discovering Tatsumi's comics, Tomine now plays a role in helping to bring Tatsumi's work to English-speaking readers, as he serves as editor and designer for the previously published short-story collections and the new autobiography.

Below, Tomine speaks on Tatsumi's A Drifting Life and his own work in comics:

Dot Lin: How was working with Tatsumi on A Drifting Life different from that with his past works, given its longer length and autobiographical nature?

Adrian Tomine: It was a much more ambitious undertaking, not only because of the sheer length of the book, but also because of the numerous references to actual events, people, places, etc. The book is also something of a cultural history of post-war Japan, and we wanted to be as accurate as possible.

DL: What can readers expect from A Drifting Life?

AT: I think people who are familiar with Tatsumi's earlier work will see A Drifting Life as very much the work of the same artist, but an artist who has matured, progressed, and set new challenges for himself. I was surprised by how he melded his own personal history with that of the manga industry, as well as that of Japan in general.

DL: A Drifting Life incorporates newer work for the first time and it's not necessarily a straight-up autobiography with the stand-in protagonist of Hiroshiówere you and Tatsumi looking to push the boundaries of storytelling or the traditional autobiography in any way?

AT: Well, just to clarify, A Drifting Life is comprised of entirely new work. It's been Tatsumi's main artistic focus for the past eleven years. And as to whether it could be described as "straight-up autobiography," I think the answer is yes. It may be different from some of the autobiographical comics that North American readers have grown accustomed to, but I don't see any aspects of the book that move it out of the realm of autobiography.

DL: Though you've known Tatsumi for a few years, was there a particular part in A Drifting Life that you found especially entertaining or interesting?

AT: I liked seeing that at least at one point in his life, Tatsumi was just as fanatical about comics as I was. And I may be coming at this from a particular angle, but I was interested in any of the specific details about either creating comics or getting them published. On a broader scale, I was just awed by the scope of Tatsumi's story Ö the way it focuses on the intimate details of his personal life, then pulls back to depict the dynamics of his family, then pulls back to show what the comics industry was like, and then pulls back to talk about larger cultural and historic events in Japan. At least in terms of what's been done in North American autobiographical comics, this is a fairly innovative and novel approach.

DL: Tatsumi has talked about the mentor relationship with Tezuka. What is your working relationship with Tatsumi like?

AT: My working relationship with Tatsumi is friendly and respectful, but there is an inherent distance, both literally and due to the language barrier. I've very much enjoyed the handful of occasions on which we've been able to meet. It is sort of amazing that I've ended up in this position to help expose his work to a broader audience, but I don't see it as any kind of collaboration. At most, I'm merely a very lucky fan, and my contributions to the series are negligible.

DL: You certainly worked hard on Shortcomings, which received critical praise and sparked discussions on race and identity. It came out two years ago and releases in paperback this April 2009. Are you still hearing from readers who agreed or disagreed with the views expressed in it? Have any of the initially strong responses settled down into some sort of consensus of opinion?

AT: Oh sure. I got some of my most polarized responses when Shortcomings first came out, and I'm sure that will continue when I go out into the world again to promote the softcover edition. I don't think there has been any consensus. I'm glad that most of the criticism has to do with the content of the work, not the quality. I sort of expected this kind of response, though. I think that the most frustrating aspect of the book for some people is the lack of clarity in terms of what are the views of the fictional characters, and what are the views of the author.

DL: The new 32 Stories Box Set, also set for April 2009, looks great. Does it bring back memories to see the Optic Nerve minis back in their original form? And what is the story behind that high school photo of you Ö

AT: Thanks. I think in some ways, maybe out of self-preservation, I've had to distance myself from the contents of those old comics a bit. When I was going over the proofs, I really felt like I was looking at someone else's work. And the story behind the picture? People will have to read my introduction to find out.

DL: Does working with a variety of publication formatsófrom comics to CD/ book covers to New Yorker illustrationsómake the creative process more interesting? Do you actively pursue a variety of projects?

AT: The only two work-related things I've ever actively pursued were getting my comics published by Drawn & Quarterly, and getting my illustrations into the New Yorker. And yes, I think it's useful for me to have a variety of projects going on at once. There are certain jobs that I feel are opportunities to try something new, and other ones where I know I have to give the client exactly what they expect.

DL: Critical acclaim found you at an early age, and in some ways, you have grown up in the public eye as a comics artist. Are you glad things happened the way they did? Any advantages or disadvantages? And given how the comics landscape has changed or stayed the same, do you have any advice for artists starting out today?

AT: I'm very grateful for the way things have worked out for me, and I know a lot it has to do with good luck and good timing. I'm sure that if I'd started out either ten years earlier or ten years later, things would've been much tougher for me. But I do think I was given too much praise too early. It had more to do with the landscape of the industry at the time, and maybe the novelty of my age, too. But trying to develop as an artist is a tough process, and to do it more or less in print has been kind of strange for me.

The two bits of advice I have for an artist starting out today are almost pointless to bring up because no one would ever heed them. But the first is: Start out small. I know it's tempting to take that big book contract the first time it's offered to you, but it might be better to hone your skills in a less ostentatious venue for a bit, then move up to something more ambitious. If you're really good, this route will only make you better, and the opportunities to be published on a bigger scale will still be around. The other bit of advice that comes to mind, which I wish someone had given me when I was younger, is to resist the urge to talk into every microphone that's put in front of you. Say no to as many interviews as you can. Nothing is more important than the quality of the work, and you run a very high risk of saying something that you'll regret for a long time. As I said, I really wish someone had given me this advice!

DL: As teenagers, you discovered Tatsumi when looking for more than traditional superhero comics and Tatsumi started his own work out of the desire for more realistic comics. Have you seen any changes in the comics landscape since then that you like?

AT: That's a huge question! I'm very happy to see comics finally garnering a little bit more respect as an art form in America, and I think it's terrific that as the business has picked up a bit, a wider range of talent is being attracted. It's very inspiring to see the work of new cartoonists and not be able to recognize any of their influences.

DL: Thank you for your time, Adrian. Best of luck to you and Tatsumi, as you both continue to contribute great work to the comics scene.




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Adrian Tomine
Yoshihiro Tatsumi

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A Drifting Life




Exit Wounds, Burma Chronicles and Sleepwalk in Telegraph's Top Ten

Updated April 6, 2009


The Top Ten Comic Books

Understanding Comics: the

Invisible Art

by Scott McCloud

(HarperCollins, £14.99)

Peerless comic-about-comics, the mediumís first serious example of literary criticism and a valuable and often very funny work of popular aesthetic philosophy.

Exit Wounds

by Rutu Modan

(Jonathan Cape, £14.99)

This tremendous work of fiction perfectly captures the gloss and grime of Israel in peace and war. It has a dark wit and a distinctive look.

Burma Chronicles

by Guy Delisle

(Jonathan Cape, £14.99)

A personal chronicle of Delisleís time under the Burmese dictatorship with his wife (an aid worker) and young son.

Persepolis

by Marjane Satrapi

(Vintage, £7.99)

A mordantly funny chronicle of the authorís childhood in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran.

Promethea

by Alan Moore

(Titan Books, various volumes)

A beginnerís guide to the history of occultism in the form of a feminist superhero epic, incorporating some of the most adventurous narrative and didactic techniques in contemporary comics.

Sleepwalk

by Adrian Tomine

(Faber & Faber, £9.99)

Ice-cool vignettes of disenchanted urban life, some with memorable stings in the tail, by one of comicsí most exciting young creators.

Achewood

by Chris Onstad

(www.achewood.com)

Hands down the funniest web comic, an extravagant tale of oversexed cats, retarded otters, robots and the like, with dialogue that rarely ventures far from comic genius. Updated twice weekly, and free to read online, it has people cackling and rolling in their office chairs.

The Invisibles

by Grant Morrison

(Titan Books, £17.99)

A full-time mental series about a band of time-travelling British anarchists seeking to avert the annihilation of world consciousness. Incredibly clever, totally barking.

Krazy and Ignatz

by George Herriman

(Fantagraphics, various volumes, £13.99 each)

The inimitable ancestor of contemporary alternative comics: the perennial love quadrilateral between a cat, a mouse, a dog and a brick. One of the most good-hearted and amusing works of mortal man.

Alice in Sunderland

by Bryan Talbot

(Jonathan Cape, £18.99)

Centuries of local history, John Lennon, Alice in Wonderland, George Formby and the Empire Theatre in Sunderland. Glorious, panoptic and precise; one of the oddest and cleverest comics there is.
 
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Adrian Tomine
Guy Delisle
Rutu Modan

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Sleepwalk and Other Stories
Burma Chronicles
Exit Wounds




  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed in the Philadelphia City Paper

Updated March 25, 2009


Shortcomings
By Adrian Tomine
Drawn and Quarterly, 104 pp., $14.95

Adrian Tomineís tongue-in-cheek graphic-novel romance reads like a revamped Annie Hall, but with a soft spot for California instead of New York. Would-be hero Ben Tanaka is a pretentious, cynical pessimist stuck in a dying relationship with pretty-but-too-PC Miko. Between arguments over films about the Asian-American experience and Benís taste for white girls in porn and real life, Miko and Benís relationship suffers long until her exit to NYC. With his girlfriend gone, Ben turns to his outspoken lesbian best friend, Alice, for solace, falls for his exhibitionist co-worker and a blonde at a party. Between collisions with the fairer sex and an unshakable loneliness, Tanakaís shortcomings begin to surface ó and the self-loathing begins.

óDianca Potts
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Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (PB)




Summer Blonde, Good Life and Pyongyang in GQ

Updated March 19, 2009


THE 20 GRAPHIC NOVELS YOU SHOULD READ (AFTER ĎWATCHMENí)
Yes, theyíre comic books, but these are not for kids
By Alex Pappademas and Kevin Sintumuang


They finally made a movie out of Watchmen, God bless íem. Perhaps youíve heard about it. Maybe youíve also heard that before it was un film de Zack Snyder, Watchmen was a comic book, one that, despite being made of humble ink and staples and panels and word balloons, represented as giant a leap for its medium as Citizen Kane or Easy Rider did for theirs, and though it didnít put an end to dumb comics any more than those films put an end to dumb movies, it established a climate in which it was possible to do something grown-up, to aim over the heads of the guys in the Cheetos-dusted Punisher T-shirts once in a while. But if we can add one thing to the conventional wisdom about comics, itís this: Those giant leaps may not happen every day, but every week a whole crapload of new comics hits the shelves (every Wednesday, to be specificóbetween that and Lost itís basically the Nerd Sabbath). And while theyíre not all gems, plenty of them are moving the ball forward, boldly, in terms of what kinds of stories the medium can tell. If you used to read comics but drifted away, thereís never been a better time to drift back; if youíve never read them, thereís never been a better time to start. You canít go wrong with the books in this slideshow. Theyíre risky, inventive, boundary-pushingóand (we promise) you can appreciate all of íem whether or not you have forty-five tangled years of X-Men backstory committed to memory. And if you do have a backstory question, try the guy in the Punisher shirt. Heís there every Wednesday. So are we. Hereís why.




Summer Blonde
By Adrian Tomine

These four Salingeresque short stories are dark, tragicomic portraits of social awkwardness. A washed-up novelist dates a teenage girl for new material, the high school nerd gets his sexual initiation from a girl who recently pooped her pants, and a stalker has nothing but the best intentions for the girl heísÖstalking.


Pyongyang
By Guy Delisle

Proof that totalitarian regimes are comedy gold. Delisleís collection of anecdotes, drawn from the time he spent in the capital of North Korea as an animator, is a witty, appropriately cynical look into the land of mandatory volunteers and institutionalized paranoia. But for all of his observations of the surreal and odd, heís never the white guy peering into a North Korean freak show. You leave Pyongyang as Delisle did: with empathy.

Itís a Good Life, If You Donít Weaken
By Seth

Ignore the titleóthis is not the indie mope-fest youíd expect. Sethís quixotic, nostalgia-fueled quest to track the life and career of Kalo, an obscure Canadian illustrator he discovers while rummaging through old magazines, leads to some truly poetic observations and ruminations on the fading, dusty world of the í40s and í50s.
 
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Seth
Adrian Tomine
Guy Delisle

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  SLEEPWALK and JAR OF FOOLS reviewed by The Times of London

Updated February 27, 2009


The Times Christmas Books 2008: Graphic Novels
Neel Mukherjee
NOVEMBER 30, 2008
TIMES OF LONDON

Another such retrospective collection of early work is†Sleepwalk and Other Stories†(Faber & Faber, £9.99/ £9.49) by the great Adrian Tomine. Tomine can not only draw, he can also write eloquent, penetrating prose that catches the slippery essence of the drift and alienation of lonely lives: an old woman revisits a cafť where she used to have lunch with a lover decades ago, a young man misses his flight and becomes a secret observer of his own life with him missing from it, a young woman pores over the personals in a local paper and confuses the imagined and the real, another young woman slips in and out of the role of friendly helper of a blind man with disturbing ease. Extraordinary.
Like Tomine's, Jason Lutes' artwork is also beautifully realistic. His†Jar of Fools†(Faber & Faber, £12.99/ £11.69) tells the story of Ernie Weiss, an alcoholic, washed-up magician trying to cope with the inexplicable suicide of his brother and the end of a romance, when his senile mentor, Al Flosso, reappears in his ruin of a life. Faber's UK issue of this heartbreaking, deep and emotionally vast novel, first published in book form in the US more than a decade ago, marks the introduction to a new readership of a book that will come to be seen as a turning point in mature psychological realism in the graphic novel genre.

Featured artists

Jason Lutes
Adrian Tomine

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Jar of Fools
Sleepwalk and Other Stories




ADRIAN TOMINE panel reviewed by Kristy Valenti

Updated October 10, 2008


Bumbershoot 2008: Comix Sub-Heroes
By Kristy Valenti
Tuesday September 9, 2008

Bumbershoot is an all-ages, music/arts festival held at the Seattle Center (where the Space Needle and the Experience Music Project are located) every Labor Day Weekend. While waiting in line to enter the Comix Sub-Heroes panel, Sunday, Aug. 31, which featured Ivan Brunetti (Misery Loves Comedy, editor of An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories) interviewing Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings, The New Yorker) and Dan Clowes (Eightball, Ghost World)[1], I noticed the tenor of the crowd was quite different from what I'm used to from other readings, signings and conventions. For Bumbershoot attendees, this panel was just one stop, from 3:45-5:00, during an open-air day where they could have watched a comedy skit just before, and then right after grabbed an elephant ear and eaten it in line while waiting to see a band: after the intensity of the packed Dan Clowes signing at the Fantagraphics store the Friday night previous, the curious-but-not-fanatical vibe was tranquil.[2]
Brunetti, Clowes and Tomine were relaxed too: they've all known each other for years ó Clowes was a mentor to both Brunetti and Tomine ó and it showed in their quick-witted banter. Brunetti, who, by virtue of his teaching experience, moderated and kicked off the panel with introductions, did a good job of keeping the proceedings accessible (perhaps his interjections of the word "tits" as a punch line helped with that): the panel seemed suitable for an audience whose interest in the cartoonists and their thoughts on the medium ranged from casual to serious.
During the intros, which were accompanied by a short slide presentation, Brunetti and Clowes revealed that they both initially thought, upon seeing his work, that Tomine was older than they were, and were shocked to find out that in reality he's younger by 7 and 13 years, respectively (Tomine started his cartooning career while in high school). The discussion then segued into how Brunetti and Tomine had met Clowes and why it's important to develop relationships with other cartoonists (to paraphrase Brunetti: "You have to be a loner to do comics, but you also need someone to commiserate with"; to paraphrase Clowes: "It's not like Chasing Amy, where he and I [Tomine] sat back to back with our drawing boards and gave each other high fives"; to paraphrase Tomine: "I got some feedback [from Clowes], but it was more important to vent").
Brunetti then inquired as to the differences in the ways in which Clowes and Tomine depict places in their comics. Clowes said his approach was more internal, while in comparison, Tomine mentioned his was more specific: the cartoonists agreed that this gave Clowes's work a more timeless quality, while Tomine's comics are more like period pieces. Brunetti asked for Clowes' and Tomine's thoughts on those comics inspired by Gary Panter's work [i.e., like that produced by Paper Rad], who leave evidence of their mark-makings such as erasures, etc., and Clowes admitted that he has tried those techniques, but was unable to communicate that way: he had to work on Bristol. Brunetti declared that it made him feel old, which led him to observe that as you get older, your art changes: Clowes accepted that, noting that Brunetti's art has changed completely. Clowes then explained that he doesn't do character sheets, but tries to find out who his characters are as he draws, which sometimes causes him to have to go back and redraw characters in the beginning of the comic, such as Tina from Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Tomine said it was difficult when he was working on Shortcomings, because he was trying to do a story about characters that don't grow, while he was going through some of the most dramatic changes of his life. Clowes and Tomine then related a few funny bits of trivia: Ghost World was conceived of as a sci-fi with two girls in togas, while Shortcomings was originally supposed to end with the main character dying of a peanut allergy. (Not-so-funny was an anecdote that Tomine shared about some previous interest in a Shortcomings film: someone said to him that the film about a Japanese-American man facing identity issues would have to be "castable," which is apparently code for with white actors.[3])



The panelists then tackled the topic of autobiography: Brunetti said that everything he's done is autobio, he can't do fiction, and wondered how Clowes and Tomine went about it. Clowes said that, in regards to characters, he picks someone he doesn't like, and then tries to learn to like them; later on, Tomine confessed that, as his creator, he probably liked Ben Tanaka from Shortcomings more than anybody else did in the whole world: he got defensive when Tanaka was criticized. Brunetti said that Joe Matt was happiest when he didn't have to draw for two years, and Clowes said that he feels weird if he doesn't draw for a few days. Brunetti doesn't keep a sketchbook, and Clowes informed the audience that Robert Crumb does months of touch-up before he publishes his. Clowes said that he, personally, wouldn't want other people to see his sketchbook.
Kramers Ergot 7 was mentioned: all three artists found working in the format challenging. Clowes was particularly enthusiastic and had turned in his piece before the book was even official; Tomine changed his art supplies. Brunetti asked Clowes about the ways in which the drawing of Natalie, the female lead in Mr. Wonderful, the comic which ran in The New York Times, changed depending on how the main character viewed her: Clowes observed that that was an interesting thing about comics, that you can change the drawing to help the reader empathize with the character's point of view.
Eventually the panel opened itself up to questions from the audience: someone asked what their advice would be for someone who was interested in getting into comics. "Don't do it,' joked Brunetti, and then the panel meditated on how it was an entirely different world from when they had started out, and they wouldn't even know how one would go about it these days. Clowes summed it up by saying something to the effect of: only do it if you can't not. One audience member asked about cartooning as it related to the disciplines of literature and art, and Brunetti stated that he liked paper, and composing in a static space. He didn't like the "infinite canvas":"it's finite. Like life." Clowes said that he liked to pare things down as simply as possible. He wanted limits. Tomine said it might not even necessarily be those two disciplines. Brunetti agreed, noting that it's not like writing, but more like editing, or collage, or sculpture, and that ultimately there was nothing like it, it was subliminal. He then remarked on the pleasure of mark-making and likened it to calligraphy, citing something that Charles Schulz had once said about drawing Linus in support. Jason Miles from Fantagraphics asked if the panelists made a distinction between drawing and cartooning, and Tomine said that he's trying to make one, and that he's now trying to do more cartooning. Clowes replied that he's trying to put as little as possible into each panel to make the biggest impact, and it's the difference between visuals versus storytelling. Tomine and Clowes established that, in cartooning, if something is too well drawn or over-rendered, it can kill it.
When an audience member made an inquiry into the trios' future projects, Brunetti revealed that his next project was a longer work that would probably have a different title than Schizo. Clowes said that he had only just reread Ghost World for the first time in 10 years, and, while he tries not to over-think things when he's cartooning, he saw that it was deeply personal although he thought it was externalized. Tomine commented that when he looks back on his work, he sees a pathetic need to be liked by an audience, and he tried to get away from that in his last book. The panel also summed up their thoughts on the trend to make the term "graphic novel" distinct from comics: Clowes used to hate it, but he's given up fighting it: Brunetti said pretty much the same, although he added that it made his anus clench. The panel wrapped up by saying that they have nothing against superhero comics, and that [they] were not trying to stop them: Clowes concluded, "They win! We lie down in submission."
 
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Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (HC)




  DRAWN AND QUARTERLY mentioned by The Washington Post

Updated October 10, 2008


Drawing Power
The Adventures of Prose Guy
Prose Guy can no longer ignore a growing force in the publishing universe. It's his day of reckoning with graphic novels' ... drawing power!
By Bob Thompson
Sunday, August 24, 2008
WASHINGTON POST

..."I hear you're interviewing Adrian Tomine! You're so lucky!" a younger colleague burst out one day. Lucky indeed. I'd never heard of the guy 24 hours before.

Tomine turns out to be a gracious, articulate 30-something who has been drawing comics in some form or other since he was 4 or 5 years old. He offers himself as an example of the personality type drawn to "alternative" cartooning -- i.e., work outside the superhero or funny pages mainstream -- before there was money in it.
This Story

"If you talk to a lot of cartoonists," he says, you'll find "some sort of chaos or unsettled nature to their childhood," be it divorce (as in his case) or just "moving around a lot." Drawing comics "is so clearly some psychological way of taking life and ordering it into little squares that you can control."

His latest collection of little squares, "Shortcomings," carries a blurb from novelist Jonathan Lethem that compares Tomine's "mastery of narrative time" to that of short-story goddess Alice Munro. It's a complex fictional stew of relationships and ethnicity, and while I don't quite buy the Munro comparison, I'm captivated nonetheless. Tomine is published by a small but highly regarded Canadian outfit called Drawn & Quarterly, and I soon find myself bingeing on some of their other authors.

I find a lot to like. When I ask myself why, however, it's not easy to put the answer into words.

Take "Exit Wounds" by Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan. An improbable love story built around a man's disappearance after a terrorist bombing, its "spare, affecting lines and charged dialogue add up to a tragicomic take on family and identity," according to The Post's reviewer. Fair enough, but most of that description could serve a prose novel just as well. What haunts me is the way Modan's lonely, angry lovers lock gazes across empty distance.

Or take Guy Delisle's "Pyongyang," a graphic memoir of his stint as an animator in totalitarian North Korea, and Joe Sacco's "The Fixer," a journalistic portrait of war-traumatized Sarajevo. As best I can tell, what elevates these very different nonfiction accounts are the same things that work in good, first-person prose: sharp-eyed observation, strong storytelling and a narrator who functions as the reader's guide. What seems different is the literal immediacy of the graphic versions. Within seconds, they can pull you into strange worlds.
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At Tomine's suggestion, I read a graphic novel on another subject that I'd never, ever have expected to be addressed in this medium. Chester Brown's "Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography" is a painstaking retelling, complete with footnotes, of the life of a "charismatic, and perhaps mad" 19th-century rebel against the Canadian government.

Talk about strange worlds! I'd never encountered Riel before. Brown makes him unforgettable.

Mid-binge, I realize that I should be setting aside my Drawn & Quarterly stack in order to prepare for an interview at Pantheon, the mainstream publisher most closely associated with quality graphic novels. My Pantheon to-read pile includes David B.'s "Epileptic," Charles Burns's "Black Hole" and -- on the very top -- Chris Ware's "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth."
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Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (HC)




D+Q At San Diego Comic-con Lynda! Adrian! Rutu!

Updated July 7, 2008


Don't miss D+Q at the San Diego Comic-con with 3 special guests! Adrian Tomine, Lynda Barry and Rutu Modan! Oh Yes!
 
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Rutu Modan
Lynda Barry

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  ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed about GOODBYE by Newsarama

Updated June 11, 2008


Comics
Adrian Tomine - Editing and Presenting Tatsumi's Goodbye
By Michael C. Lorah
NEWSARAMA
2008-06-10

Just as the American comic market is sometimes thought to be strictly a repository of high adventure, pulp-inspired tales of the fantastic, the Japanese manga industry is often thought to be limited to teen-focused shojo or shonen fantasy. Both sides of the Pacific rim, however, shattered this precept in the late 60s with challenging, socially-aware cartoonists who came to make their market on their country's idea of what comics are capable of accomplishing.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi coined the phrase gekiga - literally "dramatic pictures" - to describe the revolutionary comics he created at the time. Focused on the social messiness of post-World War II Japan, Tatsumi dug into the scarred national identity of a society that was consumed with pulling itself to the level of an international economic power, regardless of the individual cost paid by its citizens.

Good-Bye is the third collection of Tatsumi's early 70s comics, edited and designed by acclaimed cartoonist Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings) and published by Montreal-based Drawn and Quarterly.

Adrian Tomine took time to answer questions about Tatsumi's work and impact on the manga field.

Newsarama: Adrian, when did you discover Yoshihiro Tatsumi's work?

Adrian Tomine: I discovered Tatsumi's work when I was a teenager. It was right around the time that I was losing interest in the comics that I'd grown up reading, and was actively seeking out new things. And Tatsumi's comics were unlike any I'd ever seen before.

NRAMA: Good-Bye is the third collection of his work that you've edited. How do you approach that job? Are you selecting which stories to include in the book?

AT: Even though I'm billed as the editor, the process is really a collaborative one, involving Mr. Tatsumi himself, his representatives in Japan, and D+Q publisher Chris Oliveros. I think we all have a hand in the process of selecting stories. The most time-consuming part of my contribution is probably the stage at which I sit down with Yuji Oniki's translation and the original Japanese pages, and make panel-by-panel decisions about everything from how the sound effects should be translated to whether or not a panel needs to be "flopped." Finally, I design and lay out the book, which also presents its own set of challenges. I think the ultimate goal is to arrive at a design which is attractive and eye-catching, but also one in which the emphasis is placed squarely on Mr. Tatsumi's work.

NRAMA: Do you talk to Mr. Tatsumi about which stories will be in each book? How involved is he in the production of each collection?

AT: I think he's involved quite a bit in that he's the one who initially sends us the stories to pick from. I don't know for sure, but I'd imagine that this is like a first round of elimination.

NRAMA: In this book, I expect "Hell" and "Good-bye" to garner the most reaction from American audiences, given their focus, respectively, on the aftermath of Hiroshima's bombing and the presence of Ameican G.I.s in Japan, yet I found the somber daily toil of the other stories more moving in some ways. If a curious reader picks up the book and skims a single story for a first impression, which story captures the tenor of Tatsumi's work best in your opinion?

AT: The story entitled "Good-Bye" is probably Tatsumi's most well-known work, and I think it's a good representation of many of Tatsumi's skills and stylistic tendencies. Considering how short it is, I think it does a number of amazing balancing acts between quotidian details and larger political issues, sympathy and misanthropy, heart-breaking realism and shocking audacity. He certainly has many stories that lean more heavily in a given direction, and I'm sure there will be readers who will gravitate towards those more pure, concentrated examples, but if I wanted to quickly give someone an overview of Tatsumi's work, "Good-Bye" seems like a good place to start.

NRAMA: Adrian, the popular notion of manga in the U.S. seems to be shonen or shojo, with a healthy dollop of fantasy and/or samurai. Do you think that bringing Mr. Tatsumi's work to America is helping to change to the perception of manga, or is it simply a case of bringing good comics to an audience, regardless of their national origin?

