Our July 2012 banner is by Seth, the pen name for Canadian cartoonist, Gregory Gallant (1962- ).
Seth’s earliest illustration work can be seen in the Mister X series (issues 6-13), published by Vortex Comics which featured his illustrations of an art deco-styled sci-fi universe. After leaving Vortex, Seth took time to perfect his style. Influenced by the early New Yorker cartoonists like Peter Arno and Whitney Darrow, Jr., Seth’s style came to fruition, initially in the pages of local Toronto ‘zines like Trash Compactor, collections like The True North, and in the Drawn and Quarterly magazine. His serial comic, Palookaville debuted in 1991.
The first three issues of Palookaville focused on short, autobiographical stories. Issue one focused on a vignette story where Seth was mistaken for being gay and subsequently gay bashed in a Toronto subway station. Speaking of this work upon its anniversary reissue, Seth said it would likely never see print again. Issues two (1991) and three (1993) contained a short story called “Beaches,” which depicted Seth’s struggles while having an affair with his boss’ wife.
These short, straight autobiographical works changed in Palookaville issues 4-9 which were eventually collected and published as Seth’s first graphic novel, It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken. This work made #52 of The Comics Journal’s “100 Best Comics of the 20th Century” list. This quasi-autobiographical work focuses on Seth’s search for an old New Yorker cartoonist named Kalo. This cartoonist was later revealed as a hoax, making the story read more like a young artist’s search for a style and self. Barbara Postema’s “Memories that Don’t Weaken: Seth and Walter Benjamin” in volume 6, number two of the International Journal of Comic Art provides a notable reading of this work.
Issues 10-15 of Palookaville were later collected as Clyde Fans: Book One, an ongoing story about two brothers, Simon and Abraham Matchcard who experience the rise and fall of a fan manufacturing business. The story is ongoing in Palookaville, which moved from a pamphlet style comic to a hard-bound book in 2010.
Seth’s sketchbook provided material for a collection of sketches (Vernacular Drawings, 2001), a story of the world’s most famous comic book collector (Wimbledon Green, 2005), and his latest book, The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists (The GNBCC, for short) (2011) about the holdings of a fading and mysterious social club located on the streets of Dominion, a fictional city that Seth literalized in a traveling installation of model buildings.
Seth’s other works include Bannock Beans and Black Tea (2004), where his illustrations accompanied his father’s stories of growing up on Prince Edward Island. George Sprott was initially serialized in the New York Times, before being published as an expanded work in 2009. Seth also produced a mini book, Forty Cartoon Books of Interest (2006) which was packaged with Comic Art Magazine issue 8. His work appears in various collections, including Kramers Ergot 7. His book designs have graced multiple collections from the Collected Doug Wright, The Complete Peanuts, and The John Stanley Library.
Seth’s scholarship on Canadian artist Thoreau MacDonald appeared in The Devil’s Artisan #60, and his feature in The Devil’s Artisan #69 was recently excerpted in The Comics Journal. To catch a glimpse of earlier words from Seth, see this excerpt of his 1997 interview with The Comics Journal, this short video by the CBC, Seth’s brief appearance on The Anti-Gravity Room from 1997, and Nick Mount’s discussion of Good Life on Big Ideas. Seth discussed The Collected Doug Wright and George Sprott on Q-TV, and the GNBCC on CBR-Live.
Seth’s work focuses on memory and the vanishing traces of the past. As such, his work is often dismissed as nostalgic. A deeper reading shows that there are real dangers associated with nostalgia, a topic tackled by Kathleen Dunley in The Space Between: Ruins Narratives and History. Dr. Dunley has also written about Seth for The Comics Grid, including a conversation on attention, and an analysis of Palookaville 19. She facilitated the Focus on Seth panel at Wondercon 2011 where Seth spoke of comics history and the changes to Palookaville.