The London Free Press reviews The Follies of Richard Wadsworth

“Graphic Novel: Three short stories about incompetent teachers” / The London Free Press / Dan Brown / July 19, 2019

There is a recurring theme in Nick Maandag’s The Follies of Richard Wadsworth that can be expressed in a single blunt sentence: Teachers are frauds.

This book is composed of three short stories that reinforce that idea.

How do you know if this collection is for you?

If you’ve ever been taught by any pompous university professors who use words like “deconstruction,” “problematic” and “discourse,” in lectures, you will likely find Maandag’s latest to be amusing and even thought-provoking.

The first story is the one featuring Wadsworth, an inept university instructor who can’t stop putting his foot in his mouth. He suffers from “social hangovers” after he inevitably screws up interactions with students, fellow professors and university administrators.

No school will give him tenure, so he drifts from one university to the next.

In one classroom sequence, he speaks with a female student, dropping the terms “universalize,” “proposition” and “negate.” When the student exits, he watches longingly as she departs. “I want to mount you like a gorilla,” he thinks to himself.

It’s these kinds of juxtapositions of high and low speech that make The Follies of Richard Wadsworth so enjoyable. And that’s why I believe the Mississauga-born Maandag’s proper place in the canon is alongside creators like Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine.

The second story, set in a night-school class, is the weakest because it’s the most removed from reality, although it does have funny moments, as when a fireman conflates the origin stories of Christ and Luke Skywalker. “Jesus was born in approximately 200 B.C.,” he rambles in front of the class. “He was raised on a moisture farm by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru until their untimely death at the hands of imperial stormtroopers.”

In the last instalment, Maandag recovers with a tale of corruption within a Buddhist retreat.

A monk in training who is struggling with suppressing his carnal desires seeks help from his master. He soon discovers that the master is having sex with one of the female disciples.

Yet another teacher is exposed as a sham and a purveyor of lies.

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