AT: I think the last part of your question there is a good way of looking at it. Prior to Tatsumi, D+Q hadn't published any Japanese cartooning, and it wasn't like Chris Oliveros called me up and said, "Hey, I want to try to get in on this whole manga trend. Who do you recommend?" I think we both just have an interest in good comics, regardless of their particular style or origin. But that also doesn't negate the first part of your question. I do think that many Americans have a limited view of what constitutes Japanese cartooning based on what gets translated, so it's great to see an increase in diversity. There seems to be a bunch of upcoming projects that will go even further in terms of this, and I couldn't be happier.

NRAMA: Yeah, I've been loving some of the recent Osamu Tezuka books. These stories in Good-Bye reflect a very desolate time in Japan's history. Reading them is like voyeuring into a very confused, very conflicted time in history, isn't it?

AT: I get the impression that this very quality of Tatsumi's work is what, in many ways, kept the stories from being more widely embraced at the time they were created. He spares no one really, and goes right into some of the darkest areas of the post-War period. And while I think that's a big part of what makes his work so fascinating, it was hard for people to take initially.

NRAMA: What feedback have you received on the last two Tatsumi books you edited, The Push Man and Other Stories and Abandon the Old in Tokyo?

AT: We were sort of testing the waters with the first book, so the fact that the series has continued is indicative of its success. I was very gratified to see that the books were selling, and to meet people who had enjoyed them. It was particularly heartening to sit beside Mr. Tatsumi at the San Diego Comic-Con and watch his fans line up, ask for sketches, and bow with respect.

NRAMA: How has Mr. Tatsumi responded to the feedback from American audiences?

AT: We talk about that a little bit in our Q+A at the end of Good-Bye. I think he was honestly surprised and grateful for the warm reception he's received.

NRAMA: Are you still expecting to put out another volume of Mr. Tatsumi's work each year?

AT: The next project that we're working on now is Mr. Tatsumi's massive autobiography-almost a thousand pages of comics-entitled A Drifting Life. Unlike the three books we've published so far, this is current work, and I think fans and cartoonists alike will be awed by the level of ambition and skill with which Mr. Tatsumi is working, this far into his career.

Good-Bye ships in early July, 2008. For more information, visit www.drawnandquarterly.com.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by World Literature Today

Updated May 15, 2008


Shortcomings
Shook, David
1 May 2008
World Literature Today


Shortcomings, the only graphic novel to have cracked the New York Times Top 100 Books of 2007, is at its core a story that explores the balance-or perhaps the struggle-between individual and collective identity, as its development is challenged by personal failure, the demise of relationships, and the short-lived hope of romance.

Tomine's protagonist, Ben Tanaka, is a thirty-year-old Asian American movie theater manager in northern California who, through the course of the story, experiences a series of romantic crises, beginning with his "taking some time off" with long-term girlfriend Miko. Lately, their bickering has increased, and Miko has accused Ben of feeling shame for being Asian. She's also concerned with his affinity for white women, his obsession with "the typical Western media beauty ideal." Miko leaves for New York City, where she tells Ben she has been offered an internship with the Asian-American Independent Film Council.

Ben frequently recounts his romantic failures to his best friend, Korean American Alice Kirn, a Ph.D. candidate at Mills College with identity issues of her own. Kim goes to great lengths to hide her otherwise open homosexuality from her parents, even taking Ben on a date to church. When she is later expelled from Mills, she too heads to New York City.

After two brief and unsuccessful relationships with white womenthe first challenging the boundaries of personal compatibility and the second highlighting his own insecurities-and with his job temporarily on hold, Ben travels to New York at the behest of Alice, who tells him she's found something that he needs to see. Miko is living with a Japanese-speaking white man (who apparently also studies martial arts), dubbed "rice king" by Ben, who is confused by her double standards.

Tomine's drawing is characteristically clean and succinct. His primary characters begin as contemporary stereotypes and evolve toward contemporary humans. Their dialogue is fresh; their banter-especially that between Ben and Alice-is believable and witty: "What if I told you I've already gone out with Autumn twice?" "That girl from the theater? Hello, Mr. Humbert!" "She's twentytwo okay? That's at least as old as your little waitress."

Shortcomings asks more questions than it answers, ending without having resolved Ben's problems, but the questions Adrian Tomine asks are important enough to make raising them a noteworthy effort in itself.
 

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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by London Review of Books

Updated April 3, 2008


Into the Eisenshpritz
Elif Batuman
Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories by Will Eisner
Epileptic by David B.
Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
Misery Loves Comedy by Ivan Brunetti
LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS
April 10, 2008

In recent years, the theme of Jewishness has been interestingly appropriated by a new group of graphic novelists: Asian Americans, most notably Gene Luen Yang and Adrian Tomine. For Yang and Tomine, the canonical writer of Jewish assimilation is Babelís American heir, Philip Roth, who transplanted the sphere of action from war to dating. Yangís American Born Chinese (2006) relates the adventures of a Chinese boy called Jin Wang who so longs to be attractive to white girls that he manages to sublimate himself into a blond all-American boy called Danny, who is, however, pursued by a monstrous double called Ďcousin Chin-Keeí, a bucktoothed, pigtailed personification of yellow peril stereotypes.
Tomineís Shortcomings, which explores similar issues in a more realistic mode, opens with the protagonist, Ben Tanaka, watching a movie about a Chinese American girlís evolving relationship with her grandfather: ĎAs I stood beside him in his ageing fortune cookie factory . . . I realised that he was very much like the thing heíd spent his life making: a hard, protective shell containing haiku-like wisdom.í Ben takes no pains to hide his low opinion of both the film and the festival presenting it, which was organised by his girlfriend, Miko, to showcase San Francisco Bay Area Asian American digital filmmakers (ĎDidnít they also have to be left-handed or something?í). Miko accuses Ben of being Ďashamed to be Asianí; Ďafter a movie like that,í he retorts, ĎIím ashamed to be human.í
These first pages display Tomineís strengths: exquisite draftsmanship, witty repartee and a pitch-perfect ear for the well-intentioned nonsense produced by youthful idealism; it is hard not to admire that Ďageing fortune cookie factoryí. Also in evidence, however, is the profound unlikeability of all Tomineís characters, who are distributed between two unappealing camps: sarcastic misanthropes (Ben) and humourless clichť-mongers (Miko). In the next pages, Miko, exasperated by Benís anti-Asianness (at one point she finds a DVD in his desk called Sapphic Sorority and is appalled that it features only white women), decides to spend the summer in New York. Alone in Berkeley, Ben embarks on the time-honoured Rothian quest of bedding the shiksa.
Step one: the oversexed intellectual must mock the shiksa for some manifestation of Wasp frivolity. It isnít long before Ben finds himself in the apartment of a blonde Ďperformance artistí, whose walls are covered by Polaroids of her urine-filled toilet bowl. ĎI wake up every morning, go pee, then take a picture . . . Patterns start to emerge . . . like when Iím dehydrated, or when I get my period . . . itíll be a huge installation someday.í ĎThatís pretty amazing,í Ben says. The pee-installation is, presumably, evidence of Tomineís deft comic touch. But the only humour Ben draws from the situation is the mordant recognition of his own shallowness: for a chance to score with a white girl, he really was willing to feign interest in this vulgar pseudo-art: ĎMy superficiality couldíve overpowered my snobbery.í
Step two: self-congratulation. ĎThe eagle has landed,í Ben announces, with the deed accomplished. Like a Roth protagonist, Ben does not hesitate to communicate to the shiksa how pleased he is with himself, as one of his kind, to be dating one of her kind. When Ben and the white girlfriend pass some Asian teenagers in the street, Ben insists that one of the boys was staring at them in Ďwhite-girl envyí. ĎNow if he had been with a white girl too,í Ben continues, Ďwe wouldíve given each other the sign . . . kind of like a covert ďhigh fiveĒ.í Tomine doesnít leave out the penis envy, either. Where Portnoyís Ďcircumcised little dong . . . shrivels up in venerationí when confronted with an actual shiksa, Ben suffers the even worse plight of being an Asian man and thus having an irremediably small penis. This is the subject of three pages of sporadically entertaining back talk between Ben and his best friend, Alice (ĎHow small are we talking here? Like, in inches? . . . Your refusal to answer only damns you further!í).
Meanwhile in New York, the hypocritical Miko turns out to have been having a fling with a white guy, whom she perversely defends against charges of whiteness: ĎHeís half Jewish, half Native American.í Ben scoffs at this Ė ĎThatís hilarious! Is that what he put on his college application?í Ė and indeed Shortcomings works in part by deflating American Jewsí continued status as cultural outsiders. From Benís perspective, Jews, half-Jews and half-Native Americans are all just white people.
Where David B. makes sense of his own feelings of alienation by Ďbecoming Jewishí, Tomineís characters set out to knock Jewishness off its pedestal. In the four decades since Portnoyís Complaint, Tomine implies, the battleground of erotic assimilation has been relocated. Nowhere is this clearer than when Ben and Alice, having arrived in New York to spy on Miko, take the subway to Brooklyn. Alice points elatedly at the Brooklyn Bridge: ĎDoesnít it make you feel like youíre in some nostalgic movie about being Jewish or something?í Alice is happy to feel her life intersecting with the set of a Ďnostalgicí Woody Allen movie, because the American Jewish narrative offers a chance to fit her own idiosyncratic and often uncomfortable personal experience into an already meaningful story Ė one which, moreover, has a built-in happy ending. From the perspective of Ben or Alice, the Jewish assimilation narrative is especially powerful because its practitioners have by now been so seamlessly integrated into mainstream American culture.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The Japan Times

Updated March 20, 2008


SHORTCOMINGS
by Adrian Tomine
DAVID COZY
THE JAPAN TIMES
Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007

JAPANESE ENOUGH?
Certain 'connotations' of Asian Americans

Comic books are respectable enough now that it is no longer necessary to attempt to burnish their image by renaming them "graphic novels." Neither is it necessary to remind readers that comics can be art and, as such, can be as rewarding (or dull) as paintings, novels and songs. We can move beyond such fretting to consider more interesting questions such as one that is sure to arise for those readers who purged illustrated books from their libraries at about the same time they boxed up their baseball cards and Barbie dolls.

The question that will nag at those who have spent the bulk of their lives deciphering unadorned text is: How does one read a comic book? Clearly, racing through the words does not do justice to the pictures, and just as clearly, focusing overmuch on the illustrations can hobble the narrative's momentum. Adrian Tomine's excellent "Shortcomings" gives us an opportunity to consider how text and visuals work together, and how we might best process the two components of this, and other, comics.


The story Tomine tells in "Shortcomings" is one that could be (and has been) told in other forms. A precis of the narrative ó depressed and cynical sad sack loses his love interest and ends up with nothing ó could, one is certain, fit any number of the short stories churned out by graduates of America's better writing programs. For two reasons, however, Tomine's tale does not read like a rehash of something we have paged through several times before.

The first is that, into the sexual politics at which his young Berkeley Bohemians play, Tomine injects the issue of race. The depressed and cynical protagonist is a Japanese-American, Ben Tanaka, with a Japanese-American girlfriend, Miko Hayashi. Their relationship is disintegrating, in part because of Ben's relentless negativity, but also because of his attraction to white women and his ambivalence about being Asian.

As one enjoys Tomine's unflinching examination of this disintegration one begins to see that it is not only the racial politics that makes his work new; it is the manner in which he illustrates ó literally ó his take on how those racial politics affect Asian-Americans. We read, for example, Tomine's spot on rendering of the sort of argument lovers falling out of love are apt to have. Leaving a film festival that Miko has helped to organize, the "Asian-American Digi-Fest," she and Ben move out of the dark theater and into the light of the lobby, light rendered as the white that comes to dominate the panels. Moving into the black of the night, they argue about the film that took first prize, and soon the quarrel turns personal.

"Why does everything have to be some 'big statement' about race? Don't any of these people just want to make a movie that's good?" Ben wonders. Miko responds: "God, you drive me crazy sometimes. It's almost like you're ashamed to be Asian." "After a movie like that," Ben answers, "I'm ashamed to be human!"

What we may not notice on our first pass through "Shortcomings," but will certainly feel, is that the darkness ó the percentage of each frame given over to black ó increases with the bitterness of the words. Though the dialogue is well written, the content of the scene borders on the banal: who hasn't read accounts of, or been involved in, similar spats? It is Tomine's skill in combining the words with differing quantities of light and dark that revivifies what could, in less capable hands, be a tired situation.

Also impressive is the manner in which Tomine brings us to understand who his characters are entirely through their words, their actions, and the way in which they are drawn. In dispensing with explanatory panels hovering at the edges of his frames, Tomine makes his readers do some work, but those willing to fill in gaps for themselves will soon understand that Ben, though we may agree with him about the badness of a certain strain of overly earnest filmmaking, is, in his lack of self-awareness, a far from attractive figure. Though Miko may have her own problems, we don't, in the end, blame her for leaving him.

That she does so for a white man is, of course, too much for Ben to take. "When you see a white guy with an Asian girl, it has certain . . . connotations," he believes, and the connotations are not, for him, positive ones. We recall his lament early in the book about people turning everything into "some big statement about race," and understand that he is as guilty of this as anyone, unable, as he is, to see people as individuals rather than representatives of their races. In his narrow-mindedness he brings to mind those benighted folks who won't read comic books because doing so, they worry, might have . . . certain connotations.
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE event mentioned by blog

Updated February 28, 2008


MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2008
It's a Small World Department: Adrian Tomine in Mile End
Mary Soderstorm
RECREATING EDEN

I thought the name was familiar when I checked the masthead in The New Yorker to see who had done the brilliant cover, Shelf Life. ďAdrian TomineĒ said something to me, as the saying around here goes. And then when I was running errands on the weekend I saw the posters again. The neighborhood is plastered for his reading and appearance tonight (Tuesday, February 25) at the Drawn and Quarterly Bookstore, 211 Bernard West (two blocks east of Park Avenue.)

What I hadnít put together is that Tomine is published by Drawn and Quarterly Press, an edgy and quite successful graphica publisher based in Montreal. It opened the bookstore about 18 months on the edge of Mile End. (There are now three independent bookstore in a two block area: besides D + Q, the excellent used bookstore S.W. Welch and the delightful French librairie Lí…cume des jours are on the street south, Saint-Viateur.)

Tomine will be at D + Q at 7 p.m. tonight. Thursday February 28, heíll be in Cambridge, MA at 6 p.m. in the Brattle Theater, an event co-sponsored with Harvard Bookstore. Then itís on to Providence, RI on Friday, February 29, at 7:00 PM. in the Rhode Island School of Design auditorium . The week following heíll be in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, March 5, at 7:00 PM. at Politics & Prose.

That's terrific. With that kind of interest his books are likely to have a good, long shelf life, and are unlikely to end up being burned as in his New Yorker cover, or at S.W. Welch.
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ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed by Bostonist

Updated February 28, 2008


FEBRUARY 28, 2008
Adrian Tomine has no "Short(er)comings"
Adrian Tomine, 6pm ($5)
Killer of Sheep, 8pm ($12, $10 Brattle members)
Brattle Theatre
Special $15 ticket gets you into both events!
BOSTONIST.COM

Perhaps best known for his graphic series Optic Nerve, some of which was collected in the book Summer Blonde, artist Adrian Tomine recently came out with a full-length graphic novel called Shortcomings--and even more recently drew a rad cover for the New Yorker (pictured right). The longer novel format gave Tomine more room to explore important issues like race, relationships, East Coast vs. West Coast, film festival pretensions, and personal insecurities. While main character Ben is insufferable at times, his relationship issues will ring true to, well, pretty much anyone who's ever been in a relationship. Tomine will talk about Shortcomings at the Brattle tonight, and his talk will be followed by a screening of the acclaimed film Killer of Sheep.

Shot on location in Watts, Killer of Sheep was an authentic low-budget film that's acquired quite a reputation over the years and was even selected as one of the 100 essential films of all time by the National Society of Film Critics. Like Tomine's work, the movie makes few proclamations, just depicts the world as it is--good and bad.

We asked Adrian Tomine a couple of questions about himself and his work in Shortcomings. Read his answers after the jump.

Do you see yourself as having many similarities to Ben, the main male character in Shortcomings? How so?

We have the same glasses, and some of the same food allergies, but that's it. Absolutely no other similarities. None at all. (Especially since most reviews of the book point out how extremely unlikeable Ben is!)

Do you view relationships in a racialized way as Ben does? Some of his comments about white women are pretty intense. Do you think his perspective is common?

When I set out to write this book, it was important to me that I try my best to avoid anything that seemed like me, as a person, getting up on my soapbox and pontificating. I didn't set out to affect people's views in any specific way, other than, perhaps, to bring a variety of points of view to light, and do it in a somewhat entertaining way. And when I get asked questions like this, I'm afraid it runs the risk of obliterating my goals with the book. But suffice to say, I don't think any of Ben's views, regardless of one's opinion of them, are uncommmon or unheard of.

Geography plays a major role in Shortcomings, with two characters giving up San Francisco for New York and one returning to SF alone. Was this intentional and/or reflective of your personal situation?

I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record here, but my own personality and my own personal circumstances aren't really that important to one's reading of the book. I think it would be great if people could just approach this book as a straight work of fiction, without any real consideration of the person who created it. Maybe that's asking the impossible, I don't know.

How much of a role do you think place plays in your narratives? The "settings" feature on the Drawn & Quarterly site is great. Does place play a significantly larger role in graphic novels because of the visual element?

There were certain stylistic rules that imposed on myself for this book, and that included the rules of "no narration" and "no thought balloons" (both of which, I think, I'd relied on too heavily in the past). And to make a corny analogy here, I found that by taking away some of my tools, I had to make the remaining ones work that much harder. So what ended up happening is I drew this story in a fairly precise, detailed, and realistic style, which allowed me to convey things like characters' emotions and scene settings without words. The use of specific settings also helped me in the writing of the book. It was somehow easier to envision the scenes if I had an actual location in mind. In terms of comics or "graphic novels" in general, I wouldn't say there's any hard and fast rules about the significance of setting. Some of my favorite comics (like "Peanuts," for example) use setting very minimally, and obviously I wouldn't have it any other way.

The end of Shortcomings seems to leave the book open to a sequel--is that a possibility? What are some positive and negative aspects of working with the same characters again and again?

Yeah, everyone should keep an eye out for the sequel, "Shortercomings." And then if there's enough "consumer demand," I'll make it a trilogy with a third book entitled "Shortestcomings." In all seriousness...no, I don't think it's a story that needs to be continued. I know a lot of people find it kind of inconclusive, but I don't know if more of it would satisfy those people. I spent about five years working in a very prescribed, consistent manner on this book, so I'm really enjoying doing other things now.

Ben works in a movie theatre and seems to think this is just as legitimate a way to be involved in movies as making them would be. What's your perspective on the role of the critics vs. the creator?

Oh, that's a big can of worms, and obviously I'm approaching it from a fairly partisan angle. I guess in an ideal world, the term "critic" might refer more exclusively to someone like Lawrence Wechsler or Greil Marcus...extremely smart, erudite, and obsessive writers who spend more time illuminating and explicating works of art that they find interesting. I think in general people tend to take critics too seriously, give them too much credit. Especially in the internet era. Too much credence is given to people who, without this technology, would have no platform for their opinions, except for maybe carrying around a sandwich board on the street. And I should make it clear that I'm not trying to tear down the critics themselves...obviously everyone should be entitled to express their opinions, but like I said, I think the general public, and artists themselves, should take a lot of that with a bigger grain of salt. I always think it's funny when people say, "But I like reading reviews so I don't waste my money on a bad movie" or book or whatever. But then if you compare the reviews for a movie like "Jumper" with it's opening weekend box office, then it's pretty clear that most people either ignore reviews or even actively disobey them.

On a related note, would you like to adapt any of your work into a movie? Have you seen Persepolis? Any thoughts?

I'm not opposed to the idea of adapting my work to film, but it's not the reason why I made the comic, nor was it really on my mind at all during the process. Beyond that, I should probably remain tight-lipped on the topic.


There you have it, folks--Adrian and Ben are basically the same dude, Shortcomings will someday be a trilogy, and you can expect a movie this Christmas season. In all seriousness, though, expect some entertaining, incisive commentary and a brilliant movie at the Brattle tonight, if you go.
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE EVENT mentioned by The Weekly Dig

Updated February 28, 2008


[words]
SHORTCOMINGS
A graphic mystery of human desire
By Cara Bayles
THE WEEKLY DIG

Adrian Tomine (of Optic Nerve fame) makes gestures to graphic novels' origins. Like his predecessors Will Eisner and Frank Miller, he borrows from the film noir tradition with his stark black and white illustrations, his choice of settings (bars, empty apartments, movie theaters, and alleys in New York and San Francisco), and his miserable antihero, Ben Tanaka. But the mystery of Shortcomings isn't a murder or a jewel heist; it's what makes Ben tick.

Ben, a 30-year-old theater manager of Japanese heritage constantly quarrels with his girlfriend, Miko, about pretty much everything. He's snarky and unsupportive, and Miko suspects he has a thing for white women. The more we watch Ben stumble through romantic relationships, the uglier attraction becomes.

The comic drops a heap of political identity buzzwordsóassimilation, fetishization, white-washing, coming-outóbut manages to do so in ways that are intrinsic to the plot, so it never reaches the level of polemic. Rather than telling you that the personal and the political are inextricably linked, Tomine shows it through raw character action that explores the strings that tie people together, and how fragile those knots are.



ADRIAN TOMINE

THU. 2.28.08

THE BRATTLE THEATRE

40 BRATTLE ST.

CAMBRIDGE

HARVARD SQ.

617.876.6837

6PM/$5

BRATTLEFILM.ORG
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ADRIAN TOMINE EVENT mentioned by the Hour

Updated February 22, 2008


February 21st, 2008
Adrian Tomine inspires comics overview
Shortcomings and long views
Isa Tousignant
THE HOUR


Comic star Adrian Tomine comes to town to talk, and inspires an overview of recent local comic production

Guess who's coming to town? It's our favourite self-hating hipster! Or at least that's what critics would have us believe. As soon as I got comic artist Adrian Tomine on the phone from Brooklyn, I had to ask the author of the recently released, incredibly popular and critically acclaimed graphic novel Shortcomings about this line in the press release for his upcoming talk at the Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore: "He'll be presenting a slide show that confronts his critics who accused him of 'hiding' his racial identity behind his glasses." Huh?
"Ha ha! It's because for a long time when I used to draw autobiographical stories and I used to draw myself as a character, I'd draw myself with glasses that were just sort of opaque, empty and white", he says. "There was a lot of silly conjecture that I was maybe trying to disguise my own features. So in the slide show I go through a history of that in cartooning, going all the way back to Robert Crumb and even Charles Schultz - when he drew this character Marcie she just had these opaque little round glasses. That's just a starting point."

Tomine - who's Japanese American, by the way - has made work intertwined with autobiography since the start of his equally famous Optic Nerve series. With Shortcomings, though, his first long-format work, he tried to move away from the genre - a bit.

"It's probably the least directly autobiographical thing that I've done, though it's such a slippery term. It doesn't directly transcribe events or

characters or dialogue from my real life in the way that other stories I've done have. But it's hard for me to think of any sort of fiction that isn't somehow personal, or somehow autobiographical. Though Shortcomings may seem like the most autobiographical, to people who know a bit about me. But that's a sleight of hand."

What else can we expect from the event? General info about how Shortcomings came about, as well as more technical details about Tomine's working process, the process of laying out the pages and designing the book, as well as a Q&A period and a signing. Don't miss it.

DRAWING DEEPER

Speaking of recent comic production, you should check these out too, most (if not all) of which are purchasable at D+Q:

Fire Away, by Chris von Szombathy

The latest in D+Q's delightful Petits Livres series, this page-popping colour minibook reveals a Vancouver artist whose goofy, pop aesthetic is a pleasure to discover, here for the first time in print. Though transporting in a creatively populated, anthropomorphic, Bell-ish way, I was left searching for content that was more than simply aesthetic.

Milk Teeth, by Julie Morstad

Another Vancouverite's Petit Livre, this delicate book by Morstad is like a lesson in fine etching. The sophistication and refinement of her style are undoubtedly what have made her a popular commercial illustrator around the country. As a book, it's a little jewel that would make the perfect gift to someone with heightened sensibilities.

Paul Goes Fishing, by Michel Rabagliati

This latest translation by D+Q of one of Quebec's top-selling artists is a guaranteed good read, in classic Rabagliati fashion - there's a signature Frenchness and a calming familiarity about all of Paul's Montreal-based adventures that make them a distinct pleasure to consume. They don't reinvent the wheel, but who needs to drive anywhere when life's about fishing?

Albert and the Others, by Guy Delisle

Delisle has created politically charged work in the past, which may be what gives this, and its predecessor Aline and the Others, its incomparable bite. These 30-panel, wordless comics about the trials and tribulations of being a man (Aline was about women) are sharper and funnier than you'd imagine possible.
 
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Julie Morstad
Chris von Szombathy

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Milk Teeth
Fire Away




  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The McGill Daily

Updated February 21, 2008


The end of something
Adrian Tomineís graphic novel Shortcomings offers a quirky, stylized portrait of a relationship in disrepair
By Simon Lewsen
The McGill Daily
Thursday, February 21st, 2008


Ben Tanaka is the ultimate killjoy. He ruins heartfelt goodbyes. He laughs out loud in movie theaters during sappy moments. He interrupts casual conversations at parties with angry, irrelevant tirades. Heís not emotional enough when emotion is warranted and too emotional when it isnít. Itís no wonder that his girlfriend Miko has doubts about their future together.

Adrian Tomineís graphic novel Shortcomings chronicles the final days of Ben and Mikoís relationship. The characters undergo the worst kind of break up Ė that is, the prolonged, awkward, reluctant kind. Miko is confused. She is conciliatory at times and despondent at others. Ben responds to her pessimism with characteristic anger, but he is impervious to her attempts at reconciliation. Were Ben a more sensitive, accomodating character he might be able to save the relationship. He doesnít.

The story follows a narrative trajectory that anybody familiar with Tennessee Williams will recognize. It begins badly and gets progressively worse. The final chapter is quietly devastating.

But for all of its bleakness, Shortcomings is a remarkably pleasing read. It is similar, in this sense, to Noah Baumbachís 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. Baumbach provides a swift, brutal depiction of a family in the process of falling apart. Scenes of harsh realism are punctuated, however, with quirky one-liners, comically awkward conversations, and beautiful super-8 montages of the brownstone houses in Brooklyn. The filmís charm successfully outweighs, or at least dilutes, its sadness.

The same can be said for Shortcomings. Tomine works well with day-to-day banter. He has a sharp ear for dialogue and a penchant for humour. His drawings are compelling and precise. To call him a realist, however, would be to undermine the subtle magic of his work. Tomineís subjects are far from being caricatures, but they are depicted with a slightly overstated, cartoonistís touch.

Tomine aims to capitalize on the strengths of the graphic novel form, while also adhering to its limitations. ďI think a lot of cartoonists are trying hard to replicate the feeling of sensory overload one gets at the moviesĒ he says. ďIt is more useful to focus on the qualities that are inherent to the comic book medium.Ē

Tomine contends that, while movies immerse the viewer in a fictional world, graphic novels offer a more restrained, participatory form of storytelling.

