Fictional Father

Drawn & Quarterly. May 2021. 212p. ISBN 9781770464636. pap. $24.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
“Do we always become the thing we hate most,” Caleb Wyatt wonders, “or do we preemptively hate that trait because we sense it in ourselves?” He’s thinking about his father, Jimmi, the famous creator of a syndicated comic strip beloved for its tender depiction of paternal love. Despite his worldwide reputation as “Everybody’s dad,” Jimmi is actually a cold, casually cruel, self-absorbed, alcohol-addicted father. After spending his youth rebelling, middle age finds Caleb a struggling artist who’s recovering from addiction and still dependent upon his father’s vast fortune for survival. When a disastrous gallery showing of Caleb’s latest abstract paintings emphasizes how totally his life has been lived under Jimmi’s shadow, Caleb boils over with rage and resentment that threatens his sobriety and alienates his boyfriend. Then Jimmi dies unexpectedly, leaving behind a will which stipulates that Caleb assume authorship of his comic strip. Caleb’s shock soon turns to curiosity and leads him to explore his father’s work and legacy, as well as the roots of his own desire to be an artist.
VERDICT Ollmann (The Abominable Mr. Seabrook) explores dysfunctional family dynamics and the sometimes complex motivations behind artistic expression with incredible empathy. An absorbing, enthralling work.
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