Many of us have childhood memories of ripping open the Sunday paper to find the funny pages. Peanuts, Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes – week after week these comic strips tell heartwarming stories and jokes to make us laugh. Comic art stretches far beyond those pages, though, and the medium can be used in effective ways to tell compelling and sometimes heartbreaking stories. On May 8, Canadian cartoonist Seth will join us at the AGO to launch his graphic novel Clyde Fans.
Set within the Dominion comic universe, Clyde Fans tells the story of outgoing salesman Abe and his cripplingly shy brother Simon as they try to save the family fan business after the invention of home air conditioning in the 1950s.
In advance of the book launch, we spoke with Seth to learn about his inspiration, his storytelling style and his advice for budding comic artists.
AGO: How would you
describe your style?
Seth: For lack of a better word, old-fashioned. When I was younger, I studied the work of earlier cartoonists, and I wear those influences on my sleeve. Today, when I’m drawing, I’m not trying to make the work look “retro,” but I’m pretty aware that to the average person my drawings look like something from the 1950s.
AGO: What inspired you to tell this story about two brothers and their failing fan business in Toronto?
Seth: One day, I noticed an old storefront in Toronto – the actual Clyde Fans company. After seeing the store, I let my imagination wander to who might have owned it and what their lives were about.
AGO: Why did you choose to republish this story in novel form? Why now?
Seth: After a full 20 years of serialization, I’m publishing this graphic novel now because it’s finally finished! Believe me, if I could have completed it in five years it would have been published long ago. That said, it’s a much better book for having taken so long. You learn a lot during a 20-year process.
AGO: What is the
inspiration for the contrasting personalities of the characters Abe and Simon?
Seth: Abe and Simon are two sides of me. They’re an extreme expression of my two sides as an extrovert who spends a tremendous amount of his time alone. I was most interested in setting up a narrative where you get to know each character separately and then finally bringing them together in conflict.
AGO: What advice would
you give to someone interested in telling stories through comics?
Seth: Don’t worry about how well you can draw and certainly don’t worry about whether you know enough about the medium to use it properly. Just dive in.
AGO: Do you have a favourite classic cartoon?
Seth: Well, yes, Peanuts would be the big one. It’s probably the first comic strip I deeply loved. That said I am also a big fan of Andy Capp.
The Clyde Fans book launch is taking place at the AGO on May 8. Tickets are available online now.
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