Comics operate on a strange time scheme. Individual frames appear as frozen snapshots, but they are not. Narrative time actually passes within the space of a single image: one character speaks, and then another responds. It is testament to Tomineís brilliance that, when reading his book, one finds oneself envisioning the charactersí movements with a remarkable degree of specificity and assurance.

Filling in the pictorial gaps is part of what makes Shortcomings fun. However, grappling with the workís thematic omissions can be a bit more frustrating. For instance, the book takes a notably distanced stance on racial issues.

Tomine, who is a fourth-generation Japanese-American, has faced pressure from journalists to comment on race in his work. ďFor a long time, critics have wanted me to get on a soapbox and say things that we can all agree onĒ says Tomine. ďI wanted a story that would satisfy that desire to a certain degree, but also frustrate it.Ē

When dealing with race, Shortcomings is more faltering than declamatory. Issues are broached, only to be sidestepped with cute one-liners or overshadowed by more immediate narrative concerns. Tomine isnít concerned with grandiose analytical statements; rather, heís interested in the messy, convoluted role that race plays in his characterís daily interactions.

In one particularly memorable scene, Miko discovers Benís hidden porn stash. She is upset because ďall of the girls are white.Ē Ben defends himself, with characteristic insensitivity, by appealing to the facts: ďThatís not true. LookÖthereís a, uh, Latina girl in this one.Ē The conversation that follows is so patently childish that it would be absurd to read it as social criticism. The real issue at hand is Ben and Miko, and their seemingly endless ability to talk on without ever reaching resolutions.

In fact, resolutions are persistently absent in Shortcomings. The bookís first two chapters are set in The Bay Area, while the third and final act takes place in New York. I wonít reveal exactly what happens there, but I will say that the book ends with the image of Ben on a lonely return flight across the continent. He stares apprehensively out of the window as the airport control tower recedes into the distance. The scene calls to mind a similar East-West sojourn at the opening of F. Scott Fitzgeraldís The Last Tycoon. In the novel, Hollywood producer Monroe Stahr travels across the southwestern desert towards Los Angeles, and experiences a similar combination of insecurity and expectancy. One never finds out precisely what happens to Stahr since Fitzgerald died before completing the novel. Shortcomings is similarly incomplete; however, unlike Fitzgerald, Tomineís omission is deliberate.

ďI was consciously avoiding a typical resolution,Ē says Tomine. ďWe donít know what will happen to Ben beyond this, we just know that this chapter in Benís life is over. We know that life will go on, but weíre not quite sure how.Ē This is, undoubtably, a fitting ending.
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ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed by The Phoenix

Updated February 21, 2008


RACE AND ROMANCE
Adrian Tomineís graphic identity
By KRISTINA WONG
February 20, 2008
THE PHOENIX

Show and tell: Adrian Tomine gets it together. By Mike Miliard Ben Tanaka is a pessimistic Japanese-American slacker with a penchant for blond Caucasian women and a deteriorating relationship with his Asian-American activist girlfriend, Miko. The ensuing identity crisis is played out in Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly, 104 pages, $19.95), a refreshing graphic-novel take on racial relationships and failed expectations by highly regarded cartoonist/artist Adrian Tomine.
You may recognize Tomineís clean yet highly stylistic illustrations from the New Yorker or Rolling Stone, but this is his first attempt ó and a successful one ó at long-form narrative. We caught up with Tomine and picked his brain about Shortcomings as he prepared for an upcoming appearance at the Brattle Theatre.

Why did you choose to write and illustrate this race-related story? What gave you the idea?
For years, since Iíve been professionally doing comics, Iíve received a lot of questions and criticism about the avoidance of doing these topics. I found the implication disconcerting that if you belong to any minority group, that should be your focus. I resisted that expectation and tried to establish myself as a Japanese cartoonist, but the queries planted the idea of the book. Iím not on a soapbox and launching into affirming peopleís beliefs, so itís sort of a balancing act of handling the topical issue without interfering with the flow. The emphasis is on the storytelling.

What would you say about yourself and your work for those readers who have never heard of you or Shortcomings?
When working on this book, I wanted the story to reach readers not intimately familiar with the conventions and intricacies of reading comic books. I grew up reading comic books. I wanted to be a minimalist in terms of style, and want the focus to rest on content, the way someone would see a movie and not remark about the camera angles. I had in mind this was the readerís first time reading a graphic novel.

What can readers expect from you at your Cambridge appearance?
Fun. I have a PowerPoint slide show about the genesis of this book and how I constructed the pages. Then a bit of a Q&A, book signing, and to liven things up, the theater will be screening Killer of Sheep, directed by Charles Burnett, afterward.

Can you tell me who influenced you most artistically?
I have many, but one lifelong influence would have to be Charles Schulz and Peanuts. . . . Thereís nothing, culturally speaking, I can enjoy the same way.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The Phoenix

Updated February 21, 2008


SHOW AND TELL
Adrian Tomine gets it together
By MIKE MILIARD
February 20, 2008 3:50:02 PM
THE PHOENIX


Iíd never really had a crush on a drawing before. But when I began reading Adrian Tomine several years ago, I started falling for íem left and right. The sure hand with which he drafts his female characters ólimpid, kohl-smudged eyes, button noses, wisps of hair ó makes them hard to resist. His black-and-white world is populated by a plethora of indie kids and hipsters: svelte girls with short bobs and barrettes, sensitive guys in Dickies and V-neck sweaters. Theyíre all rendered in a crisp, clean line style ó influenced by predecessors like Daniel Clowes and Los Bros Hernandez and the spare, precise, and dynamic elegance of Japanese manga.
As illustrations, theyíre gorgeous. But in Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly) ó his first long-form graphic novel, collected from three recent installments of his long-running comic Optic Nerve ó Tomine parlays his skills as a draftsman into fleshed-out characters.

Ben Tanaka, a 30-year-old Bay Area movie-theater manager, sort of looks like Tomine. Itís doubtful that the artist himself is as crabby, cynical, and hyper-critical as his pen-and-ink protagonist. But the two do share some traits. Both have peanut allergies. Both (to judge by Benís ceaseless pining and the reams of drawings in Tomineís 2004 Scrapbook) are rather girl-besotted. And both are Japanese-American men sussing out the tricky emotional and psychosexual undercurrents of that identity.

Benís raven-haired girlfriend, Miko, is a stunner: smart and sexy. But while sheís busy programming Asian-American digital-film festivals, heís distant and aloof, his eye drawn to Autumn, his blonde, tomboyish performance-artist co-worker. This doesnít escape Mikoís notice ó and neither does the fact that the porn actresses in the Sapphic Sorority DVD she confiscates from Ben are all white. When Miko jets off to an internship in New York City, Ben is to left to his own devices in Berkeley. And things get complicated quick. (As they do, his funny, revealing heart-to-hearts with Alice, his lesbian Korean-American friend, are especially rewarding.)

As Benís sense of self is thrown into turmoil, Tomine handles the personal-political push-pull with funny, self-depreciating honesty. He also deals smartly with Asian stereotypes. When Ben pretends to be Aliceís date as they visit a gathering of her Korean kin, she snaps: ďAll Asians might look the same to you, but my family would spot your Japanese ass a mile away.Ē In another scene (presaging a brutal break-up after a brief fling), Ben, admitting that ďstereotypes donít just materialize out of thin air,Ē repeats a bad joke: ďWhatís the main difference between Asian and Caucasian men? The cauc.Ē

In his early comics (he started drawing Optic Nerve as a teenager in high school), Tomine didnít draw eyes on his obviously autobiographical character, just a pair of empty-framed glasses. But as he insisted to the Believer this past fall, ďI certainly wasnít consciously hiding my identity.Ē He did feel faced with a false choice, however, either ďto make race a non-issue and deny its impact on lifeĒ or ďto be like some politically active guy carrying big placards, making giant pronouncements about political issues and injustice.Ē Lucky for us, he realized there was a more subtle gray territory to be explored on his black-and-white pages. ďAt a certain point, I realized that itís not some binary set of options. Thereís a lot of area in between to be mined.Ē
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Epoch Times

Updated January 31, 2008


Tomine's Latest is No Shortcoming
Book review: Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
By Mitchell Jordan
Special to the Epoch Times
Jan 31, 2008

There's a world of difference between a comic book and a novel, but Adrian Tomine has managed to blend both mediums together in his latest work, Shortcomings.

Tomine is best-known for his comic book series, Optic Nerve, though he has also been published in The New Yorker and Esquire . Shortcomings is no less thought-provoking than these efforts; but it does differ in that it is his longest narrative to date.

It tells the story of Ben, a 30-year-old theatre manager and his disintegrating relationship with partner, Miko, as she leaves Brooklyn to pursue a career in the bright lights of New York.

Exploring issues of race and ethnic heritage along with the vicissitudes of being in love, it is a work that will resonate with people of most ages and backgrounds.

Cinematic and voyeuristic, Tomine's stills are, quite literally, picture perfect and completely absorbing. What is perhaps most remarkable is that someone so gifted at drawing should be likewise talented with words. Moving between acerbic and satirical, emotive and honest, the dialogue exchanged between characters flows freely and effortlessly.

As characters, both Ben and Miko can be a little hedonistic, and the way they treat one another is often less than amorous; but it is, however, an accurate reflection of the pains of relationships. And because Tomine's narrative is so firmly grounded in reality, readers would be foolish to wish for happy endings Ė which is not to say that this book is depressing or dispiriting to read.

Rather than being didactic or moralistic, Tomine has instead created a unique framework by which to see ourselves. He is truly a talent to keep an eye on.
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed by Mother Jones

Updated January 17, 2008


Adrian Tomine
Interviewed By Kiera Butler
January 11, 2008
MOTHER JONES

The Real Adrian Tomine
ARTS: The Optic Nerve cartoonist talks about his new graphic novel, his nosy fans, and the joys of not having to draw posters for horrible bands.



Adrian Tomine is not Ben Tanaka.

There. I've cleared up the confusion once and for all. Adrian Tomine is a cartoonist and illustrator, and Ben Tanaka is the protagonist of Tomine's acclaimed comic book series, Optic Nerve. Now don't get me wrongóthe two have a few things in common: Tanaka and Tomine are in their 30s (Tanaka is 30, and Tomine is 33, to be precise), and they're both Japanese American men. Tanaka and his friends live in Berkeley; Tomine lived in there for 15 years before moving to New York last year. But that's pretty much where the similarities end. While Tanaka is cantankerous, Tomine comes off as upbeat and friendly. Tanaka suffers from major career inertia, but Tomineówith 11 issues of Optic Nerve, three other collections, a recently published graphic novel called Shortcomings, and a good number of New Yorker covers and illustrations under his beltóis ambitious and prolific, to say the least.

Yet some fans still have a hard time distinguishing fact from fiction. "There's this whole notion of people wanting me to be a lifelong depressive loner or something," says Tomine. The probable cause for their confusion: The world he's created in Shortcomings (which is actually issues 8-11 of Optic Nerve) just seems so real. And in many cases, that's because it is: The restaurants, bars, and cafťs where the action takes place are mostly based on real places. And the charactersóconfused Ben Tanaka, his identity-politics-obsessed girlfriend Miko Hayashi, and his sassy best friend Alice Kimóseem like people you know, too. Tomine works hard to make it that way. "I think there are a lot of things that if my neighbors had any interest in peering into my studio window they would be shocked to see," he says. "I'm just sitting here alone all day, but my lips are moving because I'm saying dialogue out loud, and I'm making poses and expressions in mirrors and stuff to get those things worked out."

I talked to Tomine about the pros and cons of drawing super-realistic comics, his confused fans, and the real-life inspiration for a recent New Yorker cover.

Mother Jones: How are you liking New York?

Adrian Tomine: I like it. I was in the same area of Berkeley for about 15 years, so I was sort of happy to have some change in my life for sure. I feel like an outsider here, and I'm always pointing things out to native New Yorkers that I think are weird about this place and their culture and all that. But I feel like my friends and family from California feel like I've totally "become a New Yorker."

MJ: I think there are some real cultural differences between New York and California.

AT: The West Coast seems so much more sensitive and politically correct. Not in a bad way, just attuned to that kind of thing. These words are so dangerous, but I see ignorance out here. I don't mean that they're morons, but they just don't realize certain words are offensive to people.

MJ: Like what?

AT: In California, you would get into a lot of trouble if you referred to a person as Oriental.

MJ: Have you really heard that in New York?

AT: Oh yeah.

MJ: What about your work? Optic Nerve is pretty deeply rooted in Berkeley. Can we expect to see more New York? Or are you going to have to take research trips back to Berkeley?

AT: I'm not exactly sure. There's a part of me that feels like it gets really frustrating to keep working in the manner that I made the book Shortcomings, where everything is pretty accurate to the real world. It gets kind of obsessive, and there's a part of me that's like, gosh, it must be really fun for these guys who just draw wizards and trolls running around forests, where it's all made up and nothing matters.

MJ: The locations aren't the only thing that seems super-realistic about Optic Nerve. The dialogue does, too. I wondered whether you take it from real lifeówhether it's part of conversations you've had with your friends.

AT: In my earlier work, which was a lot more autobiographical, it was a lot easier for me to do that. I could just build a story around transcribing an actual dialogue or experience. With this book, which is a lot more fictional, I didn't have that luxury, to sort of fall back on all real conversations and experiences. But I still have to be able to hear it or envision it in a real setting.

MJ: A lot of people have said that Optic Nerve is about racial and ethnic identity, but it seems to me that it's more about identity politics, specifically the fact that identity politics are interesting and important to some people and totally annoying to others.

AT: I think you're onto something there. There's a lot of Asian stuff and the convergence between white and Asian cultures, but that specificity comes from my own experience, and I could have plugged different details into the story had I come from a different background, and I think it still would have worked. It has more to do with identity in general, and also not the specific ethnicities or the politics, but the ways in which people tend to confuse those with their more base desires or their own selfish needs, and how sometimes you can dress them up in fancier political terms to justify it.

MJ: It also seems to be about how people connect with each other and what sorts of issues people connect on. Ben Tanaka has a really tough time with that. He's not the only comic book hero who's that wayóisolationist protagonists who have a hard time connecting are sort of a tradition. Why do you think that is?

AT: There's a pretty common character trait, and it's really well documented in the documentary Crumb, of using the act of drawing as a shield against the real world and a substitution for social interaction. I'm not quite as bitten by that bug as some of these other guys are because I am actually gripped even more by self-consciousness than by the need to draw or the fear of interacting with people. I look at some of these people's sketchbooks like R. Crumb or Chris Ware, and these guys are in a different world from me. I draw kind of more as a means to an end, whereas R. Crumb has thousands of pages of place-mat drawings. He goes out to restaurants and draws on place mats, while I'm just focused on the food.

MJ: The comics world has definitely shifted toward graphic novels. Why do you think that is?

AT: A lot of it has to do with the physical mechanics of getting this material into people's hands. There was a long time when comic book publishers, including my own, were trying to set up racks for comic books, but it just was not going to happen. I think that even if it's taking a bunch of issues of a superhero comic and reprinting them with a spine, you're going to sell a lot more copies. That sort of clicked in the minds of the public. The weird made-up marketing term of "graphic novel" suddenly seemed to make more sense, like, "Oh, they're like books, but they're in comic form." As a result, that way of selling comics packaged as books has really taken off, and the old way, selling them as saddle-stitched magazines, has taken a hit. I can't complain too much because I've definitely benefited from that change, so overall it was a positive thing, but I do feel bad for comic book shop owners, and it's sad to see that old format pretty much disappear.

MJ: You started out just doing comics, but recently I've seen more and more of your stuff in The New Yorker. Was it hard to go from comics to illustrations?

AT: Initially I got into the whole world of illustration more out of financial need than anything else. I was always very torn when there was a lot of money being offered to promote something like a band or a movie that I didn't care for. I felt like for most people, they don't pay illustrations any mind, but if there's just one fan of my comic who sees it and thinks, "Oh, well he must really like this band," and then sees that it's horrible, it's sort of embarrassing. I've been able to cut out the horribly mercenary jobs and focus on things that are enjoyable to me. I'm an unabashed fan of The New Yorker. I do feel proud when I see my artwork in there.


MJ: You did a cover for The New Yorker where a girl is reading what is obviously a J.D. Salinger book. Is Salinger an influence?

AT: There were a lot of personal elements that were tied into that image that don't really mean anything for someone to enjoy it. At the time, my wife was working at Little, Brown and Company, who publishes those Salinger books, those white-covered books. Her office was right where you'd be standing if you saw that view that's on the cover of that New Yorker. The girl in that image is modeled on my wife's young sister. So there were a lot of things that were thrown into that one image that don't mean anything to anyone else. So I think it wasn't so much that I was saying, "I want the world to know I'm a big Salinger fan!" When you're doing these covers you're working in symbols and archetypes. I had to sort of quickly telegraph the idea that she might be a little hipper than her tourist parents.

MJ: I told some of my friends that I was going to interview you and asked them whether they had any questions for you. One said, "Yeah, will he marry me?" So do you find that there's kind of a disconnect between your lonely and isolated characters and your status as an indie heartthrob?

AT: I didn't know I had ever attained that status! The natural answer to all that is that I did get married a few months ago, and it's been a source of curiosity for a lot of people. There's also this whole notion of people wanting me to be a lifelong depressive loner or something. And I always feel like if that's something that's going to turn someone off to my work then my happiness is more important than theirs, to me at least. I went out on this promotional tour for the book right after I got married, and I tried not to talk about getting married that much, but somehow word got out and there were a lot of awkward interactions with readers at book signings. People would say, "Is your wife here?" She wasn't with me; she didn't go on the tour. So then they'd say, "Is sheÖwhite? Or Asian?" There's this certain level of intimacy that some of my readers seem to feel comfortable with. I think there's just something about the nature of the medium. It creates this illusion of intimacy just because it's a work that's created completely by one person, and it's digested or read in isolation. It's not like sitting in a movie theater with a hundred other people and all laughing at the same moments.

Kiera Butler is an associate editor at Mother Jones.
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EXIT WOUNDS, SHORTCOMINGS on The Oklahoman's top ten list

Updated January 10, 2008


WORD BALLOONS
WEEKEND LOOK I
2007's Top 10 graphic novels present wide array of characters
Matthew Price
4 January 2008
THE OKLAHOMAN

Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Drawn and Quarterly)

Israeli cab driver Koby Franco is drawn into a mystery when his father's ex-girlfriend Nuni contacts him. She wants to search for Koby's father, who she says may have been killed in a terrorist attack. Koby's search for his father becomes a search for himself, as Motan examines modern Israel in this graphic novel.

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (Drawn and Quarterly)

Ben Tanaka is an abrasive San Francisco theater owner who obsesses over white girls; this doesn't help his relationship with his Asian-American activist girlfriend Miko. An interesting look at race and sex through the lens of an intimate graphic novel.

 

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  SHORTCOMINGS mentioned by la Queue de la poire on CISM 89.3 FM

Updated January 10, 2008


Shortcomings
LA QUEUE DE LA POIRE
CISM 89.3 FM
December 31st
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Two.One.Five

Updated January 10, 2008


Shortcomings
Piers Marchant
TWO.ONE.FIVE

Adrian Tomine found his niche a long time ago and has mined it to great effect over the years. His characters tend towards the moody and introspective, living vaguely hipsterish lives, but rootless, depressed and often alienated from everyone else -- family, friends, roommates and especially romantic partners. There's more there, too, of course. Tomine is very good at getting to the heart of his character's plaintive inner selves, revealing against their will, their hidden, miserable and often capricious qualities. Reading a piece by Tomine always comes with a exciting twinge of unease, a sense that we're witnessing the character's secret lives. His latest graphic novel takes these themes and adds an element of social politics -- his protagonist, Ben Tanaka lives a middling life, managing a movie theater in Oakland and living with his pretty Japanese girlfriend, Miko. Only, despite Ben's hostile protestations, Miko senses his desire for white, blond girls, wanting to date outside his own racial element. Eventually, she leaves for New York for a four-month internship, leaving bitter Ben to deal with being alone all over again. Fluctuating between anger, loneliness and unmet desire, Ben forages out on a quest to date one of the elusive white women to whom he gets so attracted. In this latest work, there is certainly a more mature edge to Tomine's writing, his characters are more fleshed out and real -- if not any less self-absorbed -- and the book as a whole strives for something a bit deeper and more complex than his usual mantel of genial, understated misery. One senses, reading the last angry scene between Ben and Miko the emergence of a whole new range of emotion and (dis)connection Tomine now feels comfortable depicting -- just don't expect to be any less depressed about it.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS on Sacramento News and Reviews best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


Agree, or don't.
12.06.07
SACRAMENTO NEWS AND REVIEWS

And from Jonathan Kiefer, not a list, but a rant (because he's the kind of guy who just can't be saddled with a silly old format):

In making favorites lists, it's kind of a no-brainer to single out Sacramento native Adrian Tomine's Shortcomings (Drawn and Quarterly), the graphic-novel compilation of three issues of his comic Optic Nerve. But hey, you could stack a dozen "indie" films on top of each other and still not equal Tomine's keen observation, epigrammatic characterization, rhythmic storytelling, elegant imagery and dark, rueful humor. It's about young, selfish urbanites screwing up their own and each other's lives. What's not to love?
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SHORTCOMINGS on the CBC's best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


The top 100
We list our favourite pop culture moments of 2007
By CBCNews.ca staff
December 28, 2007

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine. ďCinematicĒ may be an overused adjective, but Adrian Tomineís comics play out like beautifully restrained movies. Thatís particularly true of his first expanded work, the graphic novel Shortcomings. Like Douglas Coupland, Tomine skewers sentimentality as he sketches out neurotic slackers paralysed by the weight of personal crises. Shortcomings explores the psychic struggles of misanthropic Ben Tanaka, whose aimlessness and penchant for white porn stars leads to the collapse of his relationship with his Asian-American girlfriend.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS on Geeknerd's best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2007
Geekanerd's Top Ten Video Games, Comics and Movies of 2007

If you haven't already OD'ed on year end Top Ten lists, here for your categorizing pleasure are your Geekanerd Editor's picks for the Top Ten Video Games, Comics, and Movies of 2007.

AHR's Top Ten Comics

1. Shortcomings - Funny, true, and exceedingly painful. It's been obvious for years that Adrian Tomine is a talented writer and artist, but this is his first masterpiece.
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SHORTCOMINGS on PLAYBACK:stl's best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


Steve Higgins
Monday, 31 December 2007
PLAYBACK:stl

1. Adrian Tomine | Shortcomings (Drawn and Quarterly)
Simply put, Adrian Tomine is one of the best storytellers working in comics today. Previously known only for his short stories, Shortcomings is his first graphic-novel length tale, proving his versatility as a writer and artist. Also, it is the first work in which he addresses issues of race, creating a genuinely despicable protagonist in Ben Tanaka whose hang-ups about the racial relations between Asian-Americans and Caucasians guide us through the novel.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS on the National Post's Best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


The Ampersand's books of the year
January 02, 2008
Mark Medley
NATIONAL POST

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (2007) "The New York-based cartoonist's first full-length graphic novel is a heartbreaking look at love. This is a smart, bleak, funny, and honest book. I can't wait to see where he goes from here."
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EXIT WOUNDS, SHORTCOMINGS, SPENT, AYA on Panels and Pixels Best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


Overall, 2007 could be called a banner year for comics as the medium continued to garner mainstream traction.

The death of Captain America won major newspaper headlines, Naruto dominated the best-seller landscape, and Stephen King and Buffy the Vampire Slayer attracted scores of people who had never set foot in a comic shop before.

It was also a great year for high-quality books. Hereís a list of some of my own personal favorites:

Best Graphic Novel of the Year: ďExit WoundsĒ by Rutu Modan. Few books this year had the emotional heft and warmth that Modanís story of romance and estranged family set in Israel did.

Runners Up: ďShortcomingsĒ by Adrian Tomine; ďLaikaĒ by Nick Abadazis; ďAlias the CatĒ by Kim Deitch.

Best Nonfiction Comic: A tie between Bryan Talbotís ďAlice in SunderlandĒ and Larry Gonickís ďThe Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part One.Ē

Runners-up: ďRed Eye, Black EyeĒ by K. Thor Jensen; ďSpentĒ by Joe Matt; ďAmerican Elf Book TwoĒ by James Kochalka.

Best European book: ďAyaĒ by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie. An African expatriate and a Parisian artist tell charming slice-of-life story set in the Ivory Coast.

 
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Abouet & Oubrerie

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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The Japan Times

Updated January 10, 2008


Shortcomings
Certain `connotations' of Asian Americans
30 December 2007
The Japan Times
DAVID COZY

Comic books are respectable enough now that it is no longer necessary to attempt to burnish their image by renaming them ``graphic novels.'' Neither is it necessary to remind readers that comics can be art and, as such, can be as rewarding (or dull) as paintings, novels and songs. We can move beyond such fretting to consider more interesting questions such as one that is sure to arise for those readers who purged illustrated books from their libraries at about the same time they boxed up their baseball cards and Barbie dolls. The question that will nag at those who have spent the bulk of their lives deciphering unadorned text is: How does one read a comic book? Clearly, racing through the words does not do justice to the pictures, and just as clearly, focusing overmuch on the illustrations can hobble the narrative's momentum.

Adrian Tomine's excellent ``Shortcomings'' gives us an opportunity to consider how text and visuals work together, and how we might best process the two components of this, and other, comics. The story Tomine tells in ``Shortcomings'' is one that could be (and has been) told in other forms. A precis of the narrative _ depressed and cynical sad sack loses his love interest and ends up with nothing _ could, one is certain, fit any number of the short stories churned out by graduates of America's better writing programs. For two reasons, however, Tomine's tale does not read like a rehash of something we have paged through several times before. The first is that, into the sexual politics at which his young Berkeley Bohemians play, Tomine injects the issue of race. The depressed and cynical protagonist is a Japanese-American, Ben Tanaka, with a Japanese-American girlfriend, Miko Hayashi. Their relationship is disintegrating, in part because of Ben's relentless negativity, but also because of his attraction to white women and his ambivalence about being Asian. As one enjoys Tomine's unflinching examination of this disintegration one begins to see that it is not only the racial politics that makes his work new; it is the manner in which he illustrates _ literally _ his take on how those racial politics affect Asian-Americans. We read, for example, Tomine's spot on rendering of the sort of argument lovers falling out of love are apt to have. Leaving a film festival that Miko has helped to organize, the ``Asian-American Digi-Fest,'' she and Ben move out of the dark theater and into the light of the lobby, light rendered as the white that comes to dominate the panels. Moving into the black of the night, they argue about the film that took first prize, and soon the quarrel turns personal. ``Why does everything have to be some `big statement' about race? Don't any of these people just want to make a movie that's good?'' Ben wonders. Miko responds: ``God, you drive me crazy sometimes. It's almost like you're ashamed to be Asian.'' ``After a movie like that,'' Ben answers, ``I'm ashamed to be human!'' What we may not notice on our first pass through ``Shortcomings,'' but will certainly feel, is that the darkness _ the percentage of each frame given over to black _ increases with the bitterness of the words. Though the dialogue is well written, the content of the scene borders on the banal: who hasn't read accounts of, or been involved in, similar spats? It is Tomine's skill in combining the words with differing quantities of light and dark that revivifies what could, in less capable hands, be a tired situation. Also impressive is the manner in which Tomine brings us to understand who his characters are entirely through their words, their actions, and the way in which they are drawn. In dispensing with explanatory panels hovering at the edges of his frames, Tomine makes his readers do some work, but those willing to fill in gaps for themselves will soon understand that Ben, though we may agree with him about the badness of a certain strain of overly earnest filmmaking, is, in his lack of self-awareness, a far from attractive figure. Though Miko may have her own problems, we don't, in the end, blame her for leaving him. That she does so for a white man is, of course, too much for Ben to take. ``When you see a white guy with an Asian girl, it has certain ... connotations,'' he believes, and the connotations are not, for him, positive ones. We recall his lament early in the book about people turning everything into ``some big statement about race,'' and understand that he is as guilty of this as anyone, unable, as he is, to see people as individuals rather than representatives of their races. In his narrow-mindedness he brings to mind those benighted folks who won't read comic books because doing so, they worry, might have ... certain connotations. David Cozy, a writer and critic, teaches at Showa Women's University.

