Staff Picks (January): Clyde Fans GN
Jan 06, 2019
Clyde Fans is the 20 year long creative pursuit of singularly named Canadian cartoonist and illustrator, Seth, spurred on after peering into the storefront of a long defunct business specializing in oscillating fans. If you said you were skeptical of that premise for this tome of a book, I would understand the hesitation. A story about electric fan salesmen isn’t exactly a standard narrative hook, but the overarching themes of failure and family permeate every interaction of the characters and their environment.
The plot follows the Matchcard brothers, Abe & Simon, mostly through their middle aged and elderly lives, journeying younger only to contextualize their actions as older men. Much of the story is told directly by the two, either through literary aside by Abe (who always speaks his thoughts out loud to the reader), or through free floating text coming from Simon’s head. It’s a wonderfully simple reflection of their own individual traits and very quickly highlights how completely opposite they are as people. Both men are deeply flawed, and both men approach life in opposing ways, but neither ever seems to achieve a sense of lasting happiness. The writing is very strong in that regard. There’s never any explosive conflict or strong antagonist, just an oppressively maudlin atmosphere that contributes to a cold sense of isolation for each brother, regardless of whether they’re alone or not. In fact, the only time that tone lets up in my opinion is the last sequence we see of them together. A sequence where they’re arguing, but still communicating honestly for the first and last time in the comic.
When I say that the tone feels cold, I mean visually as well. The entire story has a black, white, and blue limited color palette that really contributes to the sad, aged feeling of it all. I don’t know that it would ever have cultivated the same melancholia without that element. It matches the art capably and the designs overall really evoke the era of the 50-60s that the story spends the most time in.
The book is one part Death of a Salesman, one part Collyer brothers, and all parts quiet melancholy. I don’t know that it’s for everyone, but if you find that you like a slow burn with a lot to think about or need a good comic to discuss at a book club, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
— Luke Martin
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Item Code: JAN191816
Release Date: 4/17/19