Adrian Tomine in the Calgary Herald

“Adrian Tomine's scrapbook: A window into the mind of 'the boy wonder of comics” / Calgary Herald / Nancy Tousley / October 24, 2004

Scrapbook, Uncollected Work 1990-2004 by Adrian Tomine (Raincoast Books, 204 pages, $36.95)

Adrian Tomine, who has been called "the boy wonder of comics," ranks among the top five graphic novelists to emerge in the past decade.

At 30, he's been in the public eye for nearly 15 years. It's his early success that won him the "boy wonder" accolade. He began writing and drawing strips when he was 16 and self-published them in a mini-comic called Optic Nerve. At 17, he was hired to do a regular monthly strip in the Tower Records store magazine Pulse! At 20, he began producing Optic Nerve as a comic book series for Drawn & Quarterly, the Montreal publisher of graphic novels and literary comics.

He also holds the distinction of being the first graphic novelist to be invited to speak at the venerable Harbourfront Reading Series in Toronto, the purview of distinguished literati. One imagines his presence there as a breath of fresh air.

Tomine writes and draws his milieu: the self-absorption, ennui and preoccupations of the young, the painful self-consciousness of trying to attract girls, the pangs of social ineptitude, the tortures of relationships. He is a master of subtle body language. His Optic Nerve, a combination of fiction and autobiography, has been growing for 14 years. This and the book collections of the Optic Nerve comics, is his real work, Tomine says.

But he also appears in the pages of The New Yorker, Time, Esquire and Rolling Stone.

His latest book, Scrapbook: Uncollected Work 1990-2004 assembles drawings that span Tomine's career from the early strips that precede Optic Nerve to work in design and illustration, which includes movie posters and album covers for bands like The Eels and Weezer. "The book you hold in your hands represents my hobbies, my diversions, my day jobs," he writes in the book's introduction. It's divided into three parts: Comics, Illustrations and Sketchbook.

Tomine's sensitively attuned watercolours of young women appear in the Sketchbook section along with life drawings of nudes, sketches of people in cafes and subways, roughs of strips and vignettes of landscapes. This is the part of Scrapbook Tomine says he feels most apprehensive about.

"It was never meant to be seen by anyone." he says. "It's the closest thing I have to a diary, and it exists mainly for my own amusement, practice, and mental health."

No wonder he's apprehensive, the Sketchbook is the most intimate part of the book. But Scrapbook as a whole opens a window into Tomine's mind and his development as an artist. It makes it a good introduction to his work, and preparation for reading the graphic novel he is working on now.

In the meantime, Optic Nerve # 9 is a fictional story that examines "the troubled sex-life of a confused, obsessive, Japanese-American male in his late twenties, and his cross-country search for the perfect girl."

Cartoon: Scrapbook, Uncollected Work 1990-2004 by Adrian Tomine (Raincoast Books, 204 pages, $36.95)

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