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SHORTCOMINGS named in Tampa Tribune's best of list

Updated January 10, 2008


The Best, In Our Book
By KEVIN WALKER and KAREN HAYMON LONG, The Tampa Tribune
December 30, 2007

"Shortcomings" by Adrian Tomine is a great comedy about young love, with dialogue and insight into current youth culture that makes most filmmakers seem hopelessly behind. Ben has no equal in the department of negative, self-obsessed slackers, and, among literature's "best friend" characters, Korean lesbian Alice is a classic.
 
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Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (HC)




  DOGS AND WATER, SHORTCOMINGS, EXIT WOUNDS in Mercury top 10

Updated January 10, 2008


RANDY MYERS: GRAPHICS DETAIL
Best of 2007: Graphic novels
Contra Costa Times
MERCURY NEWS
12/23/2007

If you wanted to be cool in 2007, you wrote a graphic novel.
If you wanted to make a hit film, you bought the rights to a comic and made a movie out of it.
Publishers caught on to this trend and started releasing lines of graphic novels.
But did this sudden comics explosion result in quality, not just quantity? Surprisingly, yes.

For that reason, keeping a list of the best graphic novels of the year to a mere 10 was a tough task.

Here, then, are my favorite graphic novels from 2007.

4. "Dogs & Water," by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): A nameless man embarks on a lonely odyssey through a desolate, temperamental world. This haunting and episodic story has been permanently lodged in my psyche since I read it last spring. Nilsen is a comics poet, writing a story that perfectly captures moods, feelings and metaphors. Do read this man.

2. "Shortcomings," by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): Say you've created a mini-comic and framed it around a cantankerous lead character who is not only smug, but a bit unlikable. How in the heck, then, do you make readers care? For the answer, dive into Tomine's "Shortcomings," an on-target look at the disintegration of a oxygen-deprived relationship. The lead -- Ben Tanaka -- deserves to go down as one of the most intriguing and well-written characters encountered in literature. But other supporting characters are equally unforgettable. Made me dying to seek out Tomine's "Optic Nerve" minicomics.

1. "Exit Wounds," by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): Darn that "Persepolis." Nearly every publisher scurried around in 2007, trying to mirror the success of Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical work. Appearances would seem to suggest that "Exit Wounds" would be a sort-of Israeli version of Satrapi's book That would be wrong. Modan defies those expectations with an elegant -- and fictional - story that rotates around a Tel Aviv taxi cab driver trying to find out if his dad was killed in a suicide bombing. Beckoning him to uncover the truth is his father's complex younger lover, Numi. You assume you know where Modan is headed with the story -- which vividly depicts everyday life in Israel. But you will be wrong. This is an assured book that speaks quietly whenever you expect it to shout its demands. You'll instantly want to reread it, not only to better appreciate its grace, but to see how effortlessly Modan pulls off such a delicately balanced story arc.
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Anders Nilsen
Rutu Modan

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SHORTCOMINGS, EXIT WOUNDS and SPENT in The Star Tribune

Updated December 21, 2007


STAR TRIBUNE
December 10, 2007
Drawing outside the box

Standouts among this year's graphic novels -- starting with Adrian Tomine's "Shortcomings" -- nicely depart from the autobiographical themes that have overtaken the genre.

By ERIC M. HANSON, Star Tribune

Last update: December 21, 2007 - 10:41 AM

Writing recently in this year's edition of the "Best American Comics" anthology, cartooning cult god Chris Ware noted that there has been a backlash against the navel-gazing and self-indulgence that, some people say, rule comics today.

"Admittedly," he wrote politely, "a preponderance of autobiographical work has accrued" lately, as a legacy of such indie pioneers as Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar.

In general, I'd agree, but it's not the case when looking at the best of what's published, at least this year.

Leading that pack is Adrian Tomine's "Shortcomings" (Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pages, $19.95), probably the best work of this great writer/artist's career.

With the feel of a particularly good talky dramedy, the book tells the story of a Japanese-American couple in their early 30s whose relationship has hit a post-collegiate milestone: live together and idle, evolve or die on the vine.

Lead character Ben Tanaka is one of the year's great literary creations: negative and perpetually unsatisfied, cynical and not overly ambitious, too soft for real work and too smart to commit to a career, and too real to be wholly unsympathetic.

He's adrift and stiflingly critical of everyone around him, including his lovely girlfriend, Miko, whose tolerance for Ben's b.s. is mysteriously long-lasting and might have reached its limit as she prepares to leave California for an internship in New York City.

Ben has a thing for blond white girls, which Miko discovers when she finds a porn stash in a desk drawer. It's one of many ways Tomine uses the book's spare plot to explore racial and sexual dynamics subtly without breaking narrative stride.

"Look," Ben says. "Let's not make a big deal out of this. If it bothers you, I'll throw [the movies] out. I got them a long time ago, and. ... "

"Well, the thing that kind of bothers me is that all the girls are white," Miko says.

"That's not true," Ben says. "Look ... there's a, uh, Latina girl in this one ..."

Says Miko: "How would you like it if I was obsessed with pictures of big, muscular African-American men?"

"Yeah, right. ... " Ben says. "You reach for your pepper-spray the minute you see a black guy walking towards you on the street!"

Ben's friend, Alice Kim, provides a measure of caustic comedic relief to his soul-numbing ennui. Born in Korea, a lesbian and the daughter of conservative immigrants, Alice brings Ben to a wedding even though his ancestry is Japanese and her family despises Japanese people because of World War II.

"Still," she says, "I'm sure my family would rather see me with a Japanese boy than a Korean girl."

"So rapists and pillagers are preferable to homos," he says dryly.

"Everything is preferable to homos," she says.

Plotwise, not much happens in "Shortcomings," beyond people moving in and out of each other's lives, which in the end is what defines a lot of single people's lives in their 20s and 30s: just so many people come and gone, each day a door opening slowly on change.

"Shortcomings" is Tomine's richest and most rewarding read, packed with the most human characters he has ever created. The art is spare and meticulous, more refined than ever. Some might find it a little too stiff, the compositions of each panel too much the same from one to the next. But I think it's the perfect, uncluttered complement to the fine writing it illustrates.

War and beasts

ē Also terrific this year from Canadian comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly is Israeli writer/artist Rutu Modan's "Exit Wounds" (172 pages, $19.95). It's the story of two people drawn together in contemporary Tel Aviv to check into the disappearance of a man who led separate identities as a father, ex-husband and lover.

ē This summer, D&Q published Joe Matt's brave and weird book, "Spent" (124 pages, $19.95). It's the story of a porn-addicted chronic masturbator and misanthrope (named Joe Matt) who lives in a rooming house and is so lazy he chooses to pee into empty bottles rather than making the trip down the hall. I can't say I really liked "Spent," but (considering the author is known for doing brutally autobiographical work) I admired its naked honesty.
 
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Joe Matt
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  SHORTCOMINGS on Modern Tonic's Best Of List

Updated December 21, 2007


MODERN TONIC
BOOKS | December 19, 2007

Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine No one does disenchanted Asian-American hipster like Tomine. With sharp dialogue and graceful, dark illustrations, Shortcomings sets a new standard for graphic storytelling.
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ADRIAN TOMINE art show mentioned by TWI-NY

Updated December 21, 2007


SHORTCOMINGS AND GOINGS
Giant Robot Gallery
437 East Ninth St. between First Ave. & Ave. A
Through January 9
Admission: free
212-674-GRNY
http://www.grny.net


In 1991, teenager Adrian Tomine began Optic Nerve, a semi-autobiographical comic book series that looks at everyday life for Asian Americans with humor and poignancy. Drawn & Quarterly has compiled the story of Ben Tanaka, which was told across three issues of Optic Nerve, into Tomineís first hardcover, the marvelous SHORTCOMINGS (Drawn & Quarterly, October 2007, $19.95). Ben is a cynical thirty-year-old movie-theater manager who whines and complains about everything. When his girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, goes off to New York for an internship with the Asian-American Independent Film Institute, Ben, whose family is from Japan, starts reexamining his pitiful life, deciding whether to act on his desire to date younger Caucasian women and getting into heavy philosophical discussions with his best friend, Alice Kim, the Korean king of the lesbos at Mills College. Tomine is a master of the genre, employing a careful mix of art and dialogue that blends seamlessly, never overlapping needlessly or repetitively. In one scene, when Ben goes to church with Alice and meets her parents, Tomine shifts between English and Korean, cleverly displaying the subtle racism that exists not only between Caucasians and Asians but between Korean, Chinese, and Japanese Americans. In another, after Ben drives Miko to the airport, his impending loneliness is shown in a dozen dark, wordless panels filled with emotion.

In celebration of the book, Giant Robot is hosting an exhibition of Tomineís work through January 9. "Shortcomings and Goings" consists of more than two dozen pieces, about half of which are panels from SHORTCOMINGS accompanied by Tomineís original pencil studies. Itís a revealing look into Tomineís method, especially a few fascinating changes that occurred between drawing and inking. For example, in one study, a couple is shown lying naked in bed together. However, in the final published panel, four bare feet peek out from under the covers at the end of the bed, a much more powerful and understated way to make a critical point in the story. The show is supplemented with other works from the New Yorker, Optic Nerve, Luna, Private Stash, and Giant Robot magazine, including the riotous "The Donger and Me," about actor Gedde Watanabe playing the Asian fool in such movies as SIXTEEN CANDLES.
 
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  EXIT WOUNDS, SHORTCOMINGS make Entertainment Weekly's Best Of list

Updated December 21, 2007


KEN TUCKER'S TOP 5
Entertainment Weekly

1. Exit Wounds
Rutu Modan
(Drawn & Quarterly)
The Tel Aviv-based artist and writer Modan tells a tale of contemporary Israel through two characters: Koby, a young taxi driver, and Numi, an Israeli soldier. They are linked by the fact that Koby's father, presumed dead in a suicide-bomb attack, was romantically involved with Numi. There is no heavy-handed dissection of the Israel-Palestine conflict here; rather, Modan is interested in crafting a short story about the everyday possibilities of violence, and about the way terror becomes a grinding, constant presence of its own. Her figures are pasty, often pudgy people ó intentionally non-comic-strip-heroic-looking ó and humans and their background settings (the inside of a cab, small shops, and cramped living quarters) are rendered with minimal lines, inked with pale, fading tints. The result is a triumphant book about not-so-quiet desperation.

4. Shortcomings
Adrian Tomine
(Drawn & Quarterly)
Maybe it's because I enjoyed writer-artist Tomine's critique of a certain kind of contemporary personality ó so much clever sarcasm, so much self-absorption, so little engagement with the workaday world ó that I was immediately taken with his portrait of Ben Tanaka. Tomine draws Ben the way he does most of his protagonists, with a serenely smooth line and delicate worry lines. Ben is smart, he's a horndog, and he's lonely, which makes him a quietly formidable man. Tomine raises questions of race by having others suggest that his Asian protagonist is more interested in dating non-Asian women, which proves a novel (for a graphic novel, at least) way to provide conflict. But this is not, ultimately, what Shortcomings is about. Look at the title: This is a poignant, dryly funny story of people grappling with their flaws, bending them into strengths, with occasional outbursts of emotions all the more effective for the contrast they offer to the artist's tidy drawings.

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SHORTCOMINGS, WHITE RAPIDS in Eugene Weekly

Updated December 21, 2007


DECEMBER 13, 2007
EUGENE WEEKLY

Growing, Inch by Inch
SHORTCOMINGS by Adrian Tomine.
DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 2007. HARDCOVER, $19.95.
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2007.

Adrian Tomineís stories about ordinary, flawed, lovely, insecure people are intimate and familiar, full of heartbreaks, what-ifs and should-haves, all rendered in rounded, elegant black and white. Shortcomings, a hardcover that collects three issues of Tomineís Optic Nerve series, is an arresting image of a relationship caught in the act of dissolving amid disagreements about ideas and identity and how people define themselves, together or apart.
Ben Tanakaís girlfriend Miko has been getting more interested in her Japanese heritage, to Benís disinterest; in the face of his dismissal of what matters to her, Miko accuses Ben of having a thing for white girls (ďItís like youíre obsessed with the typical Western media ideal, but youíre settling for me,Ē she says, heartbreakingly, when she confronts him about his porn collection). Ben vents about Miko ó and everything else ó to his friend Alice, a Korean lesbian whose pointed observations and willingness to accept her friendsí choices about how they define themselves make her a gentle, if sassy, counter to Ben, whose stubborn refusal to consider race as a central part of a personís identity is tested again and again.
Neither Miko nor Ben is blameless in the dissolution of their relationship; neither is truly right about the other, either. With crisp, biting, funny dialogue and spare, evocative art, Tomine charts their bumpy course to a relatively settled point, though not exactly a happy one. Shortcomings is less statement than suggestion, as Tomine widens his scope from the small moments between people to the larger questions ó be they about race, relationships, fallacies or futures ó that shape them. óMolly Templeton



panel discussion
THE BEST GRAPHIC NOVELS OF 2007 by Aaron Ragan-Fore

Perhaps itís the modern inheritance of an art form originally designed to be bundled up with yesterdayís newspaper and tossed to the curb at the end
of the week, but comic books are always in such a gosh-darn hurry. The growing mainstream acceptance of graphic novels as legitimate cultural commentary has led to an explosion of quality material, and the taste of the current trend is rarely out of the mouths of the nerderati bloggers, convention attendees and guys who dress up as Stormtroopers before they want to sample next monthís flavor. So hereís a little garden of roses the comics fan on your holiday shopping list might want to stop and smell: 2007ís best graphic novels.

White Rapids (Drawn & Quarterly, $27.95), Pascal Blanchetís lush sophomore effort, also uses history as a template for an intimate story, the abbreviated life cycle of a Quťbťcois company town. Each page is composed like a stylishly snappy 1950s travel ad, probably making this the most visually stunning graphic novel of the year. Blanchetís strictly structured artistic toolbox only serves to underscore the creative skill he employs in advancing the narrative. The
bookís formalism compares favorably with Chris Wareís Jimmy Corrigan, but while Ware focuses on the foibles of humans, here it is the town of Rapide Blanc itself that takes center stage.
 

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Adrian Tomine
Pascal Blanchet

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White Rapids




  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The Baltimore City Paper

Updated December 21, 2007


Shortcomings
by Raymond Cummings
12/19/2007
BALTIMORE CITY PAPER

FOR MANY, GENEROSITY, KINDHEARTEDNESS, and consideration are a hassle to maintain consistently; comparatively speaking, being a total asshole is easy. Ben Tanaka thoroughly embodies the self-centeredness endemic to the straight American male, and in Shortcomings, writer/illustrator Adrian Tomine brings him to whining, repulsive life: the perpetually furrowed brow, the nervous, guilty eyes, the arms spreading in exasperation, and the resulting hunch of shoulders, the short fuse easily lit, the instant, babyish defensiveness. He's that guy who can always be counted on to say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time, who can't accept that things and people change, who's about to have the rug yanked out from under him.

Ben and girlfriend Miko Hayashi live a comfortable thirtysomething life in San Francisco; he manages a movie theater between lunches with slutty lesbian gal pal/grad student Alice Kim, Miko's a mild-mannered trustafarian who's an organizer for an Asian-American film festival. But there's trouble brewing in their paradise: Ben's got a heretofore unslaked taste for the white tail, brushing off Miko's sexual advances so he can jerk off to Girls Gone Wild variant DVDs. He scoffs at the indie fare Miko nourishes and harbors a weird, internalized loathing when it comes to his racial heritage; at one point, while attending a Korean family event with Alice as her beard, he stage-whisper exclaims, "Man . . . look at all these Asians!" It isn't long before a frustrated, fed-up Miko chases a prize internship to New York, Alice-sick of the grad-school grind and the one-night stands she's hooked on-follows her lead, and Ben starts panting over the kinds of blondes Miko accused him of hungrily once-overing.

When Tomine first made the comics scene in the late 1990s with Optic Nerve, his concise narrative and artistic style drew unavoidable comparisons to Daniel Clowes, whose pop-cultural hijinks had to have been an influence. But while Tomine once shared Clowes' propensity to overvalue irony, quirk, and improbability, he's graduated over the years to a novelistic and visual realism that makes it impossible to not take him seriously. The glaze of winky cartoonishness that seeped into his early drawing is long gone, and Shortcomings' conversations, flirtations, and dustups never feel anything less than probable. Though he isn't stingy with superb dialogue that keeps the plot moving forward-Ben and Alice's exchanges make you pine for bygone undergrad bonhomie-Tomine cinematically lowers emotional booms in a purely pictorial language. His silent panels and pages are among this graphic novel's most powerful: a scattered parade of pained reaction shots; a symbolic, passionless kiss; two pairs of feet glimpsed fleetingly in a bed; and a pair of airport scenes that lay bare Ben's much-deserved solitude.
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WHITE RAPIDS, MOOMIN 2 and SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The School Library Journal

Updated December 21, 2007


Drawn & Quarterly Ė School Library Journal Reviews Ė January, 2008
School Library Journal

BLANCHET, Pascal. White Rapids. tr. from French by Helge Dascher. illus. by author. 156p. discography. Drawn & Quarterly. 2007. pap. $27.95. ISBN 978-1-897299-24-1. LC number unavailable.
Gr 10 UpĖIn a tour de force exhibiting both style and substance, a graphic artist recounts the creation, populating, daily life, and eventual planned destruction of a Canadian town. White Rapids came into being as part of a private power companyís need for manpower at a site rich with potential hydroelectricity. Fifty years later, after the boom years immediately following World War II, that power source was no longer needed by the now-state-owned company. Blanchetís retro artwork depicts not only the townís emergence and eventual abandonment, but also the power of capitalism to create a social organism and then destroy it. The book includes facts and figures as well as views of daily life on the river during construction, habitation, recreation, and final human departure; a discography suggests auditory complements to the images for a truly dynamic realization. An excellent resource for social science research as well as inspiring to nascent artists and graphic novelists.ĖFrancisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA

JANSSON, Tove. Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip. Bk. 2. illus. by author. 88p. Drawn & Quarterly. 2007. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-897299-19-7. LC number unavailable.
Gr 10 UpĖA collection of comic strips that Jansson wrote during the 1950s for adults, based on the characters from her childrenís books. In this volume, the cute hippolike Moomins stay in their Scandinavian home and let the follies of the worldĖa self-glorifying athlete, snobbish new neighbors, or competing prophetsĖcome to them. But folly can also be home-grown, as Moominpapa one winter decides that his family will eat pine needles and sleep on a pile of hay, because that is how their ancestors lived. Whatever the challenge, though, good sense always triumphs and all ends well. Janssonís gentle skewering of human foibles is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Teens will readily identify modern-day incarnations of Janssonís characters and appreciate her message that the path to happiness lies in being true to who you are and trusting in the support of caring friends and family. The whimsical black-and-white artwork conveys both the charactersí emotions and the informality of life in Moominvalley.ĖSandy Schmitz, Berkeley Public Library, CA

TOMINE, Adrian. Shortcomings. illus. by author. 112p. Drawn & Quarterly. 2007. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-897299-16-6. LC number unavailable.
Gr 10 UpĖBen Tanaka is a Japanese American in his late 20s, living in Berkeley and working in a movie theater. His confusion and frustration with his girlfriend, Miko, are compounded when she moves to New York for a four-month internship at a film institute, leaving him to have some ďtime offĒ from their relationship. The women in his life now include his best friend, Alice, a Korean lesbian; a beautiful, white bisexual who chooses her ex-girlfriend over him; and a performance artist who delights in photographing her own urine and having sexually explicit musical stage shows, but finds kissing icky because of germs. When Ben goes to New York with Alice, he finds that Miko has hooked up with a photographer and isnít in the city for an internship at all. Tomine uses an understated drawing style that is simple yet effective, and fits well with characters who are intelligent, reflective, and honest. In addition to tackling modern relationships and racial politics, pop culture, art, and cinema are also discussed. Ben acts as an Everyman, standing in for all Americans of mixed ethnicity and the confusion that often surrounds a person divided between two worlds. The wordless final frames speak volumes for his quiet contemplation, and many readers will identify with his struggle.ĖJennifer Waters, Red Deer Public Library, Alberta, Canada

 

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Adrian Tomine
Tove Jansson
Pascal Blanchet

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Shortcomings (HC)
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book Two
White Rapids




  SHORTCOMINGS on Pop Candy's Top Ten list

Updated December 14, 2007


POP CANDY
Whitney Matheson
December 11, 2007

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly). Tomine collects his Optic Nerve comics into one volume; learn more in my podcast.

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SHORTCOMINGS in Digital Journal's Holiday Gift Guide

Updated December 12, 2007


Digital Journal's Holiday Gift Guide: Books and DVDs
Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine ( Drawn & Quarterly)
December 10, 2007

Few graphic novels released this year carry the emotional weight of Adrian Tomineís latest work. Following a young manís relationship problems (heís an Asian accused of checking out white girls while with his girlfriend), Shortcomings doesnít need elaborate drawings or even colour to showcase Tomineís talent. The beauty is in the bookís realism as almost every panel reveals a truth about social connections that is rarely magnified in todayís literary works.

Shortcomings is a quick read but itís also a heavy read. Anyone who has been through a frustrating relationship, or anyone embarking on the dating scene after a difficult break-up, can relate to Shortcomings' main characters.
 
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  EXIT WOUNDS, SHORTCOMINGS and SOUTHERN CROSS in The Boston Globe

Updated December 10, 2007


Total recall
With drawings and text, these graphic novels conjure vivid moments in public and personal history
By Carlo Wolff
THE BOSTON GLOBE
December 9, 2007

Inquiries into history and outsider status spark a striking sampling of recent graphic literature. Nick Abadzis's homage to the first dog in space is largely traditional in its blend of image and word. Similarly, Ann Marie Fleming's reconstruction of the story of her great-grandfather, Rutu Modan's edgy walk along the personal-political border, and Adrian Tomine's finely drawn analysis of young, overintellectualized love hew to lesser and greater degrees of relative conventionality. A history of Students for a Democratic Society resembles author Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor" series in its deadpan realism but transcends the expected by virtue of its many voices. Laurence Hyde's offering is a replica of a 1951 "novel of the South Seas" told in wood engravings. It is a stunning narrative in which the visuals, some tortured but all transcendent, do all the talking necessary.

Modan's "Exit Wounds" (Drawn & Quarterly, 172 pp., $19.95) also is about coming to terms with family. Economical of line but vivid in its use of color to denote emotion, it's the story of Koby Franco, a Tel Aviv taxi driver who learns that his estranged father, Gabriel, may have died in a suicide bombing. Consumed by his hostility toward Gabriel, he tangles with Numi, a rich girl who had an affair with him. Modan crafts a meditation on identity in which representatives of various generations intermingle, sex is a weapon, and politics nearly conquers love. Modan, who has worked with Etgar Keret, another piquant Israeli graphic novelist and member of the Actus collective, doesn't always like what she sees in her native land. But she'll never turn a blind eye.

Tomine's narrowly focused "Shortcomings" (Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pp., $19.95) pits brittle Ben Tanaka against sensitive, sensual Miko Hayashi, the girlfriend he still wants. Ben is possessive and unfaithful, while Miko has wanderlust and a healthy sense of privacy. Tomine plays his feelings close to the vest, presenting simultaneously spare and spacious pages that allow the moods of his tightly wound characters to flicker and flare. A cutting portrayal of losers beautiful and otherwise, "Shortcomings" is a sophisticated designer downer, intelligently framed by Tomine to convey charged situations that don't resolve easily. Graphic novels are rarely this disquieting and subtle.

Hyde's "Southern Cross: A Novel of the South Seas" (Drawn & Quarterly, 255 pp., $24.95) is a work of protest about the atomic-bomb testing the United States conducted in the South Pacific after World War II. It traverses an idyllic South Pacific island visited by the American military, which plants an atomic bomb under the sea, forcing the islanders to evacuate. A US soldier's rape of an island woman prompts the woman's husband to kill the American; it's a frightening sequence and apt symbol of that other violation, the bomb implantation itself. Some of Hyde's images are so packed they're hard to make out, let alone bear. But the message - pacifist, angry, pure - is unmistakable. A timely reissue indeed.

Carlo Wolff, a freelance writer and author of "Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories," regularly reviews graphic novels for the Globe.
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Adrian Tomine
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SHORTCOMINGS makes SNR's Best Of list

Updated December 7, 2007


SACRAMENTO NEWS & REVIEWS
December 6, 2007

And from Jonathan Kiefer, not a list, but a rant (because he's the kind of guy who just can't be saddled with a silly old format):

In making favorites lists, it's kind of a no-brainer to single out Sacramento native Adrian Tomine's Shortcomings (Drawn and Quarterly), the graphic-novel compilation of three issues of his comic Optic Nerve. But hey, you could stack a dozen "indie" films on top of each other and still not equal Tomine's keen observation, epigrammatic characterization, rhythmic storytelling, elegant imagery and dark, rueful humor. It's about young, selfish urbanites screwing up their own and each other's lives. What's not to love? Here's my Q-and-A with Tomine from October
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS is a New York Times notable book

Updated December 6, 2007


NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
HOLIDAY BOOKS
100 Notable Books of 2007
December 2nd, 2007

SHORTCOMINGS. By Adrian Tomine. (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95.) The Asian-American characters in this meticulously observed comic-book novella explicitly address the way in which they handle being in a minority.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Salon.com

Updated December 6, 2007


"Shortcomings"
By Jascha Hoffman
Dec. 6, 2007
SALON.COM

The new graphic novel by Adrian Tomine of "Optic Nerve" fame may finally secure his spot in the cartoon pantheon alongside Daniel Clowes and the Hernandez brothers.



Under the dust jacket of Adrian Tomine's first graphic novel, "Shortcomings," printed along the bottom edge of the front cover, lies a ruler. It's a gentle nod to a recurring joke that reveals the insecurities of the book's main character, Ben Tanaka, a chubby, grouchy movie theater manager recently abandoned by his girlfriend. At one point, as he is considering dating a lesbian in the hopes that she'll be less "size-conscious," he repeats a riddle he heard in college: "What's the main difference between Asian and Caucasian men? ... The Cauc."

Stereotypes aside, Tomine must also be feeling his own pressure to measure up. As a teenager in Sacramento, Calif., he began to hand-distribute his "Optic Nerve" series of comics about young Bay Area loners. Over time, after he moved to Berkeley to major in English, and as the issues of "Optic Nerve" were collected in the books "Sleepwalk" and "Summer Blonde," the stories grew longer and more subtle. The wait for the next issue has been getting longer every year, perhaps because Tomine's exacting standards keep getting higher.

