The best comic book sequence of all time: Fans of Clyde Fans Meeting in Room 112
As indelible as the opening sequence of Clyde Fans is, it is followed up with one of my all-time favourite sequences in comics ever. After Abe’s wandering salesman monologue, we jump back in time and focus on Simon in 1957. He’s on a train and heading to a sales call—his last chance to prove himself. Simon checks into his hotel, makes a number of sales calls that flop spectacularly and returns dispirited and broken to his room.
Here he meets another salesman—a confident, talkative gentleman who offers Simon a drink and genially chews his ear off. This salesman, Whitey, is the model of a salesman, always on, always flattering, needling, but still friendly throughout. He’s a foil to Simon's increasingly Sad Sack character.
Simon returns to selling the next day and is similarly defeated. He leaves the bustling downtown and heads out on a country road, dazed, bereft.
The chapter ends with Simon leaning against a tree as his eyes slowly close.
What I think is so interesting here is that Seth is clearly working in a very old sophisticated storytelling mode that is not common at all these days. Dialogue is sparse and narration is non-existent. I can only think to describe this sequence as cinematic (which I’m aware is unfair to this visual medium for a variety of reasons). But it achieves the same effect. Seth’s cartooning is perfection here—it’s gorgeous, tight, simple, clear. The design of everything is impeccable. Seth’s lifetime of studying cartooning is bearing full fruit in this sequence. As a reader we’re transported into this world fully. When I recall this sequence, the characters have voices, I truly hear them. I hear Whitey’s insistent baritone and casual chuckle.
Seeing this all collected together finally after so many years, it is almost easy to take this perfect sequence for granted. When Seth drew these pages, he was part of a growing number of ambitious cartoonists who were pushing the boundaries of comics storytelling. It was easy to be distracted by others but Seth was crafting a masterpiece bit by bit right in plain sight.
Someone please buy me this sweater, I have a curling final coming up soon.