There was a certain kind of 20th-century boy — it was almost always a boy — whose most important education came from the rainbow of comic strips that swaddled the Sunday newspaper and the comic books that filled racks at the corner candy store. Quiet, smart and often shy, that sort of boy knew early on that understanding the world meant mastery of pencil point, of pen nib...
In Ontario, at least one future cartoonist was paying attention. In “Forty Cartoon Books of Interest,” his short but essential 2006 volume, Seth comments on Mr. Feiffer’s early Village Voice work, collected in albums like “Sick, Sick, Sick” and “The Explainers.” “These are clever, thoughtful, and innovative strips,” he writes.
“Thoughtful” is a crucial word when it comes to Seth’s own cartooning. Though he was born in 1962 and grew up in small-town Ontario, he draws and dresses as if he just stepped out of McSorley’s Old Ale House in 1947 after knocking back a couple of drinks with Joseph Mitchell, the venerable New Yorker writer.
“Palookaville Twenty-Two,” the latest in Seth’s one-man hardcover anthologies, though published in 2015, feels like a beautifully designed artifact out of time. Seth writes and draws in a quiet midcentury style, suffused by a gentle melancholy that brings to mind the short stories of Alice Munro, who also lives in Ontario and is his favorite writer.
This latest “Palookaville” continues the hushed and subtle family saga “Clyde Fans,” about the death of a family business and the subsequent fraying of family ties; offers Part 2 of “Nothing Lasts,” in which Seth guides us up and down the bittersweet streets of his memory; and includes a photo essay on Crown Barber Shop in Guelph, Ontario, which was designed by him and is owned and run by his wife, Tania Van Spyk. That alone is enough to make Norman Rockwell jealous.
Unlike Mr. Feiffer, Seth wasn’t lured professionally by mainstream comics, although he was a Marvel fan as a teenager. Despite his Ontario roots, Seth, too, has a legitimate New York pedigree. His illustrations appear in The New Yorker, and his graphic novel “George Sprott (1894-1975)” was serialized in The New York Times Magazine.