This new graphic novel -- Tomine's first -- would seem to mark his arrival as a peer of the great cartoonists of Generation X, such as Daniel Clowes and the Hernandez brothers. His publisher has printed an unprecedented first run of 25,000 copies and the book has been acclaimed by novelists such as Junot DŪaz and Jonathan Lethem. (The latter has called Tomine's work "as deceptively relaxed and perfect as a comic book gets.") If the critics are to be believed, Tomine's small lonely moments are destined to stand with those of Raymond Carver and Alice Munro.

The reigning mood of his work is a sort of detached longing. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his single-panel illustrations. For instance, a cover he drew for the New Yorker shows a clean-cut young man on the subway who locks eyes with a stunning blonde reading the same book on a passing train. The moment is both detached and intimate, mundane and yet somehow heartbreaking: You could imagine him just sighing and going back to reading -- or madly scouring the city for her.


Many of Tomine's characters are, in fact, ordinary people who find themselves turning into stalkers and creeps. In the title story of "Summer Blonde," for example, a timid man begins to follow a girl he meets in a greeting card store and unthinkingly gives away one of her closest secrets. In "Hawaiian Getaway," another story from that collection, a lonely Chinese-American woman unintentionally meets a nice white boy while making a prank call, then invites him to her grandmother's funeral. Like most of Tomine's vignettes of love-starved Gen-Xers, the charm of these stories lies in their subdued tone and bittersweet endings, which often hold open a slim chance of redemption.


"Shortcomings," which binds together three recent issues of "Optic Nerve" that tell a single continuous story, is Tomine's most ambitious work by far. Its length is something of an obstacle, as moments that might have been charming in a shorter story seem to hold back the plot. It deals with race and sex in a way that is more playful and explicit than anything Tomine has done before. Compared to earlier work that was more brooding, the tone is light, with plenty of allusive banter and satire. But it is also a real tragedy whose central character seems intent on standing by as his life falls apart.

Ben Tanaka, a 30-year-old movie theater manager in Berkeley, treats his girlfriend Miko poorly, alternating between bitter criticism and sullen withdrawal. After she discovers his all-white porn stash, Miko suggests they "take some time off" and moves to New York City. Ben is crushed but in time he begins to pursue a series of blondes. Following a failed attempt to kiss the artsy punk girl who takes tickets at his movie theater, he has a brief affair with a bisexual graduate student who soon dumps him with the sendoff, "I could be totally brutally honest about why I'm doing this, but I'm going to restrain myself because I'm not sure you'd ever recover." Shaken, Ben flies to New York City, where, spying on his own girlfriend, he discovers that she has been sleeping with a white man.

Tomine has said that there was a time when he felt that to avoid being seen as a crusading Asian cartoonist he had to "make race a non-issue and deny its impact on life." Clearly this period is now over: Nearly every page of the novel deals with an anxiety specific to his own brand of ambivalently Asian Gen-Xers, or, as Tomine calls them, "characters that happen to be Asian." At the outset, Ben repeatedly denies that being Japanese means anything to him. But he is conflicted about his own assimilated status: He squirms when confronted with spoken Korean and Japanese, rendered in a series of panels that will be as unintelligible to most readers as they are to Ben. As should be clear from his dating patterns, Ben clings to an obvious double standard: It's fine for Asian guys to hit on blondes, but white boys had better stay away from those helpless Asian girls -- especially his own Japanese girlfriend.

This kind of double-think is not Ben's only shortcoming: He is a bitter narcissist with, as his own girlfriend points out, "weird self-hatred issues," "relentless negativity" and a pathological fear of change. Tomine depicts these flaws almost too faithfully in Ben's consistently sullen expression, which stands out all the more among the other characters' precisely inflected faces. Ben does have a half-redeeming friendship with Alice, a serial-dating Korean dyke who is something of a narcissist and a hypocrite herself. And he has his tender moments. But he seems consistently clueless about his many flaws.


After a hundred pages with such a grating character, the reader may feel pushed beyond pity to a sort of morbid curiosity. Although sour protagonists are not new to comic books or literary fiction, it is still a serious choice to put one at the center of a graphic novel; after all, he's there in nearly every panel staring the reader down. In response to the piles of letters he has received complaining about Ben, Tomine has written that while he is "disappointed if someone hates the book because they hate the character, I also feel somewhat gratified." This suggests that Tomine knows exactly how abrasive he has made Ben, and even that he relishes the chance to confront us with him.

In the end, Tomine is such a skillful cartoonist that it doesn't really matter how you feel about his characters. His panels are exceptionally easy to read, combining the precision of line drawings with the gentle pacing of art-house film. The facial expressions and gestures are subtle, and they stand out against the storefronts of Berkeley and Brooklyn, N.Y., which he renders with uncanny fidelity, down to the old light fixtures of Chinese restaurants that have since been remodeled. His dialogue is sharp and true whether he's portraying a squabble in a dive bar or the negotiations that precede a kiss.

In this book there is also a strong element of visual satire, taking aim at politically correct Asian American cinema and American Apparel ads. And Tomine leaves a little room to breathe by inserting silent frames: While Ben is escorting Miko to her plane, for example, we see only a haunting series of aerial views of his empty car in the parking lot.

Despite all the technique involved, the story itself does feel a little slow, perhaps because Tomine is not yet fully comfortable piecing together his vignettes into a full-scale plot. And it takes some patience on the part of the reader to stay with Ben to the bitter end. But the book is so pleasurable and ambitious that these come across as minor shortcomings.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Pop Matters

Updated December 4, 2007


POP MATTERS
Shortcomings
Writer: Adrian Tomine
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
by Brian Bethel

Adrian Tomineís latest graphic novel Shortcomings, a collection of three Optic Nerve issues serialized from 2004 to 2007, opens with the ending of a fictional Joy Luck Club-style film. The ending is a biting parody of the kind of overly-sentimentalized, tear-jerking tales of cultural acceptance that Shortcomings sets itself firmly against. On the contrary, the graphic novelís protagonist Ben Tanaka, a Japanese-American theatre manager in Northern California, begins the story with a sense of cultural self-acceptance that slowly unravels throughout the novel. In place of a conclusive affirmation, Shortcomings weaves an intricate portrait of the various responses to age and identity that set in during the early years of post-twenties life.

Tomine doesnít seem interested in issues of Asian-American identity so much as in the multitude of lifestyles created by people in reaction to the question of their idea of self. His characters donít create themselves around their identity but out of ways to avoid it, and itís in the subtle language and aesthetic of avoidance that Tomine as a writer is strongestóhe excels not at the larger issue of Asian-American identity but in the precise language of the arguments it leads to. Tomine never directly tackles any larger question of identity but instead fills Shortcomings with each of its minor outward personifications, drenched in the forgiving language of post-1990ís California. Miko defends her new boyfriend by saying, ďHeís half Jewish, half Native American,Ē to which Ben responds: ďIs that what he put on his college application?Ē Reading Shortcomings, one canít help but feel his glee at skewering overly-sentimentalized independent films, clichťd ďMargaret Cho impressions,Ē and predetermined statements on heritage and identity.

In many ways Shortcomings feels like a state-of-the-union type of work, one that examines the varied reactions to the early-thirties slump approached by the sarcastic Gen X kids who initially populated Tomineís works. His characters visually appear left over from the nineties, sporting a mťlange of bleached blond hair, striped sweaters, and casual ties that leaves a trace of slightly out-dated hipness on the entire book. But Tomineís difficulty in completely updating the style of his characters parallels their own plight in Shortcomings. The question of how Tomine as an author goes about transporting his characters from the laid-back party atmosphere of their twenties into the world of legitimate responsibility and creation is the same question that his characters must ask themselves. As the reader ponders how the glazed discontent of nineties generation found itself here, we understand the very question Ben and Alice must be asking themselves.

Itís in the reaction to delayed maturation that the charactersí shortcomings lie. Ben, cozy in his dead-end relationship and menial theatre job, hasnít reacted to the pressures of growing out of youth, and Shortcomings essentially examines how everyone else has. Awakening out of the collapse of his long-term relationship, Ben seems an alien visiting a new planet. His movements in social circles are restricted by a web of political phrases that he refuses to recognize, but the problem lies not in Benís political incorrectness but in his refusal to follow any sort of conviction through. Through Benís eyes, Shortcomings becomes a journal of the renewed reactions of a skeptic to a landscape swathed in politically correct phrases and symbols, as well as a questioning of the value of those symbols in place of that which preceded them.

It also criticizes the very creativity that Ben resists. Tomine understands all too well how creativity easily falls into categories without going anywhere, how peopleís projects are a part of their image more than a plan or ongoing interest, and how when Auburn tells Ben that her performance group is ďtaking the physicality of modern dance and the improvisation of free jazz and infusing it with a punk sensibility,Ē itís code for ďI dropped out of college to work at a movie theatre.Ē Itís not only Ben that Tomine is dissatisfied with Ė his other characters have just as easily drifted into the venues and categories already set out for them, be it the predictable political-correctness of graduate academia, the bored hipness of menial work, or the tired futility of recycled creative production.

Tomine is skilled at mocking the lifestyle choices of twenty-somethings but problems arise when one gets a sense of how much he seems to enjoy aestheticizing his own characters, and how genuinely attracted he seems to be to the lifestyle he attempts to criticize. One certainly gets the sense that Tomine gets as much pleasure in drawing skinny blonds with cropped haircuts and the individual squares of plaid on Benís shirts as he does in self-deprecatingly critiquing the dazed hipness of his characters. He parodies the late-nineties ideal only to the extant that he seems genuinely attracted to it, and in the end, Tomine never really gets to condemn the over-stylization of his characters in the face of legitimate life decisions because he is the cause of them being so heavily stylized in the first place. The struggles of ShortcomingsĎ characters at times feel inauthentic because they occasionally appear to take place in an American Apparel ad.

In the end, though, Shortcomings is a work of sympathy for a person who has dug himself into a hole in life and in outlook, and a knowing criticism of that which has led him there. If Tomine has an underlying message, itís perhaps a dissatisfaction that his unique generation ended up drowning in over-determined political correctness and tired experimentation. Yet there is a certain sympathy in Tomineís dissatisfaction, and an understanding of the relative ease of falling back on the remnants of disaffected youth culture. We are left with a sense at the end that Ben does not have the motivation to overcome the abrupt change in stasis his life has sustained on his own. Itís necessary for him to adopt one of the predetermined venues of his generationóat least as a starting point. Ultimately, then, Tomine demonstrates the necessity of the obvious categorization of his peers to cope with the jarring reality of post-twenties life even as he criticizes it.
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SHORTCOMINGS in The Bloomsbury Review

Updated December 4, 2007


BLOOMSBURY REVIEW
Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
December/January

The poignant shortcomings of soulful slacker Ben Tanaka are artfully presented in this striking volume. And, of course, Ben isnít the only one with shortcomings, either. When his live-in relationship in Oakland falls apart and his girlfriend leaves him to take a Manhattan internship, Ben finds himself succumbing to his wandering eye, spending ever more time with his lesbian best friend and eventually flying to New York to see what the hubbub is about.
 

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  MOOMIN, EXIT WOUNDS and SHORTCOMINGS in The St Louis Post-Dispatch

Updated December 4, 2007


The Fun Never Stops!
12/02/2007
ST LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Exit Wounds

By Rutu Modan

(Drawn and Quarterly, 172 pages, $19.95)

An Israeli, Modan tells a story that initially appears political in nature ó identifying a man killed in a suicide bombing ó but quickly mutates into something more personal: an account of a severed family bond and a growing romantic connection.



King-Cat Classix

By John Porcellino

(Drawn and Quarterly, 384 pages, $29.95)

This beefy collection of Porcellino's mini-comics provides a revealing sampler of his work, which deftly mixes whimsy and biography, sharp observation and poetic musing.



Shortcomings

By Adrian Tomine

(Drawn and Quarterly, 108 pages, $19.95)

Graphic literature's most gifted realist, Tomine pointedly explores ethnic identity in a fiercely honest story of a relationship undone by the toxic combination of too much self-obsession and too little self-awareness.
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SHORTCOMINGS mentioned by CBC

Updated November 30, 2007


All the rage
Tracking the trend of angry Asian men
By Kevin Chong, CBCNews.ca
November 21, 2007

Starting from real characters instead of a political stance is what makes Adrian Tomineís wry and observant treatment of white-Asian dating so fascinating. Shortcomings, a graphic novel culled from Tomineís comic book Optic Nerve, follows Ben Tanaka, an angry Asian man with an Asian girlfriend, Miko, who takes issue with his interest in porn featuring only white women. After Miko moves from Berkeley, Calif., to New York, Ben dates a couple of white women. When these relationships fizzle, he heads to New York to find Miko, who has since begun dating a white guy. Their relationship sets Ben off on a racist tirade.

What makes Ben Tanaka so compelling is also what accounts for Tomineís wide appeal (and the praise of writers like Jonathan Lethem and Nick Hornby). With an eye for awkwardly revealing interactions, he depicts Ben as a sometimes unpleasant character (rather than a put-upon Asian Everyman) whoís openly disdainful of Asians who blame all their troubles on racism and the boosterism within Asian-American cultural circles; he has to be convinced that race has anything to do with his relationships. Ben might be angry, but not in a way thatís different from the Asian female and white males that Tomine also writes about.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by the Independent News

Updated November 30, 2007


Shortcomings
INDEPENDENT NEWS
by Joani Delezen

Anyone who has ever had trouble finding or keeping a significant other will relate to Ben Tanaka, the painfully realistic anti-hero in Adrian Tomine's latest graphic novel 'Shortcomings.'

Tanka is sad and shy, giving him that likable, underdog edge. Too bad he's also bitter, sarcastic and excruciatingly selfish. He's caught up in a long-term relationship that's falling apart, primarily because he's got thing for a white girls and his Asian girlfriend knows it.

Using that conflict, Tomine explores racial stereotypes on both a personal and societal level. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, 'Shortcomings' is realistic portrait of how self-doubt can eat away at a relationship.
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SHORTCOMINGS on the Globe and Mail gift guide

Updated November 30, 2007


GLOBE AND MAIL
All they'll want for Christmas
November 24, 2007

Critic and editor Bruce Handy recently called children's picture books, my favourite gifts to buy and give, "low-tech virtual-reality experiences." Adrian Tomine's beautiful graphic novel Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly; $22.95) extends those experiences to grownups. He tackles ethnicity, love and pop-culture obsessions in a visual stew that would make Philip Roth proud.
 
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  ADRIAN interview, review of WHITE RAPIDS, SPENT, DOGS AND WATER in fast forward weekly

Updated November 16, 2007


New comics, the Drawn and Quarterly edition
Adrian Tomine on his new book Shortcomings, reviews and more
Published November 15, 2007 by Bryn Evans in Books

Adrian Tomineís self-portrait

Adrian Tomineís cartooning ranks among the best in modern comics, each new issue adding to a mythology of lovelorn slackers, family politics and sex. His latest, Shortcomings (Drawn and Quarterly, 104 pp.), serialized in Optic Nerve issues 9 to 11, is the story of Ben Tanaka, a disgruntled movie theatre manager who, like most men his age raised on a steady diet of pop culture ó detritus and all ó lives a private life of strong opinions and hidden desires. His already-strained relationship with his girlfriend Miko becomes increasingly antagonistic, as she accuses him of wanting other women ó white women.

Shortcomings is Tomineís most expansive story yet, told more through rich visuals than words, cadenced panel compositions and his inimitable facial characterizations and expressions. Fast Forward asked Tomine about getting into comics and the creation of Shortcomings.

Fast Forward: The first Optic Nerve issues were printed in 1995, when you were 21. What inspired you to get into comics?

Adrian Tomine: I was doing some mini-comics even earlier, at age 15. Love and Rockets was my gateway drug into more artistic, personal comics.

Did you go to art school?

I had a self-guided education. I went to college in Berkley, California, as an English major. Well, I started as an art major, but quickly grew disenchanted with that. I enjoyed English more. For me, it was a good thing to learn on my own and at my own pace. I also got to know some pros when starting up that were generous with their time and very helpful.

Youíve done commercial work for The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. Do you still do much of that?

I used to. Itís one of the nice things about the change in the market ó getting to the point now that people can make money from comics. (Comics are) a pure labour of love, so thereís a hustle to do illustration work. Gratefully, I can now work on my comics and do commercial work that doesnít overtake that.

Would you consider illustrating another writerís work?

I donít think so. It has been proposed ó some high-profile stuff. Maybe the net result would be better, but the process of drawing is so slow and frustrating. I work slowly, and it would be too much work in service of something that my heart wasnít in.

What inspired Shortcomings?

It had been kicking around for a long time, before I put pen to paper. I was feeling very aware of just how apparent my artistic influences were in my work. I was reaching a point of being frustrated at not being able to break free of that, but thereís no way that I could. Rather than immerse myself in a new drawing style, I wanted to explore new avenues of content, story and characters.

Is there a biographical element to the work?

Itís not an autobiographical work. There isnít any type of fiction totally sprung from the artist. Because of the nature of working in this form, itís not like youíre making statements ó thereís some kind of protection from working in private. I was more worried about offending people esthetically (laughs). The pitfall I was most conscious of was running the risk of being sanctimonious.

When I started working on it, I thought, ďwhat is it about books and art that address race that doesnít appeal to me?Ē (I wanted to) build a story around that ó not just art that deals with race, but anything fake, that houses simple messages and characters. I tried to create characters that felt real to me, so that any kind of thematic content was suggested, or gently emerged.

Joe Matt gives himself quite the self-loathing critique in his new work, Spent (Drawn and Quarterly, 120 pp.), another entry in the sad sack, chronically masturbating cartoonist pantheon. Heís a hugely selfish prick, but elevates the hatred with humorous, cartoony art, and the eight-panel page structure doesnít feel cluttered.

Anders Nilsenís latest dystopian work, Dogs and Water (Drawn and Quarterly, 96 pp.) is pretty much that ó a boy wanders across a dreary wasteland with a pack of wild dogs. The dreamlike quality of the work doesnít necessarily connect, but Nilsenís sharp line work has a delicateness to it that adds to the eerie story, made even grander through expanses of nothingness.

Quťbťcois artist Pascal Blanchetís White Rapids (Drawn and Quarterly, 156 pp.) has recently been translated to English, giving readers a chance to check out this gorgeously constructed tale of Rapide Blanc, a town created in northern Quebec in 1928 by the Shawinigan Water and Power Company that housed families who maintained the areaís dam. Blanchetís Art Deco-inspired work flits between quaint and sinister, and the muted tones and rusted orange colours make it look like a pamphlet youíd find in an old roadside gas station.
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ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed by LA CityBeat

Updated November 16, 2007


Long and ĎShortí
In his first book-length story, Adrian Tomine explores identity, truthfulness, and maturity
~ By NATALIE NICHOLS ~


ďEven since I was a teenager doing these little mini-comics out of my parentsí house, I would get these totally divergent and sort of irreconcilable opinions of my work,Ē says graphic novelist Adrian Tomine. ďIt would be, like, ĎYouíre great; youíve got a lot of potential,í or ĎGive up; you suck!íĒ

On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, the 33-year-old is sitting in a Los Feliz cafť down the street from Skylight Books, where later heíll be signing copies of his new book, Shortcomings. Bespectacled and mild-mannered, the Sacramento-born artist-writer seems an unlikely candidate to incite such extreme reactions. The clean-lined, black-and-white cartoon vignettes in his long-running, critically lauded comic book Optic Nerve do occasionally depict grueling or even violent moments, but mostly they capture scenes of everyday life, usually in minute emotional detail.

Shortcomings, published last month by Montrťal-based Drawn & Quarterly (the Fantagraphics of the Great White North), contains issues 9 through 11 of Optic Nerve. Previous collections of the comic, including Sleepwalk and Other Stories (1998) and Summer Blonde (2002), have consisted of many short pieces, but the new book represents his first single full-length story. Itís about the unraveling relationship between snarky Berkeley movie theater manager Ben Tanaka and his artist-activist girlfriend Miko Hayashi Ė a deceptively ordinary tale that delves deeply into questions of identity, truthfulness, self-awareness, and maturity. By turns funny, insightful, and painfully honest, itís also a first for Tomine in that it directly addresses Asian American stereotypes and other ethnic issues. In fact, the book required Tomine to explore many new frontiers.

ďI actually had to write a story for the first time in my life,Ē says the Brooklyn-based cartoonist and illustrator with a laugh. Indeed, heís been criticized for never offering complete tales but only short bits, like scenes excerpted from a play or film. (Although those vivid vignettes can be compelling on their own.) ďTrying to string a bunch of those together in a way that had some logic to why one thing would lead to the next was a whole new challenge for me,Ē he says.

Another new challenge was to maintain a consistent focus on one project, which took five years to finish. Like one of his heroes, Jaime Hernandez of Love and Rockets fame, Tomine started self-publishing young, when he was just 16. Working in the short form allowed him to experiment freely.

ďI could say, like, ĎHmm, I think for this little two-page throwaway, Iíll try drawing in a ballpoint pen. Ah, that didnít work out well, but whatever Ė next!íĒ With Shortcomings, however, ďas soon as I drew that first page, everything was locked into place, and I was basically trapped into that way of working for like the next 95 pages.Ē

This is a graphic novel, so the images give the reader as much, if not more, information as the words do. Such elements as charactersí gestures or subtle changes in their facial expressions telegraph their thoughts and emotions, speaking volumes from the page.

ďOne of the rules or challenges I imposed on myself was to not use any thought balloons and no narration, things I feel I relied on kinda heavily in the past,Ē Tomine says. ďI wanted to try and suggest stuff about whatís going on [with the characters] internally, in the way that you might experience it in real life.Ē

Indeed, Tomineís work, while not always personally confessional, is largely concerned with translating real-life experiences into comics form. This explains why his influences include the Hernandez brothers (Jaime and brother Gilbert), as well as other cartoon auteurs who deal in autobiographical material such as Dan Clowes, Chester Brown, Julie Doucet, and R. Crumb.

He notes that, while Jaime Hernandez has obviously affected his drawing style, the older artist inspired him in other ways. ďIt was a real eye-opener to me as a kid, the way he approached the subculture Ė the punk stuff, the ethnic stuff, the gender stuff Ė all in such a matter-of-fact, kinda casual way.Ē For example, Jaime didnít find it necessary to announce that the main characters of his Locas tales, Maggie and Hopey, were lesbians. ďIt was just, you started to think it, and then suddenly you saw them kissing,Ē Tomine says. ďItís the way you would experience it if you knew these people in real life.Ē

Another comics auteur whoís had an impact on Tomine is Japanese veteran Yoshihiro Tatsumi. This pioneering mangaka (comics artist), whoís been working since the 1950s, has only recently been introduced to Western audiences, largely via Drawn & Quarterly collections designed and edited by Tomine. Despite being half a world and many decades apart, the two are kindred spirits, exploring their respective worlds in ways that feel authentic to them, regardless of othersí expectations.

Unlike the late Osamu Tezuka, who created such popular characters as Astro Boy, Tatsumi ďwas not gonna achieve that kind of public embrace,Ē Tomine says. The way Tatsumiís work dealt with post-World War II Japan, for example, didnít have mainstream appeal.

ďHeís more focusing on the micro, like the trickle-down effects,Ē Tomine says. ďThe war is [often] this sort of distant presence, but it informs the strange way the characters are behaving. I think that was the last thing a lot of Japanese readers wanted to see in print. They wanted stories about big robots who beat the villain.Ē

Tatsumi, with whom Tomine has visited in Japan and also attended the San Diego Comic-Con with a few years ago, simply opted not to bother appeasing audiences. And Tomineís handling of Asian American issues in Shortcomings reveals a similar mindset. The Japanese American artistís work has often featured characters of Asian descent, but heís been a disappointment in some quarters for not focusing on his race.

ďSome people, usually an Asian American journalist, feel that Iíve hidden my own identity,Ē he says, ďand that Iím squandering my opportunity as a published author to use every pen stroke to make a statement about my experience.Ē Such critics have even ďpresented drawings that I did of myself where my glasses were opaque. Itís like, ĎThatís the disguise; youíre not showing your slanted eyes!íĒ He laughs. ďBut thatís a very old cartooning tradition that has been done for generations.Ē

Yet Shortcomings wonít necessarily assuage such critics, as Tomine tends to pick at cultural scabs rather than offering feel-good resolutions. Benís gay best friend Alice enlists him to attend church with her family, opining that, while many Koreans still feel animosity toward Japanese over WWII atrocities, her parents ďwould rather see me with a Japanese boy than a Korean girl.Ē Benís relationship with Miko suffers in part because of his almost hostile lack of interest in his own culture, as well as his penchant for white girls. (But Miko isnít honest with Ben about what attracts her, either.) Tomine even tackles the most taboo stereotypes: In one squirmingly funny scene, Ben and Alice discuss the ďAsians have small penisesĒ meme.

