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CREATOR PROFILE:

SETH

Biography:

Seth (1962- ) is the pseudonym of Gregory Gallant, a Canadian obsessed with the past, not only his own childhood memories but also the early 20th century. “The bits and pieces of that time still lingering around today seem like remnants of some ghost world - a vanished world.” For a man haunted by the past it is ironic that his first comic work was as artist on the hi-tech 1980’s series, Mr X, where a futuristic city of dreams becomes a city of nightmares. Recognizing the limitations of collaborating with other writers, he has been writing and drawing his own comic book series Palooka-Ville since 1991, as well as occasional contributions to the anthology magazine Drawn & Quarterly. He fits his comic work around his career in illustration, his work having appeared in numerous publications such as The Wall St Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post. One particular high-profile illustration assignment was the artwork for Aimee Mann’s Lost In Space CD released in 2002 which included 4 pages of comics and 16 illustrations - worth the cost of the CD alone even if you don’t like the music. Aimee herself described the artwork as having the same tinge of melancholy as her song writing style. Seth lives in Guelph, Ontario with his wife, Tania, five cats, and a huge collection of vintage records, comic books, and 20th Century Canadiana.

Essential Reading:


George Sprott 1894-1975
Drawn & Quarterly, 2009

Paul Gravett says:
What’s the colour of nostalgia? Perhaps it’s sepia, which tinges many of the flashback panels in Seth’s latest “picture novella”. In the opening pages, one spread presents George Sprott’s name in monumental capital letters atop two imposing buildings; another spread shows an isolated iceberg. Both images represent the subject of Seth’s fictional local celebrity, an Arctic adventurer and later host of “Northern Hi-Lights” from Canada’s Golden Age of Television. Sprott’s public persona is merely the once visible tip, while beneath lurk unfathomed layers of secrets. As his former TV crony and Friday night horror host “Sir Grisly Gruesome” remarks, “Sometimes you’ll be surprised if you take a closer look at a fellow.” We gradually piece together Sprott’s life-story from dense single-page patchworks - contradictory interviews, photos and ephemera, brief histories of local landmarks, Sprott’s own curt musings on life, and his final days and hours counting down to his fatal heart attack, related by a far-from-reliable narrator. Seth fleshes out these twenty-three strips, previously serialised in the New York Times Magazine, with new spread illustrations, three-page un-narrated vignettes from the past, cardboard models of lost buildings, and a poignant cumulative dream sequence. This is Seth at his most melancholic yet playful, weaving a small masterpiece of “Canadiana” that meditates on how little we can know about anyone else, and how much we can regret or forget.



It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken
Drawn & Quarterly, 1996

From the pages of Palooka-Ville, Seth recounts his search for meaning in the life and work of Kalo, a forgotten cartoonist from The New Yorker in the 1940’s. His obsessive task takes him through stacks of crumbling magazines in the hope of finding, and ultimately holding onto, a piece of the vanished past. Each scene is interspersed with haunting images of remote forests, old buildings, and distant trains to convey different feelings of mood and atmosphere.

Raymond Briggs says:
Extraordinary and original.

Paul Gravett says:
There is a gentle, exquisite sadness to Seth’s haunting images of old buildings, winter woodlands and passing trains, and in his musings on the meaning that remains from a vanished life.



Wimbledon Green
Drawn & Quarterly, 2006

Seth says:
Wimbledon Green is a funny little man who arrived unannounced in my sketchbook last year while thinking about the obsessive behaviour of collectors. Before I knew it he had taken on a life of his own and in a short six month period a whole book had been written about him: Wimbledon Green: The Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World. He is an odd fellow - a bit of a mystery man actually… you will be introduced to Mr. Green and some of his comic-book collector rivals. Theirs is a petty little world. I know it well, being a comic book collector myself.



Bannock, Beans & Black Tea
Drawn & Quarterly, 2004

An illustrated memoir recounting one boy’s experiences of deprivation and poverty growing up in a rural farming village during the Great Depression. It reveals the sad reality of a boy growing up in brutal social and economic conditions. The short stories are written by John Gallant and illustrated by his son, Seth.

Seth says:
He’s not a writer, but he is a wonderful storyteller. Over the last decade or so, I’ve managed to get him to write down all the stories he’s told me over my life, and I have been editing them into a book… They have a wonderful tone - both innocent and bitter at the same time. I’ve poured a lot of effort into making it a beautifully designed monument to his life.



Vernacular Drawings
Drawn & Quarterly, 2001

A collection of 200 drawings from Seth’s sketchbook including factory workers, show girls, jazz artists, businessmen, comic book adventurers, all somehow harking back to the vanished world of the early 20th century.

Seth says:
The the closest I come to ‘real drawing’ though, is in these sketchbooks. This is also the closest I come to recapturing the joy of drawing I felt as a child and a teenager. I work as a commercial illustrator and that fills up much of my day to day existence. Rendering you one-hundredth business-man-at-the-computer can really take the pleasure out of drawing. Even working on my comic-book is not entirely a joyful experience - it’s hard work. In the sketchbooks I genuinely enjoy the simple act of making a picture for myself.

Chris Ware says:
Open it up and you’ll see why Seth is one of the greatest cartoonists working today.

 

Bibliography:

Books:
Palooka-Ville Vol 20 (2010)
George Sprott 1894-1975 (2009)
Forty Cartoon Books Of Interest (2006)
Wimbledon Green (2006)
Bannock, Beans & Black Tea (2004)
Clyde Fans: Book 1 (2004)
Vernacular Drawings (2001)
It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken (1996)

Periodicals:
Palooka-Ville #1-19 (1991-2008)
Mr X #6-13 (1985-1988)

CD Covers:
Lost In Space by Aimee Mann

Interviews:
The Comics Journal #193

Links:

Seth Online:
The Walrus: The Quiet Art Of Cartooning

Online Resources:
Paul Gravett’s Articles

Publisher:
Drawn & Quarterly