Although Shortcomings isnít specifically autobiographical, but more a ďfictional way of expressing thoughts, rather than actual experiences,Ē Tomine adds that many of those thoughts stemmed from events in his own life. ďAnd these journalists asking why I was hiding my identity sort of opened up a file in my brain,Ē he says. ďIíd have some experience, maybe something like what youíre seeing with Ben and Alice, and Iíd think, ĎThis would really bum out that journalist.í Because it would be addressing the issues that they want me to, but not in the right way.Ē

He laughs, not too diabolically, and insists that, really, vengeance didnít guide his pen. ďIf I started thinking about that, Iíd push it even further. Iíd have some, like, Asian American journalist character who I would unload some real venom on.Ē
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE event in the San Francisco Bay Guardian

Updated November 16, 2007


EVENT

Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine's comics work is part stripped-down slice of life, part perfectionist's pencil-and-ink rendition of city living, and part emotionally stunning oblique character study. I've dreamed of a time when great understated artists would be earnestly inspired by crates of money. Pay this guy first. We should be showering him with whatever he needs to get fresh comics out. The last three installments of Optic Nerve ó in which a San Francisco couple's differing takes on "Asian-ness" collide ó are finally collected in Shortcomings, a new trade paperback. (Benedict Sinclair)

In conversation with Glen David Gold

7 p.m., free

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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by San Jose Mercury News

Updated November 16, 2007


Graphic novelist puts East Bay on the map
By Randy Myers
11/14/2007
from "Shortcomings" by Adrian Tomine, courtesy of publisher Drawn & Quarterly


For East Bay residents, one of the immense pleasures of reading Adrian Tomine's observant graphic novel "Shortcomings" is spotting the Bay Area landmarks.
Berkeley's venerable California Theater, Oakland's hip dive bar the Alley and the greasy but lip-smacking burger joint the Smokehouse on Telegraph Avenue make guest appearances. Even a Hegenberger highway sign serves as a turning point in this critically lauded book, which had its second printing.
Just don't expect to see the names matching the locales. In keeping with the bulk of Tomine's work, the creator of the series "Optic Nerve" tinkers with reality, rarely deciding to call things as we East Bayers see them.
"The whole book is like that, clearly linked to real life but with a lot of fictionalizing," he said.
The characters also seem East Bay born and bred. Ben Tanaka, the sarcastic and blunt protagonist, lives in Berkeley and manages a movie theater. His best friend Alice, a lesbian, is a Mills College grad student. They meet up for coffee at Oakland's Mama's Royal Cafe, where they discuss Ben's doomed romance and his latest crush.
Of all the East Bay locales, the one that saddens the 33-year-old Tomine is the late Cody's on Telegraph.
Tomine said the closing of that Cody's, which he visited often during the 12 years he lived in Berkeley, shaped his tour's itinerary.
"It was one of the first bookstores in the area to have a really good graphic novels section," the Sacramento native said.
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To pay tribute to it, Tomine chose to appear in mostly independent stores instead of large chains.
"I think when Cody's shut down, I had this real shock to my system and realized how immediate and dire the situation is for these bookstores."
Ironically, as the small bookstores withered, comics gained in popularity.
Attitudes changed, Hollywood took notice of comics, and now graphic novelists go out on book tours. Tomine, who illustrates for the New Yorker, seems stunned by the attention he's receiving. Last Sunday the New York Times offered "Shortcomings" its seal of approval, while author Junot Diaz ("The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao") raved about it in another review.
Tomine worries the comics renaissance could lead to publishers snatching up inferior graphic novels to make a quick buck.
"The real risk is that comics as a medium wears out its welcome," he said by phone from his Ann Arbor, Mich., hotel room. "I'm astonished to say that there might be a greater demand than supply of top-notch work."
Even though the public's greater acceptance might be trendy, the business itself is anything but, he believes.
"To be new isn't as important as being good," he said, pointing to the esteemed careers of Chris Ware and Oakland's Daniel Clowes.
From an early age, Tomine fell in love with comics and could never fathom doing anything else.
"I never had a phase where I wanted to be an astronaut," he said.
His work eventually caught the eye of Chris Oliveros, publisher of Drawn and Quarterly, which releases high-quality comics. Oliveros remembers receiving copies of Tomine's self-published mini-comics and being impressed.
"I naturally assumed that this was done by someone in his twenties, and I was later surprised to learn that he was just out of high school."
Fourteen years later, their partnership still flourishes, with the Canadian company publishing "Shortcomings" and his "Optic Nerve" series, which developed a cult following and generates a lot of letters. Part of the reason for those letters is that Tomine is unafraid of bringing up touchy topics. In "Shortcomings," his mostly Asian-American characters talk candidly about interracial dating, political correctness and even penis size in Asian men.
Tomine refuses to use his cartooning as a soap box. There are more immediate ways of accomplishing that goal, he says, adding that "Shortcomings" took him five years to produce.
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE interviwed by The Seattlest

Updated November 16, 2007


November 12, 2007
Seattlest Interviews: Adrian Tomine, Author of Shortcomings
Seattlest.com

Adrian Tomine started making comics in his teens when he created Optic Nerve. In it, he tells stories about people who tend to be searching for answers to questions they seem to think everyone else already knows. After a few years putting out Optic Nerve on his own, it was picked up by publisher Drawn and Quarterly.

Tomine is coming to Seattle to promote his first full-length graphic novel Shortcomings. Seattlest used it as an opportunity to geek out during an interview with one of our favorite writer/artists.

You told The Believer that you wanted Shortcomings to be as readable as possible so you could reach a broader audience. How did you do that?
Well, I should clarify. It almost [sounds] as if I deviously sat down and said "I want to crassly try and make as much money as possible selling my work to the lowest common denominator." That wasnít the case. Whatever audience I had, I wanted their focus to be on the content more than anything else. I just wanted people to almost lose sight of the fact that they were reading a comic, almost as if they are hearing the dialogue as if theyíre eavesdropping on it.

A lot people talk about Raymond Carver as a big influence on your stories but who you do you consider to be your literary influences?
I think one of the things that indirectly affected me quite a bit in working on Shortcomings was a lot of Phillip Roth's novels. Just the other day, reading his new novel, I suddenly felt myself in the weird position that a lot of readers of Shortcomings have portrayed when they come up to me. I wanted to get on the phone with Phillip Roth and say, "Now did this really happen to you? And how autobiographical is this?" I thought that maybe at some point, that had guided me a little bit in terms of the clouding of autobiography and just using the safety of fiction to probe even deeper into things that you might be apprehensive about if itís your face right there.

It seems like books and other forms of art are a constant in your work. Like that New Yorker cover where the two people are sitting on the different subways and they see each other. The only connection that they have in that moment is the book. It seems like books, films and music have a major role in your stories.
Thatís a good point. I guess it must sort of be reflective of my own life and my own personality in some ways. Specifically with the New Yorker, they've just pegged me as the guy who does covers about reading books. But I think that especially with Shortcomings, I was writing it at a time when I felt, in my real life, I was evolving and wrestling with my relation to the media-based youth culture. When I was younger, it was so important for me to be up on the latest bands and go to their shows all the time. I think that maybe it was a bit on my mind. Not the complete the disavowal of that, but the struggle with it where there's sort of a distinction between the real world and the things that you intake for entertainment or for culture.

On that cover, the man's look conveys a longing which is a pretty common theme in your stories, especially for the men and boys. Not to be presumptuous, but I know a lot of your work is pretty autobiographical, so is there stuff that youíre still longing for now that you're getting lot of commercial and critical success and just got married?
I think that some of the themes you're mentioning are, at least in my mind, a little more general than the way they get played out in my stories. They were materialized or physicalized in a very simple, romantic form. As if getting a date with the girl you see on the subway is going to fix everything and eradicate all sense of loneliness that you feel in your life.

Like our lives were in our 20s.
Yeah. I think that thereís certainly something about my personality that has sort of a pendulum or a see-saw type relationship to other people in terms of needing pretty intense periods of solitude. And then also at some point also being overwhelmed with a kind of existential fear of being alone. So I think that tension is going be something thatís at least in the back of my mind as I am working for quite awhile.

Do any of those people who write those almost vitriolic letters you print in Optic Nerve ever show up in person?
Oh yeah. They generally want me to recognize them as the person who sent me the vitriolic letter. I have this recurring episode in my life where at almost every event thereís what I call "The One Guy." Itís like you can spot him a mile away. Generally he gets up and has a long prepared statement about his own feelings and then itís usually followed by a pretty confrontational or insulting question that I am the forced to answer in front of a group of other people.

Itís amazing to me that somebody would even do that.
Yeah thereís definitely an atmosphere at a lot of these events that I do where I feel like people are hoping to have some interaction Ė whatever, positive or negative Ė with the other attendees. So I sometimes think it is a very misguided attempt on The One Guyís part to maybe impress the girls in the audience or something like that.

You have a pretty deep history with Seattle, don't you?
I almost think of Seattle as something of a home town because I have a lot of family there. My brother lives there and throughout my whole life I have always gone there to visit quite a bit.

Do you have any favorite spots in Seattle that maybe youíve drawn or something that weíll get to see in a story someday?
I think it would require me to settle in there and get more of an insiderís feel for the place because the way I experience Seattle is pretty minimal. Itís spending time at my family member's house and then jumping in the car and going to Uwajimaya. I think that a lot of the real life settings that I put in my comics are not something I chose randomly. Itís something that I have to have to feel some tiny amount of authority about the area that I am writing about.

Adrian Tomine is speaking at the University Bookstore on Monday, Nov. 12 at 7 pm.
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SHORTCOMINGS, EXIT WOUNDS and AYA make PW's Best of List

Updated November 16, 2007


Comics
Shortcomings
Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly)
A lacerating, falling-out-of-love story that profiles Ben Tanaka, a crabby know-it-all with an eye for white girls; his Asian-American activist girlfriend Miko; and the dissolution of their relationship.
Alice in Sunderland
Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
The history of Sunderland, an obscure British city and a haunt of Lewis Carroll's, provides the metaphor for a dizzying survey of the ways ideas and people have connected over the centuries.
Exit Wounds
Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
While searching for his father, a young Israeli taxi driver discovers unexpected truths about himself and contemporary Israel.
All-Star Superman
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)
A glorious postmodern return to what made Superman super, as the man from Krypton deals with supernovas and his own conventions.
I Killed Adolf Hitler
Jason (Fantagraphics)
Hard-boiled hit men, a time machine and a quest to save the world add up to a story about the permanence of love in this darkly humorous tale.
Laika
Nick Abadzis (Roaring Brook/First Second)
The story of the first dog in space is a known tragedy, here rendered with an eye to historic fact and without sentimentality.
The Salon
Nick Bertozzi (St. Martin's)
A period fantasy involving Picasso, Braque, Satie, Gertrude Stein and a potent brand of absinthe offers a dizzying tour de force of art styles.
Aya
Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly)
The charming story of a smart teenage girl and her boy-crazy friends, set in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, during a period of peace in the 1970s.
Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni)
Our slacker hero is still playing in a band, still dating the mysterious Ramona Flowersóand dealing with her seven evil ex-boyfriendsóbut he decides to get a job!
Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White
Taiyo Matsumoto (Viz)
Two street urchinsóone called Black and the other Whiteówith unusual powers take on the police, the yakuza and the citizens of Treasure Town in this poignant, experimentalist manga.
MW
Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
A young boy who survives a horrific military accident develops into both a powerful businessman and a warped murderous psychopath in an exploration of the modern reality of evil.
MPD-Psycho, Volume 1
Eiji Otsuka and Sho-u Tajima (Dark Horse)
A police detective tracking a serial killer descends into multiple-personality syndrome after his wife is found murdered and mutilated in this psychologically disturbing manga.
 
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  Slate.com quotes ADRIAN TOMINE

Updated November 9, 2007


Best Quote
From the Believer's in-depth interview with graphic novelist Adrian Tomine, on the subject of readers relating with his work: "On one hand, it's nice, but at the same time, it's cold water in the face to realize you're not nearly as special and unusual as you might have thought when you were an alienated teenager."
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ADRIAN TOMINE Q+A in The Seattle Times

Updated November 9, 2007


Adrian Tomine on "Shortcomings"
By Chris Mautner

The characters in "Shortcomings" include protagonist Ben; his girlfriend, Miko; and Autumn, an artist he's attracted to.
Author appearance

Adrian Tomine will discuss "Shortcomings," 7 p.m. Monday, University Book Store, 4326 University Ave. N.E., Seattle; free (206-634-3400 or www.ubookstore.com).
It can be tough to be the wonder kid. Just ask Adrian Tomine.

Tagged as the "hot new indie artist" when he was still in high school, he's had to compete with unrealistic expectations about his work ó usually serialized in his ongoing comic-book series, "Optic Nerve" ó ever since.

It's unfortunate, because he's really one of the most talented and interesting folks working in comics right now. His naturalistic stories about disaffected and insecure young adults call to mind authors such as Raymond Carver and Alice Munro.

His latest book, "Shortcomings" (Drawn and Quarterly, 104 pp., $19.95), is also his longest work. It tells the story of Ben Tanaka, an overly critical, sarcastic young man who has, shall we say, "issues" about his own ethnicity, including a yen for white women, something his Asian girlfriend has understandable trouble with.

The book follows Ben as his love life slowly implodes, and he tries to get back into the dating scene. It's a captivating, smart look at how people trip over issues of race and sex in an attempt to get the things they think they want.

I talked to Tomine over e-mail a few days before his impeding marriage to discuss his new book. Here's what he had to say:

Q: What was the impetus for "Shortcomings?"

A: "Shortcomings" was the result of me wanting to try something a little more challenging after spending many years working on short stories. I admired the achievements that some of my fellow cartoonists had made with longer narratives, or "graphic novels" as they're now called. So whether or not I was truly ready to take on a 100-page story, I basically just forced myself to give it a shot.

In terms of the content of the story, I'd been accumulating material for years, and I knew that at some point I would want to group it all together. Some of the topics that are raised in this story are things that I hadn't dealt with in my past work.

Q: What sort of challenges did creating a lengthier narrative pose for you?

A: The initial challenge I faced was simply figuring out the process I wanted to use to create the story. I'd gotten pretty comfortable with writing shorter stories, and often I was able to pretty much just write a story like that in my head. But something like "Shortcomings" required a new level of organization and forethought for me.

The other challenge I faced later on was that of just maintaining my focus on something that I'd been toiling away on for several years. I've always had a pretty quick arc from the conception of a story to its completion, and at times there was a bit of a Sisyphean feeling to the process of drawing "Shortcomings." I've never had to draw the same faces so many times before in my life!

Q: One of the things that's interesting about the book is there are very few sympathetic characters. Was this a deliberate choice?

A: I think it's more just that I have a different sense of what's "sympathetic" than a lot of other people. I have to admit that there might've been some miscalculation on my part in terms of what readers would accept before a character became "unlikable" or "unsympathetic."

But to answer your question more directly, I don't think I made a deliberate choice either way. Sympathy or empathy with the characters was never a primary guiding force as I was writing the book.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the issues of ethnic identity and sexuality that you explore in the book? How does Ben's attitude jibe with your own personal experiences?

A: A lot of people have been asking me about the relationship between the character Ben and myself, and I think I have myself to blame for that correlation in some readers' minds. I might've misled some people to think that this was a more autobiographical story than it really is with a few very specific details about Ben, including his appearance. But the truth is, it's entirely a work of fiction, and if any of my real beliefs and personality are to be found anywhere in the book, they're scattered amongst all the primary characters.

Q: Your work is very dialogue-heavy, yet never comes off as overly wordy. How do you as an artist break down a conversation so that it doesn't become a slog to read through?

A: Well, thanks for saying that, because that's certainly something I struggle with. For me, the challenge isn't so much about not being overly repetitive with the visuals. I think like so many cartoonists, I grew up with the notion that comics had to always be visually dynamic with all kinds of absurd "camera angles" and unconventional layouts.

And now to me, as a reader, that's just as deadly, if not more so, than something being visually repetitive. I think that kind of simplicity works beautifully for people like Charles Schulz or Chris Ware, whereas any time I see a page that looks like something out of "How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way," my interest just kind of shuts off.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS in The Georgia Straight

Updated November 9, 2007


Comix king Adrian Tomine discusses his Shortcomings
Books By Shawn Conner
November 8, 2007

American alt-comic guy Adrian Tomine.
After years of writing and drawing short but elegant snapshots of relationship angst, Adrian Tomine has turned his talents to a longer piece. With Shortcomings, the cartoonist wanted to stretch his storytelling ability and reach a broader audience, while still maintaining fans of his comic Optic Nerve. But maybe things haven't turned out exactly as planned.

"I don't know if I was choosing one audience over the other, or specifically trying to reach out to one," Tomine says, reached at home in Brooklyn, where he's working on a New Yorker cover. "I just wanted to create a book where the focus is primarily on the contentÖand to make the language of the comic storytelling more invisible."

With its emphasis on precise facial expressions and body language, Tomine's clean, realistic style has become one of the most recognizable in alternative comics. Signed to Montreal publisher Drawn & Quarterly, he produces an issue of Optic Nerve once or twice a year and does frequent commercial illustrations. But it was Summer Blonde, a 2003 collection of short pieces gleaned from Optic Nerve, that introduced him to the mainstream press, with critics likening his minimal storytelling style to that of Raymond Carver.

In its subject matter, Shortcomings is familiar Tomine territory, as characters struggle with their own worst enemyĖthemselves. In this case, Ben is a dude with a perennial chip on his shoulder, and his disposition doesn't improve as life throws a series of obstacles in his way. What isn't said is as significant as the carefully selected information in the panels.

This is sophisticated, adult work. And so, in the world of alternative comics, it's suspect. Since the 33-year-old began publishing mini comics in his teens, his pieces have struck some of the medium's watchdogs as the epitome of hipster navel gazing. Shortcomings, which took him five years to complete, has stirred controversy as well, partly because of the protagonist's ambivalence about his Asian heritage.

"For the number of new Asian readers I've gotten, I've probably turned away an equal number," says Tomine, whose parents spent time in American Japanese-internment camps during World War II. "I've learned long ago that when it comes time to do the work, it's best to try and shut out thoughts about how people are going to react to it."

Some readers seem to have assumed Shortcomings is autobiographical, including its rather unsympathetic protagonist. "That misunderstanding has been at least one component in some readers' less-than-enthusiastic response," says Tomine. "It's almost like they had some illusion of who I was, and by confusing me with this character some of those notions had been [further] confused.ÖIt's certainly not by accidentĖthere are a lot of things thrown in there for no other reason than to create that confusion."

One area where Tomine and his creation are definitely dissimilar is that of professional success. Ben might be unfulfilled in his job as a movie-theatre manager, but with Shortcomings Tomine continues to stand out as one of alt-comics' best and brightest.



Adrian Tomine appears in conversation with Kevin Chong on Tuesday (November 13) at Sophia Books (450 West Hastings Street) at 7 p.m.
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ADRIAN TOMINE event made critics' choice by Chicago Reader

Updated November 8, 2007


ADRIAN TOMINE The deficiencies alluded to by the title of Adrian Tomine's new graphic novel, Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly), belong to Ben Tanaka, a 30-year-old Asian-American who manages a movie theater in Berkeley. Ben is a typical Tomine antihero, a misfit who compounds his insecurity with social missteps and false bravado, which never fails to boomerang on him. He's got a lovely, artistic, sympathetic girlfriend, Miko, but his critical, self-absorbed, unambitious attitude drives her to the end of her rope and into the arms of a man in New York City; it doesn't help that Miko is Japanese and Ben's obsessed with cute, young white girls. Even his best (and only real) friend, outgoing lesbian Alice Kim, eventually loses patience with his petulance. It's Tomine's spare yet vividly evocative drawings that make this all go: a single wordless panel can be arresting in its depiction of a character's inner thoughts and feelings. Tomine made his name in the comics world with his Optic Nerve series; here he'll participate in a Q and A with Reader editor Irma NuŮez. --> Thu 11/8, 7 PM, Quimby's Bookstore, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910. —Jerome Ludwig .
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE in NewCity Chicago

Updated November 8, 2007


Tip of the Week
Adrian Tomine
Brian Hieggelke

Itís amazing what "Optic Nerve" creator Adrian Tomine can accomplish in a mere 108 pages, the length of his new graphic novel, "Shortcomings." His story of Ben Tanaka, an under-employed 30 year old who is grappling with issues of identity in all formsóracial, sexual and, in the largest struggle of all, personalóreads so fluidly that its economy goes unnoticed, except when you finish and find yourself so fully engaged in the story of this circle of friends and lovers that you thirst for more. Tomine is the master of comic-book reality, with an unrivaled command of pacing, narrative and characterization. This is augmented by Tomineís drawing style: deceptively simple with clean lines and compositions that reward study without retarding pacing. Deceptively simple means far from generic, though; like that of most great cartoonists, a Tomine page is recognizable with a mere glance.


Adrian Tomine discusses "Shortcomings" at Quimbyís, 1854 West North, on November 8 at 7pm.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Philadelphia Weekly

Updated November 8, 2007


Lit Gloss
by Liz Spikol

If you remove the dustjacket of Adrian Tomineís new graphic novel Shortcomings, youíll find the hardbound book has a ruler printed on itóa stroke of genius on Tomineís part (he designed the book himself). While the jacket simply depicts protagonist Ben Tanaka and his girlfriend Miko, that ruler tells the deeper story. It represents Benís insecurities, his fear that he doesnít measure up. Ben lives every day with that ruler wrapped around him, and it explains why he can be such an infuriating asshole. Shortcomings chronicles a rough patch in Benís life, when his relationship with Miko runs aground and he struggles to decipher his erotic feelings toward white women. Heís both comforted and goaded by his lesbian friend Alice Kim, who derides the ďfence sitterĒ to whom Ben is strongly attracted. If racial and sexual politics sound like challenging material for a graphic novel, never fear: Tomine is up to the task. An accomplished illustrator, Tomineís style is spare, elegant and representational. His illustrations appear regularly and to great effect in The New Yorker. Here, small detailsólike the contours of a table lamp, or two small barrettes in a young womanís hairóeffortlessly convey worlds of information. In some panels Tomine gets quiet, allowing us to imagine whatís happening beyond the frames. But most of the time his characters are so funny and familiar, weíre eager to hear what they have to say. Chatty and complicated, they donít disappoint.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by the San Francisco Bay Guardian

Updated November 8, 2007


San Francisco Bay Guardian
SHORTCOMINGS
By Adrian Tomine

Ben Tanaka, the protagonist of Adrian Tomine's graphic novel Shortcomings, is an ambitionless Berkeley cinema manager who attributes his outsider status not to race but to his being "a nerd with a bad personality and no social skills"; his girlfriend, Miko, is a successful organizer of an Asian American film festival who resents Ben's attraction to Caucasian women. Every conversation between the two becomes an argument, and Ben sees every argument as a personal attack on him. So it's with some relief that the two "take a break" while Miko's in New York, leaving Ben free to pursue a pair of blonds.

But the girls he idealizes turn out to be just as flawed as he is, as revealed by one's earnest but ridiculous art projects and the other's passive-aggressive cruelty. Even Miko proves to be a hypocrite, shacking up with a "rice king" designer in Manhattan. from the past three issues of Tomine's Optic Nerve comic, Shortcomings isn't all heartache and betrayal. There's subtle comedy in small details like Crepe Expectations, the name of the cafť where Ben holds venting sessions with his friend Alice, a wisecracking womanizer, as well as moments of outright hilarity, as when Miko's new white boyfriend (sorry, I mean half Jewish, half Native American) busts out a defensive karate stance when confronted by Ben on the street. And Ben's recurring tirades about how shitty a place New York is (Tomine recently moved from the Bay Area to Brooklyn) might even be a nod to Woody Allen, the ultimate geek-cum-lothario whose wit, charm, and, above all, ability to laugh at himself are passable currency for his own shortcomings.

So is he a sarcastic but sweet loner in need of understanding, or is he a superficial, insensitive creep who deserves a life of rejection and loneliness? Ultimately, Shortcomings is an honestly told story about the ugly end to a relationship that isn't that black and white. (Hane C. Lee)

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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by the Straits Times

Updated November 8, 2007


Lifestyle - Read
Shortcomings
4 November 2007
By Adrian Tomine Drawn and Quarterly/ Hardcover/104 pages/ $28 (with GST)/ Comics Mart/**** 1/2

BEN Tanaka is a self-righteous, bigoted, sarcastic and unmotivated Japanese American, whose fetish for white girls drives a wedge between him and his Japanese-American girlfriend.

Not exactly a guy to root for.

Despite his flaws, the 30-year-old protagonist in this graphic novel is strangely appealing. As his love life crumbles, you feel sorry for the man, angry with the world only because he does not know where his place is.

A fourth-generation Japanese American himself, writer Adrian Tomine balances levity with sensitivity perfectly.

Not content with just racial issues, he throws homosexuality and bisexuality into the mix too.

The result is a hilarious yet poignant look at the internal turmoils of the minority in the melting pot that is the United States.

In one scene, Tanaka's only friend, Alice Kim, a Korean American lesbian, forces him to accompany her to church to placate her parents, who are still in denial about their daughter's sexual orientation.

He asks: 'Why don't we just say I'm Korean while we're at it? You know... really make their day.'

She replies: 'All Asians might look the same to you, but my family would spot your Japanese ass a mile away. Besides... I don't want to satisfy them too much.'

The dialogue alone deserves multiple readings.

The icing on the cake is the nuanced drawings by Tomine, a regular illustrator for The New Yorker magazine.

He uses the black-and-white medium very well, creating shadows and light to set the mood, and to bring focus on where it matters - an embarrassed hand on the back of the head, a forced smile on the face.

Lee Sze Yong
 

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  ADRIAN TOMINE Q+A in Willamette Week

Updated November 8, 2007


ADRIAN TOMINE

[GRAPHIC NOVELIST] Adrian Tomine was something of a boy wonder when he became widely recognized on the national comics scene in 1995. The then-21-year-old artist, who got his start distributing mini-comics in Sacramento, Calif., won a Harvey (the comics equivalent of an Academy Award) for early issues of his comic series Optic Nerve . The last dozen years have seen him experiment with as many artistic approachesóbut his storytelling remains grounded in realism and is intrinsically character-based. His characters, largely misfits and outcasts, are always portrayed with compassion and empathy. Shortcomings , Tomineís longest and most layered work to date, tells a story of social inversion and broken relationships. It also finds Tomineóa Japanese-American artist who never wanted to be defined by that labelódealing extensively with issues of race for the first time in his career. WW spoke to Tomine via telephone from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y. CASEY JARMAN.
It must be cool to be so deeply involved with an art form like comics thatís still in its early stages.
Yeah, it is. As a practitioner, itís nice because it feels like there are lots of possibilities still ahead that havenít been explored, and also itís just nice to be a part of a business thatís still so small and young and friendly. I mean, itís not scary Barton Fink kind of stuff, like trying to work in the film industry. And itís an industry that, at this point at least, totally rewards talent.

Where a lot of comics artists keep coming back to similar protagonists, thereís a huge amount of breadth between your character choices.
[Those are] departures I have to make in a creative process from my own personal experience, because as a guy who stays at home most of the time and draws comics, the actual day-to-day experiences are often quite mundane. There are a lot of cases where a story originates out of conjecture or a brief observation that leads to a storyline...where Iím trying to figure out something that Iíve seen or experienced that was maybe a little strange at first.

What feeling do you get when you complete a story?
Itís more a feeling of having purged something rather than an accomplishment. Itís very rare that Iíll go back and look at something once itís seen print. [Shortcomings ] took me many years to work on, so I felt like I was living with these characters and the storyline for a long time. So when I finished it, it felt like summer vacation feels when youíre in school. Freedom.

So how do you keep from rushing through your work, then, when you get three-fourths of the way through something?
Not evenóhow about one-fourth of the way through? I guess thatís one of the good things about working in a public way: You feel this obligation. I feel it to readers, but I also, strangely, am thinking of my fellow cartoonists a lot when Iím working. I think, aw, theyíd give me such shit if I bailed on this halfway through.

Why did you decide to tackle race where you hadnít before?
I was just really trying to find a way to make a tentative baby step closer to finding my own voice, and I tried to think of a story that might be a little more specific to my own experiences. But I was at a conflict then, because was I just giving in and doing the story that I never wanted to do? Almost since the start of my work being published I would often get asked by journalists or fans, why wasnít I using comics for a platform to address racial issues, since Iím of Japanese heritage?ÖI didnít learn to become a cartoonist to express all these political ideas I had. And so, I think even with this book I was still trying to stay focused on things like character and dialogue. Thereís really nothing that Iím trying to bash over the readerís head.

But did you learn anything about yourself by making a decision to address these issues critics had wanted from you all along?
I think I did force myself into some types of introspection that might not have come up otherwise. And I think I also learned a lot from the audienceís response to the book. But I donít think Iíve satisfied those early critics. I think Iíve frustrated them more than ever.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The LAist

Updated November 8, 2007


November 6, 2007
Shortcomings, a Graphic Novel by Adrian Tomine

I hadn't ever read anything by Adrian Tomine before recently reading his newest graphic novel, Shortcomings. But I had heard of him many times before. He's been hailed for his comic book Optic Nerve, which he started writing and self publishing at the age of 16, as well as his artwork, which has filled magazines like The New Yorker and numerous album covers for bands like Weezer and Eels.

Shortcomings though, is a combination of issues from his Optic Nerve comic, brought together in one cohesive breath. It's a story about love you could say, but more so about a person trying to find themselves. The person in this story is Ben Tanaka, a guy who's completely insensitive and critical, who happens to have a dead end job managing a movie theater. He's starts having problems in his long-term relationship because his girlfriend thinks he has a wandering eye, which could very well be true. Without giving too much away, the story unfolds as the characters try to discover who they really are, and what it takes to make themselves happy.

I have to say that I truly enjoyed this book. I had a hard time dealing with the main character Ben because he's a huge prick. But as I kept reading it, I realized that I've had those same fights I was reading about. I've been in that weird, awkward situation where you know things are not going to work out like you planned. It's something in the way that Tomine draws the characters, and the exact words that they say that makes you realize this isn't a story. This is probably something that happened once to him. Because it feels like you're reading a page right out of life.
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed by The Michigan Daily

Updated November 8, 2007


Boyhood cartoonist turned novelist in A2
By Nora Feldhusen, Daily Arts Writer on 11/7/07

Tomine will be at Shaman Drum tonight at 7 p.m. Don't miss it. (Courtesy of Adrian Tomine)

Adrian Tomine started out like any other comic strip artist and graphic novelist. A self-admitted fanatic of "terrible 1970s superhero crap," Tomine religiously bought the newest Marvel comic book every week until he was 12.

His first works were imitations of what he saw in trashy, action-based comic books. But early in his career, Tomine reached a "saturation point" at which he was no longer satisfied with mainstream comics, instead turning to underground forms where he found inspiration for the witty, satirical and poignant work he produces.

Tomine - who will be at Shaman Drum Bookshop for a reading and signing of his new book, "Shortcomings," tonight at 7 p.m. - is more than a cartoonist. He started his first comic book, "Optic Nerve," at 16, and it remains one of the most popular sellers for his publisher, Drawn & Quarterly. Like all of Tomine's work, "Optic Nerve" is based on both personal experiences and intuitive social observations.

Throughout the years, Tomine has illustrated his ability to relate to all types of characters. His shorter strips have depicted angst-ridden teenagers, lonely old people, criminals and dreamers. Without preaching, he expresses emotions at their core, using comic strips and graphic illustrations to make stories more accessible.

Tomine's first full novel, "Shortcomings," tells the story of graduate school dropout Ben Tanaka and his relationship problems. It comes at an integral time in Tomine's career. Feeling complacent in his work, he saw the novel as a challenge and a way to extract himself from the shadows of mentors like Jaime Hernandez and Daniel Clowes. After signing on with Drawn & Quarterly, Tomine felt a professional expectation to talk about heavier issues.

This isn't to say that deep and challenging issues aren't included in his shorter strips. He has a knack for fluidly incorporating political and social issues into individual narratives and interpersonal relationships. The mere girth of this novel, though, has pushed him to explore issues of race and the 20-something generation. Many reviews label the novel a critique, yet Tomine calls it more "a celebration" of this age group.

What's so refreshing about Tomine, and what has probably fueled his increased popularity, is his hesitance to judge his characters. "Shortcomings" is the result of five years at the drawing board, and Tomine is more than happy to admit he didn't set out "to say anything."

"Most of all I wanted to create an interesting, fictional story with characters who come to life and seem real," Tomine said in a phone interview.

With a success like "Shortcomings," Tomine could probably ride this wave out. The novel's story left room for a continuation, but he's not interested in creating some soap opera-esque epic. After five years with these characters, he's excited about different smaller projects. Right now he seems to be a work in progress himself, attempting to pinpoint what exactly he learned from writing the novel as well as breaking out of its confines to work on smaller pieces for magazines and anthologies.

Tomine recognizes the increased popularity of graphic novels and ascribes this interest to the large number of authors and publicists working in the medium. "Shortcomings" and Tomine's national tour are a significant chapter in this movement. He may have started out as a kid imitating his favorite artists, but it's likely that today there are 13-year-olds finding inspiration in each new copy of "Optic Nerve."

Adrian Tomine Tonight at 7 p.m. At Shaman Drum

Free
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ADRIAN TOMINE in The Phillyist

Updated November 8, 2007


November 6, 2007
Yo, Adrian

If you were a cool girl, you had a crush on a New Kid. If you were a nerd girl, you had a crush on a graphic artist. Phillyist fell (who are we kidding, falls) into the latter category with a decidedly loud thud. So it is with the drooling affect of an oversexed pre-adolescent that we greet the news that Adrian Tomine, our very first comics crush, will be reading tonight at the Free Library (Central Branch). We first read Optic Nerve in Pulse, that free magazine that used to be given away at Tower Records, and we would cut them out of every issue and put them up on the wall. The forlorn alienation of early adult life portrayed thereówhile not comforting insofar as it made us think, ďWait, you mean this shit doesnít end?Ēówas comforting insofar as it assured us there were people out there who listened to Crabwalk and spent a lot of time smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, and infusing their thoughts with philosophical posturing. It was an indie adolescentís dream. As an adult reading his longer collections, such as Summer Blonde, there is still a taste of panic underlying the life-as-we-know-it storiesóbut sometimes panic itself can be comforting. He talks tonight about his new work, Shortcomings. We wouldnít use that word in relation to his work otherwise.

Adrian Tomine
Free Library of Philadelphia, Central Branch
Tuesday, November 6, 7PM
FREE
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS in The San Francisco Chronicle

Updated November 8, 2007


San Francisco Chronicle
Adrian Tomine and Derek Kirk Kim graphic novels an accurate mirror
Jeff Yang
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Adrian Tomine's "Shortcomings" is the artist's first book... In "Shortcomings," artist Adrian Tomine gets personal wit... In Derek Kirk Kim's "Good as Lily," lead character Grace ...

When I first read "American Born Chinese," the graphic novel by Fremont writer, artist and schoolteacher Gene Yang, I told friends that it was the best work of Asian American literature I'd read in a long time. Rereading it led me to amend that statement: It was, I subsequently declared, one of the best Asian American novels I'd ever read, period. Now that the book has won a sheaf of the most prestigious awards in publishing, I just keep my trap shut and give the book as a gift to the not-yet-enlightened - a dozen copies to date, and counting.

With the publication of two new graphic novels, "Shortcomings" by Adrian Tomine and "Good as Lily" by Derek Kirk Kim, my holiday shopping list just grew a little bit longer. Tomine is, of course, a longtime alt-comics fave. As creator of the long-running title Optic Nerve, he's established himself as a master portraitist of the awkward and alienated - each new copy of Nerve is like opening the refrigerator door; it sheds just enough light to send cockroaches of shame and self-hatred scurrying in a dozen different directions. It's never quite entertaining to read Tomine's work, but it's a gripping and addictive exercise in voyeurism and masochism that doesn't exorcise inner demons so much as trace them out in sharp relief.
...

Both artists are Asian American, male, of approximately the same age and similarly rooted in the Bay Area: Kim grew up in Pacifica and graduated from the Academy of Art University, and Tomine was born in Sacramento and went to UC Berkeley. Perhaps it isn't a stretch to compare the two, but their latest works do more to illustrate their contrasts than their commonalities.

"Shortcomings" is a milestone for Tomine in two ways: It's his first book-length story and the first in which he deals squarely and personally with the concept of Asian American identity. The nisei protagonist of "Shortcomings," Ben Tanaka, is bespectacled, misanthropic and allergic to just about everything ("peanuts, walnuts ... crab, lobster, squid ... bee stings, olive tree bark ..."), all characteristics of his creator as well.

Nevertheless, Tomine is quick to assert that the story is "wholly fictional." "Inasmuch as any story can be, anyway," he says. "There's certainly aspects of my own personality and life experiences in there, but they're pretty democratically spread amongst all the main characters," which include Tanaka, his increasingly remote girlfriend Miko and his lesbian Korean American best friend, Alice. The story follows Tanaka's self-sabotage of his relationship with Miko while he furtively pursues a series of iconic white women.

But even if Tanaka shouldn't be read as a Tomine analogue, there's a corrosive authenticity to the character, a lived-in feeling that's sharper here than in his earlier, more emotionally remote works. As Tanaka grumpily shoulders his way through the narrative, sharing flagrantly egocentric takes on race and sexuality ("When you see a white guy with an Asian girl it has certain ... connotations," pontificates Ben. "And when you see an Asian guy with a white girl, you think ...? Good for him! Good for both of them!"), his character seems cut from life's cloth - and maybe, for many Asian American male readers, kidnapped from the bathroom mirror.

For Tomine, the book is an admitted release. "A starting point for this story was my desire to create something that was my own, rather than just an amalgam of influences," he says. "I started thinking about subject matter that might be more closely connected to my own particular experiences - characters and scenes that might not ever appear in the stories of my mentors."

On the other hand, he professes to be taken aback in the past expectations that his ethnicity should be a focus of his work. "I'm sure there are artists who've been taken to task for not addressing issues concerning what it means to be left-handed or something," he says.

...

While Tomine's book could be described as a tale of someone irredeemably stuck in time, unwilling to change or to allow change, "Lily" is a story of the good things that occur when one faces and embraces the future. They're antitheses and complements bookending the Asian American experience in all of its passive-aggressive glory, and they join a growing canon of works that, along with Yang's "American Born Chinese," Tomine's earlier "Summer Blonde" and Kim's "Same Difference," should be read by anyone wanting to see the future of Asian American literature today - even if their creators resist such easy labels.

"I don't think any of us set out to create 'Asian American literature,' and maybe that's why the work being done in comics is so interesting," says Kim. "None of us had any expectations that anyone would read our stuff, so we never had that pressure of 'representing' our community."

But that's precisely why their stuff does, and so well. Unhampered by the need to be by, for or about, they simply hold up a true glass to Asian America's morning face, and despite bedhead and stubble, it's beautiful to see.

Get more: Read the longer version of this article at SFGate.com.

Adrian Tomine: Q&A and book signing. 7 p.m. Nov. 14. Book-smith, 1644 Haight St., San Francisco. www.booksmith.com. 7 p.m. Nov. 15. Cody's, 1730 Fourth St., Berkeley. www.codysbooks.com.

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SHORTCOMINGS in The Ann Arbor News

Updated November 8, 2007


ANN ARBOR BLOG
Graphic look at breakup
Sunday, November 04, 2007

To anyone who's ever had a relationship circle the drain, it's painfully clear from the opening few pages of Adrian Tomine's first full-length graphic novel "Shortcomings'' that Ben and his girlfriend Miko aren't going to make it - and that the sarcastic and self-absorbed Ben hasn't figured it out yet. When Miko leaves for a months-long internship with a firm "don't call me, I'll call you,'' she tugs on a string that's about to start unraveling his whole life.

But even as their arguments before her departure cover depressingly familiar terrain, it's unique and specific in the way that every love disaster is. You can hear Tomine read from "Shortcomings'' at Shaman Drum Bookshop, 311 S. State St., at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Leah DuMouchel, The Ann Arbor News
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS in The Philadelphia Inquirer

Updated November 8, 2007


Posted on Sun, Nov. 4, 2007
'Shortcomings' long on ambition
Shortcomings
By Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly. 104 pp. $19.95
Reviewed by Dan DeLuca

Ben Tanaka, the hero of Adrian Tomine's graphic novel Shortcomings, is a sarcastic jerk.
The 30-year-old manager of a movie theater in Berkeley, Calif., he's got a beautiful girlfriend named Miko, who works as an assistant director of the Asian American Digifest, a film festival of movies shot on digital video.

Shortcomings begins with panels depicting big-screen scenes from one such make-believe movie, a prize-winning feel-good yarn about a Chinese woman's heartwarming relationship with her fortune-cookie-factory-owning grandfather.

Our man Ben - who, like Miko, is Japanese American - has nothing but contempt for the endeavors of his beloved. He denigrates the entries into the film fest as "digital videos made by Asian Americans who happen to live around here . . . don't they also have to be left-handed or something?"

Miko, for her part, suggests her beau "is ashamed to be Asian," and later accuses him of having a thing for blond white girls, using the Sapphic Sorority DVD she finds in his drawer as evidence of his obsession with "the typical Western media beauty ideal."

That Shortcomings begins in a theater and revolves around a cast of movie buffs is particularly apt. Tomine's understated, minimalistically drawn comic style is as cinematic in its uses of telling silences and shifting visual perspectives as it is literary in its believably human depiction of day-to-day issues of race and romance.

Tomine, 33, a Berkeley graduate who lives in Brooklyn, has long been one of the rising stars of alt-comics. He draws the series Optic Nerve - in which Shortcomings was serially published - and has done graphic work on CD covers and posters for the Eels and Weezer, among other rock acts, as well as racked up illustration work for the New Yorker and Entertainment Weekly.

Shortcomings is his most ambitious, sustained work so far. It does a compelling job of making you care about characters that usually are not nice, but often are funny. And inevitably likable, like Ben's best buddy Alice Kim, a Korean grad student whose stated goal is "to make out with a hundred girls before I get my Ph.D.," but who has to pretend that Ben is her boyfriend so her parents don't figure out she's a lesbian.

As for Ben, he gets the freedom he thinks he wants when Miko moves to New York after she gets a coveted internship. Then he has to decide whether his idea of fun is romancing a performance artist whose latest project photographically documents her daily urinations. "It'll be a huge installation someday," she says, while Ben works hard not to roll his eyes. She is, after all, a blonde.

Tomine's elegantly simple drawings recall those of Eightball and Ghost World creator Daniel Clowes. In Shortcomings, though, he's even more restrained, eschewing thought balloons and often moving the narrative forward with wordless panels that convey longing and loss with, say, a view out an airplane window or an image of a torn picture on the sidewalk.

Shortcomings' tale of romantic comeuppance along the road to painful but not redemptive self-realization has the feel of a wrenching short story. Tomine tells his story with pictures, as well as words, but knows that even with his precise drawing style at his command, his tale will be all the more compelling if he doesn't tell us - or show us - too much.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Campus Circle

Updated November 8, 2007


Adrian Tomine
Shortcomings
(Drawn and Quarterly)

By Angela Matano

Comic books have come a long way since the 1930s with Famous Funnie. Not only have they reached a place of true legitimacy in their own right, but the graphic novel form, in the hands of writers like Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve) and Daniel Clowes (Ghost World), truly breach the divide of comic and novel.

Tomineís latest venture, Shortcomings, printed in hardcover form, looks and reads like a novella. The story of Ben Tanaka, and his romantic travails, captures the frustrations and confusions of a character who seems stuck in a post-college funk even though, or because of the fact, he has reached the ripe age of 30.

Shot through with both angst and painful moments of self-discovery, Tomine explores the plight of an Asian man, possibly hung up on the fantasy of white women, and full of self-loathing that he cannot scale. Funny, true and original, Shortcomings grips the reader from the first frame to the last.

Shortcomings is currently available. Adrian Tomine will be at Skylight Books on Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. Skylight Books is located at 1818 N. Vermont Ave.
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE in The Philadelphia City Paper

Updated November 8, 2007


Adrian Tomine
Tue., Nov. 6, 7 p.m., free, Free Library, Central Branch, 1901 Vine St., 215-567-4341, www.library.phila.gov.
by Sam Adams
Published: Oct 30, 2007
reading/signing

Adrian Tomine's Shortcomings opens with a Chinese-American woman comparing her grandfather to the fortune cookies he makes, "a hard protective shell, containing haiku-like wisdom." Has Tomine, with his clean black-and-white panels and flair for awkward silences, suddenly gotten literal-minded on us? Not to worry. Shortcomings' first page turns out to be a pointed fake-out, an excerpt from an Asian-American film festival that telegraphs both Tomine's intention to tackle matters of race and his evident anxiety about doing so without violating his gracefully understated style. With an ear for double-edged dialogue and poignant pauses, Tomine follows Ben Tanaka, a 30-year-old grad school dropout with a host of unexplored issues, from a covert fascination with white women to a generalized self-loathing barely masked by a caustic hostility to the world. He's the kind of protagonist you want at once to console and to strangle, not sure which of the two might do him the most good. Tomine has already proved himself an expert conjurer of mood, but with Shortcomings, he takes a major step forward.

Tue., Nov. 6, 7 p.m., free, Free Library, Central Branch, 1901 Vine St., 215-567-4341, www.library.phila.gov.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Time Out Chicago

Updated November 8, 2007


Review
Shortcomings
By Adrian Tomine. Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95.

For 16 years, Tomineís comic book series Optic Nerve has captured the romantic and interpersonal quirks of the young, restless and impudent. Shortcomings, the Japanese-American cartoonistís first graphic novel, was culled from three issues of the comic, and finds Tomine upping the dramatic ante, delving as much into racial tension as sexual tension. True, the stories in Tomineís precise, draftsmanlike panels have always been peppered with diverse casts, but this is the first time race feels significant in his work.

As the story begins, we are thrown into the uneasy orbit of the likable but incredibly indignant Berkley, California, movie theater manager Ben Tanaka and his frustrated girlfriend, Miko Hayashi. The coupleís long-term relationship is in disrepairóthe main reason being race. While Miko actively cultivates pride in her Asian-American heritage, Ben wants to forget about his.

Tomine displays a deep understanding about what really matters to indie-comics readers, and fleshes out a seen-it-before subject (i.e., race) in ways that are fresh, funny and never heavyhanded. In one scene thatís as humorous as it is cringeworthy, Miko discovers Benís largely Caucasian porn stash and becomes justifiably convinced white girls are his type. ďThatís not true,Ē he says, fumbling nervously with the DVDs. ďLookÖthereís a, uh, Latina, girl in this oneÖor wait, maybe sheís on the All Girl Action disc.Ē

When the couple decides to take some time away from each other, Benís leap back into the dating pool is painfully awkward. His failed attempts at indulging his sexual fantasies only arouse more self-loathing. (At a crucial bedroom moment, he sweats and nervously shakes in front of his date, a white girl, convinced by a stereotype that his size is an issue.)

Tomine has never been one for cut-and-dried endings, and Shortcomings is no different. Rather, itís a complex, often tragicomic cocktail muddled with sexual fetishes, shame and a desire for racial assimilation. But even when itís apparent a Tomine character is destined for unhappiness, tracking his downward spiral from panel to poignant panel is still a joy.


ó Jake Malooley
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed by Inkstuds

Updated November 2, 2007


Adrian Tomine
INKSTUDS
November 1, 2007

Adrian joined us in the middle of his tour to promote Shortcomings, his latest graphic novel pulled from his series Optic Nerve, published by Drawn and Quarterly. If you are in Vancouver, come join me and other locals at Sophia books for Adrianís book signing on November 13th from 7-10pm.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The Maneater

Updated November 1, 2007


Graphic novel addresses racial identity
Zack Shlachter
October 26, 2007.

Only a few pages into Adrian Tomineís new book, ďShortcomings,Ē main character Ben Tanaka asks a question that might double as the authorís own premonitory and self-deprecating note: ďI mean, why does everything have to be some big Ďstatementí about race?Ē

This is, to be sure, new territory for comics writer and artist Tomine. Itís his first graphic novel, which has been serialized over the last three years in his comic ďOptic NerveĒ and now collected in a 100-page book. Perhaps more importantly, itís also his first direct attempt at addressing his Asian-American identity, something he sees as an opportunity to distinguish himself from his peers Dan Clowes and Jaime Hernandez.

ďShortcomingsĒ follows Tanaka, a Japanese-American graduate school drop-out and movie theater manager who finds himself forced to confront a mess of confounding issues: life after college, love, sex, masculinity and race. Heíd never given a second thought to these things until his girlfriend, Miko, reaffirmed her Asian-American identity. After a series of fights, primarily stemming from Benís not-so-secret fetish for white women, the two agree to a break, and Miko heads to New York under the pretext of landing an internship.

The loneliness of the following months is punctuated by relationships with two white women, one an exhibitionist employee of his at the theater and the other a bisexual colleague of his lesbian, Korean best friend, Alice. Indeed, the most enjoyable aspect of the book is the snappy, self-effacing dialogue between Ben and Alice, whose rapport and sheer honesty with each other make much of their questionable outlooks, and behavior, or miserable dilemmas palatable.

Whatís honest about Tomineís work is that he shows the ambiguities of racial and sexual politics. Instead of demolishing stereotypes as Gene Luen Yang did in the fun, child-friendly ďAmerican Born ChineseĒ by deftly satirizing them, Tomine features characters with conflicting viewpoints and who occasionally uninformed but never unrealistic.

In ďNo-No Boy,Ē considered the first novel by a Japanese-American writer, John Okada played on the notion that size matters when two of his characters, afflicted by their divergent wartime experiences, argue over whose problems of self worth are bigger. Fifty years later, the issue returns a bit less metaphorically for Tomineís Ben, who has bought into a one of the many stereotypes tailored to Asian Americans that the characters confront.

Tomine is no doubt receiving flak from a small contingent among the Asian-American community. Their criticism rests on the premise that any negative portrayal of minorities by minorities will only reinforce the malicious stereotypes regardless of context or purpose. Itís the same criticism that some Jewish Americans have infamously leveled against Philip Roth, for whom the label ďself-hating JewĒ was long synonymous.

But what Ben discovers in the third act helps explain the novelís title and what could easily be misconstrued as a lack of resolution: Whatever convictions we might have, we all fall a little short.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Sidelines Online

Updated November 1, 2007


Graphic novel review
'Shortcomings'
Jamie Lovett
Issue date: 10/29/07
Sidelines Online

There's been a small wave lately of young, Asian-American artists making a name for themselves in the American comics arena. Eisner-Award-nominated Derek Kirk Kim did it with his anthology "Same Difference and Other Stories." Gene Yang did it with his award winning web-comic turned graphic novel "American Born Chinese."

Adrian Tomine has done it with his ongoing series of short, serialized stories "Optic Nerve."

"Shortcomings" is the third and longest of the "Optic Nerve" stories collected thus far.

Throughout the story, Tomine deals with stereotypes of race, gender and sexual orientation, the challenge of dealing with change and ones own personal deficiencies.

"Shortcomings" focuses on the life of Ben Tanaka, a Japanese-American university dropout living in Berkeley with his girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, and working as a movie theater manager. Despite their devotion to each other, Ben and Miko's relationship is deteriorating and feels cold unless heated by an argument about race, politics or Ben's fixation with white women. When Miko decides to take an internship opportunity in New York, Ben is left on his own, forced into a series of events and changes that he has to deal with.

What makes "Shortcomings" so memorable is the way Tomine tells Tanaka's story through his supporting cast, rather than the main character himself. As the lives of the people around him seem to move at a pace faster than they can keep up with, Tanaka is left spinning his wheels in a failed attempt to move forward. It brilliantly illustrates Tanaka's unwillingness or inability to deal with the fast-paced world around him and how desperately he tries to stop it from moving at all.

Tomine sets himself apart from his contemporaries through a sense of sad realism that contrasts starkly with the bright, stylized work of Kim and Yang. The work is entirely black and white, and Tomine shows an incredible amount of skill in using light and dark contrasts to let the panel reflect the emotion of the characters within it.

The black and white adds to the underlying mirror symmetry in the story that is present in how Ben and Miko's relationship plays out, the certain amount of East Coast versus West Coast sentiment mixed into the story, and the structure of the graphic novel itself.

The characters are masterfully crafted, particular Tanaka. At the beginning of the story, you feel a certain amount of pity for Ben because he is so awkward, but the more you get to know him, the more you start to cringe at the things he says and does. By the end of the story, you simply want to strangle him for his stubbornness. The relationship between Miko and Alice - Ben's Korean and homosexual best friend - is equally solid. Miko's sense of sadness at being trapped in her relationship with Ben is constantly on display during her conversations with him. Alice's more spirited conversations with Ben provide an appropriate amount of comic relief to the otherwise downbeat story.

Tomine manages to juggle all of these elements and themes skillfully and weaves the various threads into a tightly-knit tapestry. No panel is wasted and no one plot thread ever takes the spotlight longer than it should. All of the themes and plot points fit together perfectly to create one emotionally saturated story.

"Shortcomings" is a great comic that's full of tension: racial, sexual and those inherent in relationships and, simply, living life. Tomine's characters transcend the racial barriers that are focused on throughout the story, so that any reader can relate to them emotionally. We can feel their pain and frustration as they deal, or fail to deal, with life's unexpected challenges and their own shortcomings.

With "Shortcomings," Tomine not only stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other popular Asian-American comics artists, but, perhaps, through his sense of realism and incredible comic craftsmanship, pushes himself to the forefront.

Adrian Tomine proves to be a creator worthy of the indie scene buzz surrounding him, and "Shortcomings" proves itself to be a relevant, endearing, and resonant piece of work.
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ADRIAN TOMINE in The Varsity

Updated November 1, 2007


The Shortcomings of Adrian Tomine
Cult graphic novelist gets personal for highly anticipated IFOA appearance
Chandler Levack 29/10/07
The Varsity

For someone who reportedly hates being labelled an ďAsian hipster Woody Allen,Ē cult graphic novelist Adrian Tomine sure fits the bill. Hanging out at his hotel room before his highly anticipated International Festival of Authors appearance (Tomine visited the festival three years ago, sandwiched between two political novelists), all the signposts of a serious New York artist are presentóthe thick-framed glasses, the sweetly meditative work about a self-obsessed youth in a distressed, long distance relationship, the jibes about West Coast culture. Tomine is a recent California expat, and his move from Berkeley to Brooklyn (spurred by a marriage to a longtime New Yorker) is the undercurrent to his first long-form graphic novel, Shortcomings, in which thirtysomething Bay-area resident Ben Tanaka must confront his friendsí and loversí ďtotal hard-on for New York.Ē

ďItís on my mind a lot,Ē admits Tomine. ďEspecially as I was mulling over the decision to move. I kept going back and forth on these trips where Iíd visit New York in the summer and think, ĎOh my god, the weather here is awful and I canít stand the humidity,í and then travel back to Berkeley and complain, ĎOh, thereís only three restaurants that I like to go to here.íĒ

ďItís an observation Iíve made from living in the Bay Area for so long. Thereís always been this idealization of New York there, it seems to be the place where most people from the Bay Area go on vacation or want to move to, but then again, New York has always been the most mythologized American city. Itís made up for people like me, whoíve spent their childhoods seeing movies and reading books about it and have this fantasy version of the big city.Ē

Tomine began his particular brand of sharply outlined, intimately personal novella-like renditions of tortured relationships (both real and idealized) when he was 16, mailing copies of Optic Nerve to Montrealís prestigious Drawn and Quarterly Press (publishers of Julie Doucet, Chris Ware, and Seth). The press ignored his letters for years before printing a small run that eventually grew to an exclusive contract with the artist. His mini-comics offered glimpses into the lives of protagonists you didnít want to admit you (desperately) related to. Take Hilary Chan in Optic Nerveís ďHolidays in the SunĒóa pessimistic Deliaís mail-order operator who begins placing hateful phone calls to strangers as a kind of vicious entertainment. As a critic from Time revealed, ďI worry about Hilary Chan in a way that I donít worry about other fictional characters.Ē Said a fan in the next issue, ďPoor HillaryÖwhat a sad little bitch she is.Ē Now Tomine is illustrating full-page covers for The New Yorker.

Tomineís portrayal of compromised humanity continues in Shortcomings. Ben Tanaka pursues his harbored fetish for white women once his Japanese girlfriend leaves for a New York internship. (Asks one woman: ďDonít you think is this just a sublimated form of assimilation?Ē) For Tomine, labelled a ďTwinkieĒ by his Asian dorm-mates at Berkeley, heís just speaking honestly on obvious racial issues that others would rather sweep under the rugóincluding an unfair stereotype about Asian penis size.

ďFor as long as I can remember, my work has always had a strangely polarized responseÖ People either seem to say, ĎI fucking hate this! Itís garbage!í or ĎItís so great! I really loved it!íó and Iím always freaked out by either response. After ten years of this, it was really good preparation for how this book would be receivedÖ

ďI first published this story in a serialized form in Optic Nerve, so Iíve received a responsein- progressówhich isnít always a good way to finish a work. Thereís been a whole range of responses, really. Especially with Asian- American readers, people have come up to me at signings and said really negative things. No one is having an idiotic response; they think my take on stereotypes is at leastÖinteresting. But instead of saying, Ďyouíre a racist, Adrian!í or even, ĎYouíre an idiot!í theyíre asking, ĎWhy did you even bring that up? Isnít it better just to push it aside and not even address that?íĒ

Tomine spent four years creating Shortcomings, from illustrating Flatbush Avenue in twopoint perspective to sketching out the pages in stick figure form to making sure it would fit the page count. During this time, Adrianís life changed immenselyóincluding a move to New York, a marriage, and adjusting from his introverted ďvampireĒ hours to his wifeís nineto- five work schedule, so he canít help that the novel encompasses his own shortcomings, as much as those of his fictional character.

ďEspecially in the world of alternative comics, every step of the way is made by the same hand, and that is perfectly suited to the world of very personal storytelling. I mean, sure, other people have managed to convey very personal stories in other media, but to me it seems that the more hands that touch something, it canít help but be compromised or diluted. The way someone experiences a comic is very personal, more so than sitting in an audience with a hundred people watching a screenÖ

ďThere are enough autobiographies strewn throughout my work. No matter what I do, people seem to read it as a straightforward autobiographical story of my life. A lot of people have approached Shortcomings that wayóthat Iím Ben Tanaka and thatís it. But itís my own thoughts and personality that are spread out within all the characters, even the more minor ones.

ďI certainly donít abide by the saying that these characters started to write themselves and took on a life of their ownÖThere was really specific ground of who Ben had to be, how he had to move within the story. But the Alice character was definitely inspired by friends of mine, especially the relationship she has with Ben. Iíve always had female friends that are much more outgoing, much more open, and often had better luck with girls than I have. Itís definitely a dynamic that Iím familiar with.Ē
 
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  ADRIAN TOMINE mentioned by Seattle Weekly

Updated November 1, 2007


Adrian Tomine
SEATTLE WEEKLY

Today a contributor to The New Yorker and McSweeney's, Tomine made his early reputation with the comic Optic Nerve. Now he takes issues of class, ethnicity, and male sexual longing on a road trip in Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95). His hero, Ben Tanaka, has a thing for white girlsóis that wrong? His Asian girlfriend thinks so ("I know your type"), and perhaps so does Ben, but maybe his fixation is just an excuse for breaking up. Driving from the Bay Area to New York, he's forced to consider his mixed motives, all rendered with the kind of artful self-awareness that Tomine brings to his distinctive panels. His pen is as decisive as his hero is not. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, www.bookstore.washington.edu. Mon., Nov. 12.
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The Oregonian

Updated November 1, 2007


Shortcomings
by Steve Duin
October 02, 2007
Categories: Graphic Novels


Ben Tanaka is a total pain-in-the-ass, listless, grating and self-obsessed. He's Christian Bale in "American Psycho" or Jim Carrey in just about everything he's ever made. He's an incessant whiner, a bitter loser, a never-ending stream -- his one and only friend points out -- of "charming negativity."

Thus, watching Tanaka open wide while Adrian Tomine stuffs these just desserts down his throat is kind of a kick.

Tomine's Shortcomings -- published by Drawn & Quarterly -- collects the story serialized in issues #9-11 of Optic Nerve. And, believe me, Tanaka wastes no times getting on everyone's nerves, including the reader. The 30-year-old theater manager is dating a Japanese woman, Miko Hayashi, who is rapidly losing patience with the chip on his shoulder and his undisguised lust for Caucasian teenagers.

"Do you have any idea why this might offend me?" Miko asks. "It's like you're obsessed with the typical Western media beauty ideal, but you're settling for me."

Of course he is. Realizing Tanaka is no more able to confess that to her than to admit it to himself, Miko heads to New York for a four-month internship at the Asian-American Independent Film Institute. And while the steady girlfriend is away ...

In Miko's absence, some seriously entertaining characters step to the front of the stage, including Alice Kim, a Korean lesbian who is much luckier in love than the tedious Tanaka. Unceasingly loyal to Ben, she is always at the other end of the line when Tanaka calls to report how things went with August, the vapid cashier, or Sasha, the rare woman Alice has never seduced. When Alice decides to vacation in New York, she begins the chain of events that delivers Tanaka's long-awaited comeuppance.

He ends up alone, a rather predictable fate when you prefer sarcasm to sentimentality, the superficial to the genuine, your own shortcomings to the all-too-human frailties of others.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by YuppiePunk

Updated November 1, 2007


Book Review: Adrian Tomineís ĎShortcomingsí
YUPPIEPUNK
October 28, 2007

From Sophia Coppolaís ďLost in TranslationĒ to Nick Hornbyís ďHigh Fidelity,Ē weíre a sucker for a good relationship story, which is a big part of why Adrian Tomineís work has always appealed to us. And while his latest offering (and first full-length work) ďShortcomingsĒ isnít quite of the caliber of the aforementioned favorites, it is a little gem of a book. And Tomineís skills as an illustrator ainít too shabby either. His keen eye for capturing the subtleties of a moment are superior to his peers, as is his ear for dialogue. And though they may be drawn in black and white, his characters are colorful and interesting. So too are the urban settings the story is set in ó the cafes and bedrooms of Berkeley, California and New York City.

At the center of the novella is Ben Tanaka, a cynical Japanese-American movie theater manager who is obsessed with white girls, and who is struggling to get along with Miko, his not-white live-in girlfriend. The pair fight frequently, mostly because Ben is a self-obsessed jerk, but also because he canít quite manage to keep his disdain for Mikoís interests to himself. Adding some comic relief to the story is Alice, Benís Korean-American best friend/lesbian, who is eternally at college ó most recently at an all-girls school ó where Alice never tires of the ďincoming freshwomyn.Ē

ďShortcomingsĒ is an quick and breezy read, but it still packs a lot of emotion into its 100 pages. Tomineís previous work has been bashed for being overly-emo, but those criticisms can be finally put to bed. Here he keeps the story rooted in relationships without weighing it down, or more accurately, lightening it up, with the overly-romantic youthful fantasies of his earlier stories. Though his earlier works were good, ďShortcomingsĒ is much better. It would also make for a cool little film. Richard Linklater or Terry Zwigoff should direct. Sean Lennon or Masi Oka should star.
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ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed by Panels and Pixels

Updated October 25, 2007


Graphic Lit: An interview with Adrian Tomine
CHRIS MAUTNER
PANELS AND PIXELS
October 22, 2007

It can be tough to be the wonder kid. Just ask Adrian Tomine.

Having been tagged as the ďhot new indie artistĒ when he was still in high school, heís had to compete with unrealistic expectations about his work ó usually serialized in his ongoing series, ďOptic NerveĒ ó ever since.

Itís unfortunate, because heís really one of the most talented and interesting folks working in comics right now. His naturalistic stories about disaffected and insecure young adults call to mind authors such as Raymond Carver and Alice Munro.

His latest book, ďShortcomings,Ē is also his longest work. It tells the story of Ben Tanaka, an overly critical, sarcastic young man who has, shall we say, ďissuesĒ about his own ethnicity, including a yen for white women, something his Asian girlfriend has understandable trouble with.

The book follows Ben as his love life slowly implodes and he tries to get back into the dating scene. Itís a captivating, smart look at how people trip over issues of race and sex in an attempt to get the things they think they want.

I talked to Tomine over e-mail a few days before his impeding marriage to discuss his new book. Hereís what he had to say:

What was the impetus for Shortcomings? How did the story come about?

Shortcomings was the result of me wanting to try something a little more challenging after spending many years working on short stories. I admired the achievements that some of my fellow cartoonists had made with longer narratives, or ďgraphic novelsĒ as theyíre now called. So whether or not I was truly ready to take on a 100-page story, I basically just forced myself to give it a shot.

In terms of the content of the story, Iíd been accumulating material for years, and I knew that at some point I would want to group it all together. Some of the topics that are raised in this story are things that I hadnít dealt with in my past work, and since I was forcing myself to attempt a story that was longer than anything Iíd done before, it also seemed a like a good opportunity to attempt to delve into some different subject matter.

Shortcomings is your longest work to date. What sort of challenges did creating a lengthier narrative pose for you? Is it the sort of thing you'd like to do more of in the future?

The initial challenge I faced was simply figuring out the process I wanted to use to create the story. Iíd gotten pretty comfortable with writing shorter stories, and often I was able to pretty much just write a story like that in my head. But something like Shortcomings required a new level of organization and forethought for me.

The other challenge I faced later on was that of just maintaining my focus on something that Iíd been toiling away on for several years. Iíve always had a pretty quick arc from the conception of a story to its completion, and at times there was a bit of a Sisyphean feeling to the process of drawing Shortcomings. Iíve never had to draw the same faces so many times before in my life! And trying to maintain at least a modicum of consistency in the artónot only in terms of style, but just how the characters lookóthat was something I was not well-versed in either.

In terms of the future, I think I probably will work on longer stories again, but maybe not right away. On one hand, I feel like I now want to do the exact opposite, and do something shorter and contained. And on the other hand, I have this feeling like Shortcomings was almost like an apprenticeship, or a learning process, and it gave me some abilities that I think will come in handy should I attempt something even longer.

One of the things that's interesting about the book is there are very few truly sympathetic characters. Was this a deliberate choice or was it something that grew organically as you developed the story?

I think itís more just that I have a different sense of whatís ďsympatheticĒ than a lot of other people. I have to admit that there mightíve been some miscalculation on my part in terms of what readers would accept before a character became ďunlikeableĒ or ďunsympathetic.Ē But to answer your question more directly, I donít think I made a deliberate choice either way. Sympathy or empathy with the characters was never a primary guiding force as I was writing the book.

Can you talk a little bit about the issues of ethnic identity and sexuality that you explore in the book? How does Ben's attitude jibe with your own personal experiences? Do you think Asian-Americans and Americans in general are as obsessed with stereotypes as Ben seems to be?

A lot of people have been asking me about the relationship between the character Ben and myself, and I think I have myself to blame for that correlation in some readersí minds. I mightíve misled some people to think that this was a more autobiographical story than it really is with a few very specific details about Ben, including his appearance. But the truth is, itís entirely a work of fiction, and if any of my real beliefs and personality are to be found anywhere in the book, theyíre scattered amongst all the primary characters.

As for the last part of your question, for me to answer that would be in direct conflict with my goals for this book. I donít want to put words in anyoneís mouth, least of all giant groups of very distinct people.

I liked the way you subtly sprinkled the pillow case motif on the cover and endpapers and through the book. How did you decide to do that and could you talk about some of the other subtle visual motifs you use in the book (the cup of coffee, the x-rated dvds, etc)?

The pillowcase motif was something that just kind of developed organically as I wrote and drew the comic. And the way it bled over into the design of the book was probably secondary. On one hand, I just liked the way that pattern looked on the cover, and on the other hand, I was probably trying to take something that was basically invisible to the reader at first, and then kind of imbue it with some relevence to the actual story.

Iím not sure what to say about those other things you mentioned, other than that one of the new things that I enjoyed about working in the context of a longer narrative was the way that you could repeat images, and have little things gently echo things from maybe 50 pages prior. Iím not saying I did it with the greatest of skill and subtlety, but I do know that attempting that kind of thing in a shorter story is usually just too sudden and obtrusive.

Your work is very dialogue heavy, yet never comes off as overly wordy or "a bunch of talking heads." How do you as an artist break down a conversation in comics so that it doesn't become overly repetitive visually or just a slog to read through?

Well, thanks for saying that, because thatís certainly something I struggle with. For me, the challenge isnít so much about not being overly repetitive with the visualsÖif anything, I have to push myself in that direction a bit. I think like so many cartoonists, I grew up with the notion that comics had to always be visually dynamic with all kinds of absurd ďcamera anglesĒ and unconventional layouts. And now to me, as a reader, thatís just as deadly, if not moreso, than something being visually repetetive. I think that kind of simplicity works beautifully for people like Charles Schulz or Chris Ware, whereas any time I see a page that looks like something out of ďHow To Draw Comics The Marvel Way,Ē my interest just kind of shuts off.

In general, I wanted Shortcomings to be as readable as possible, so this issue you raise was kind of like a tightrope walk. I didnít want it to be too dull and boring, but I also didnít want the visuals to be inappropriately wild in relation to the subject matter.

Your work always seems to come up as exhibit A in the "indie comix are boring stories about whiny twentysomething losers" complaints that crop up all the time. It's not a stance I particularly understand let alone agree with as I find your work engaging. What do you make of that attitude and does it at all frustrate or bother you?

Well, that should all change now that most of my characters are whiny thirtysomething losers. In all seriousness, I canít really let myself worry too much about that kind of thing. For some reason, my work has always been evaluated in kind of a polarized wayÖpeople tend to either really like it or really dislike it. Thatís always kind of surprised me, but I think itís been useful in terms of learning to not take either type of extreme reaction too seriously. I never imagined that my work would even appeal to as many people as it does, so it seems perfectly appropriate that there would be some people who really donít enjoy it.

What are you working on now?

I recently finished my contribution to the next issue of Kramers Ergot, which is a great anthology published by Buenaventura Press. This issue is going to be a massive, full-color hardcover book, and it was a lot of fun to be doing something so different from Shortcomings.

Iíve also been spending some time lately on a little project that very few people will probably ever see: a mini-comic that weíre giving as a favor at my imminently-approaching wedding!
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS in The National Post

Updated October 25, 2007


SPLITTING IMAGE
Adrian Tomine began his short-story cartoons while still a teen, but a new project finds him leaving his comfort zone
Mark Medley, National Post
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2007


After finishing each issue of his self-published cartoon, Optic Nerve, a teenage Adrian Tomine would slip the comic into an envelope, slap on enough stamps to ensure it survived the cross-continent journey from the southern U.S. to Canada and drop it into a mailbox with a Montreal address scrawled on the front. The comics -- painstakingly drawn panel by panel, Xeroxed and assembled by Tomine -- would weave through the system, cross the border and wind up on the desk of Chris Oliveros, head of alternative comics publisher Drawn and Quarterly. Tomine had already sent about a half-dozen issues to Quebec without response when he finally got a letter from Oliveros. He nervously read the note, which was scrawled on the back of some scrap paper. It was, Tomine recalls, "a very brief and somewhat critical response."
"On one hand, it was very hard for me to read what were some pretty insightful criticisms," says Tomine, on the phone from Berkeley, Calif., southwest of Sacramento, where he grew up. "But on the other hand it was such a thrill to see that envelope in my mailbox with his return address on it ? It made me realize he had been getting all these packages I'd been sending to him, and he had been reading them and watching my progress."
In fact, Oliveros had received every issue of Optic Nerve -- "I was definitely following his work very closely," he says -- and was so impressed with the maturity and skill of the comics that he assumed Tomine was in his twenties.
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"He had skills that were beyond his years," says Oliveros, on the phone from Montreal. "The funny thing is, I think if I had known [his age] I would have contacted him sooner."
D&Q eventually offered to publish Tomine in 1994, and he's been with the company ever since, slowly churning out issues of Optic Nerve and collecting short stories into books such as Summer Blonde and Sleepwalk and Other Stories. Now, at the age of 33, Tomine has just published Shortcomings, his first full-length graphic novel.
"In a way, I wanted this book to be a summation of all the things I've learned in comics leading up to it," he says.
Though he jokes that "people who want to write negative reviews of the book have a lot of puns ... they can use that title for," the book, like most of Tomine's work, is garnering critical acclaim and has been compared to that of authors such as Raymond Carver and Alice Munro.
Tomine felt he'd finally reached a "comfort zone" with the short-story form ("Not that I'd mastered it or anything," he adds), and he had always wanted to try his hand at a longer project -- though he admits he wasn't sure he was prepared to make the leap.
"It was a bit of a gamble," he says, "but that sort of uncertainty was something that I hadn't felt for awhile; I think I sort of enjoyed that."
Shortcomings tells the "almost entirely fictional" story of Ben Tanaka, a 30-year-old theatre manager living in Berkeley. The book, which took five years to complete, is a heartbreaking work; each frame of simple black-and-white drawings conveys pages worth of emotion.
Tomine, agrees Oliveros, is only getting better with age.
"He's improved on every level," he says. "We're still near the beginning of his development as a cartoonist. It'll be very exciting to continue to watch him mature."
It's a long way from those self-published stories Tomine penned as a teen. He doesn't even look at those anymore. He's even gone so far and asked that older material -- which was collected in 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini Comics -- be removed from publication.
"I don't even want to look at recent stories," he admits. "It's like looking at old family photos or something. It's just too personal and too embarrassing for me."
Now living in New York, Tomine is unsure what he'll work on next. For now, he'll continue to promote Shortcomings, a task which brings him to Toronto this weekend for the International Festival of Authors.
"Working on this book was a lot about trying to expand or trying to move beyond the confines of what I felt I was capable of," he says. "Now that it's done and I have the book in front of me, I look at it and think, 'Boy, I can't believe how mildly I succeeded in that regard.' " He laughs. "I aim super high, and I think I'm going to totally change and do something completely extraordinary, and then I achieve [only] a fraction of that. But it's still something."
-Toronto's International Festival of Authors presents Adrian Tomine in conversation with Sheila Heti on Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. Shortcomings is published by Drawn and Quarterly ($22.95).
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SHORTCOMINGS in Eye Weekly

Updated October 25, 2007


Books
By Chris Randle
EYE WEEKLY

Long story Short
Adrian Tomine's first long-form work after years of shorter stories, Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly, $22.95, 112 pages), centres on self-loathing Japanese-American Ben Tanaka and his nation-spanning quest to find the girl of his dreams (read: corn-fed and white). His only obstacle: his (Asian) girlfriend. Attachments screw up everyone's fantasies and delusions in this book. Tomine's spare realism and angsty characters have often left me cold, but this graphic novel's barbed treatment of racial and sexual politics is a progressive leap forward without abandoning his trademark style.

It's funny, for one thing Ė a welcome return to the humour in the artist's early mini-comics after the wrist-slashing alienation and hapless emotional cripples featured in Summer Blonde, a collection of short stories culled from his series Optic Nerve. The jokes aren't exactly broad Ė Tomine was influenced by Dan Clowes' later work, rather than his earlier projects such as ďThe Sensual SantaĒ and ďNeedledick the Bugfucker.Ē Still, he's a sharp satirist, opening each chapter by skewering cringeworthy art and lacerating a particularly annoying film-nerd archetype in a single panel. Ben's ladykiller friend Alice is the most likeable character the cartoonist's ever created; warm and irreverent Ė the mere fact that she can stand the guy makes him a more sympathetic anti-hero.

The entire cast of Shortcomings is livelier than Tomine's previous work, in fact. Where some of his earlier stories felt as though the cartoonist was moving attractive-looking automatons around a well-drafted set, this book is populated by nuanced, complicated people whose entanglements feel organic and genuine. Tomine has claimed that the prospect of drawing a longer story like this one terrified him, but the absence of the narration captions he's used before suggests greater confidence in his work and eliminates the distance that previously lay between his stories and the reader.

His trademark minimalism still colours everything here, though: the austere storytelling, the pacing so cinematic and economical it almost feels miserly. While Tomine will probably never make the wild, freewheeling comics I tend to prefer, his cartooning is a pleasure nonetheless. The man knows his craft Ė I don't even want to know how many hours he spent clutching a Rapidograph to draw those painstaking backgrounds. His spotless lines demonstrate a masterful command of facial expressions, which reveal the emotional depth of his characters even when his dialogue can grate; they display brutal truths that his protagonists are only able to face themselves once it's too late. That's the thing about Tomine Ė unlike these mutually destructive characters, looking past his shortcomings is easy.

ADRIAN TOMINE APPEARS AT THE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS ON OCT 27, 3PM. INTERVIEWED BY SHEILA HETI, HOSTED BY PETER BIRKEMOE. $15; FREE FOR STUDENTS. STUDIO THEATRE.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS gets an A from Entertainment Weekly

Updated October 25, 2007


Shortcomings (2007)
Adrian Tomine
A
By Ken Tucker

With delicate draftsmanship and dialogue, Adrian Tomine makes slacker anomie dramatic. Ben Tanaka is a likable complainer, an Asian-American loser in love who denies his friends' accusations that he's drawn only to white women.
For Fans ofÖ Dave Eggers, Daniel Clowes.
Bottom Line Exploring race, adulthood, and ambition with exquisitely tuned humor and poignancy, Shortcomings is a graphic narrative as piercingly realistic as any prose fiction. A
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SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Las Vegas Weekly

Updated October 25, 2007


[Comics] Size matters

October 11, 2007
by J. Caleb Mozzocco

Adrian Tomine explores interracial relationships -- kinda -- in his new graphic novel
God knows even the most simple and straightforward romantic relationships are complicated and can be difficult, oftentimes trying to navigate, offering fertile ground for dramaófictional or otherwise.

But when you add racial sensitivities and identity politics into the mix, the metaphorical minefield of a relationship becomes an even trickier, more dangerous place.

Adrian Tomineís new graphic novel explores one such relationship, although to what degree race is even an issue in its conflicts is something the characters themselves seem to disagree on and, in one case, even constantly deny.

Itís called Shortcomings (Drawn and Quarterly), and though the ruler graphic on the edge of the beautifully designed cover draws attention to a literal meaning, protagonist Ben Tanakaís inability to please the woman in his lifeóand himselfólikely has much less to do with the size of his penis than the kind of person he is.

Tanaka manages a university-area movie theater in Berkeley and lives with his girlfriend, Miko. Their relationship seems to be full of more sniping and accusations than support and affection.

Miko suspects Ben fetishizes white girls, a suspicion supported by the all-white porn stash she discovers, and that heís secretly ashamed of being Japanese-American, like her. When she takes an internship with the Asian-American Film Institute in New York City, they find themselves in a four-month break-taking phase, which, after a few long-distance phone fights, he exploits to try and bed a white girl.

Lucky for him, a flirty, exhibitionist performance artist has just started working for him at the theater.

Benís what you might call a piece of work, but, at the same time, heís pretty much a normal personóheís you, and everybody you know. And thatís what makes Tomineís downplayed drama so biting. On its surface, Shortcomings is merely a book about a single relationship ending, although the hang-ups of the characters involved open it up to a more charged reading about identity.

Itís hardly a polemic, though, or anything other than a straight realistic detailing of a relationship; if it addresses race or gender issues, itís because the people in the book are dealing with them, not because Tomine wants to make them deal with them.

Itís that subtle hand that separates Tomineís work from the pack, even in todayís increasingly crowded graphic-novel market.

Well, that subtlety and Tomineís amazing artwork.

His figures and settings are all so realistic that they seem to exist in the space between reality and drawings of reality. Staring at a Tomine panel, itís impossible to tell where a pencil or pen touched the paper, and where Tomine moved it next. But at the same time his clean, crisp, black-and-white art doesnít look quite photo-realistic either, eschewing lighting effects and the static staging that usually accompanies highly representational work.

The combined effect is a story that doesnít seem told as much as captured, with settings you can walk right into and people you meet rather than read about. There are still a few months to go, but thus far Shortcomings is a strong contender for the best graphic novel of the year.
 
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  SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by Chicago Sun Times

Updated October 25, 2007


Fear and self-loathing in a state of self-awareness
October 21, 2007
BY MARK ATHITAKIS
CHICAGO SUN TIMES

Ben Tanaka, the hero of Adrian Tomine's new graphic novel, Shortcomings, is educated enough to know a few things about the world, and cynical enough to hate practically everything in it.

As the story opens, he's grousing to his girlfriend, Miko, about the crummy film they just watched at an Asian-American film festival in Berkeley, Calif. Soon it's clear that he interacts with just about everybody from behind a force-field of contempt. New York? Overrated. Airports? Full of hassles. Performance artists? Poseurs. People who make a big deal out of their ethnicity? Self-deluded.

That last assertion plays into the novel's central conflict, because the one thing that Ben (who's of Japanese descent) seems to like unequivocally is white women. Soon after Miko grows exasperated with Ben and moves to New York, he calls Autumn, the blond he's just hired to work at the movie theater he manages. Whether this reflects a reasonable preference or speaks to his deep-seated neuroses about stereotypes and fitting in is Shortcomings' central concern, and it's to Tomine's credit that there's no artful resolution at the end. If anything, the problem gets worse, and the story's power comes from the way Ben's self-loathing threatens to swallow him whole just as he becomes aware of it.

Tomine has an excellent ear for dialogue, which successfully sells the high-strung disconnection between Miko and Ben. ("How would you like it if I was obsessed with picture of big, muscular African-American men?" "Yeah right. ... You reach for your pepper spray the minute you see a black guy walking towards you on the street!") But he's doing just as much work in his drawing to make it clear that the two are headed for trouble. Ben and Miko rarely stand next to each other; Ben and Autumn's figures constantly overlap. He bemoans his fate to his friend Alice over lunch, but Tomine subtly makes it clear that Ben's not meeting her eyes. He's watching the blond walking to the counter to pay her bill.

A fit of jealousy ultimately thrusts Ben into something like self-awareness: After learning that Miko has a new boyfriend and does side work as a model, he heads to New York to confront her. He's been roughed up by breakups with Autumn and another woman, and as he confronts Miko and meets Alice's new girlfriend, it's clear that his taste in women is a symptom of a larger emotional paralysis; his screw-it-all sarcasm, which he could once chalk up as cleverness, is annihilating his relationships.

Somewhat less clear is how Ben earned those relationships in the first place. Ben had to be a likable person at some point for these women to interact with him, and though Ben is handsome, and polite and genial when he first meets Autumn, that's not quite the same thing as attractiveness. Tomine has boxed himself in to an extent: to portray the wreckage that self-hatred generates, Ben needs to be both unlikable and sociable, but he's more convincing as the guy cloistered with his porn DVDs than somebody who'll comfortably play boyfriend when his lesbian friend needs a date to a wedding.

That doesn't discount the validity of Ben's struggle, though. Nor does it make Shortcomings any less compelling. Ben could easily have become a target for a writer's mockery, or an object of pity. But Tomine knows that those smart-ass wisecracks are evidence of larger problems, and his novel is a clear-eyed portrait of the toxicity of fear.

Mark Athitakis is a free-lance writer based in the Washington, D.C., area.

SHORTCOMINGS

By Adrian Tomine

Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pages, $19.95

ē ē Adrian Tomine will sign copies of Shortcomings at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Quimby's, 1854 W. North.
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Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (HC)




SHORTCOMINGS reviewed by The Record

Updated October 19, 2007



 
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Featured artist

Adrian Tomine

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Shortcomings (HC)




  ADRIAN TOMINE interviewed by The Villager

Updated October 19, 2007


Adrian Tomine, author of the comic series ďOptic Nerve,Ē has just come out with his first, full-length graphic novel.
Graphic novelist hits an optic nerve
By Rachel Fershleiser
THE VILLAGER
October 17-23 2007

Subtle, literate, and superhero-free, Adrian Tomine is a cartoonist for the rest of us. His quietly moving tales of friendship and flailing relationships read like indie film