This book is a fascinating exploration of the interaction of format and content, and anyone interested in the comic medium should own a copy. —Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (2005) is a seriously playful exploration of the possibilities and potential of comics and storytelling. It was inspired by the French author Raymond Queneau’s 1947 book Exercises in Style (Fr Eng), itself inspired by Bach’s Art of the Fugue. The book is based on a simple one-page anecdote which I re-draw and re-tell 99 times in different genres and drawing styles, in the form of homages and parodies, and in formal experiments that test the boundaries of the medium of comics.
99X (my short-hand for it and also my recommended #hashtag) has been published to great critical acclaim and modest commercial success in the UK (Jonathan Cape), France (L’Association), Spain (Sins Entido), Italy (Black Velvet, out of print), Belgium (Strip Turnhout), and Japan (Kokusho Kankokai) . You can also read it online in German or Hungarian. I am always interested in new foreign editions so if you are a translator, editor, publisher, or superfan, please get in touch as I control the rights.
Explore 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style
It’s still very fresh, and it still seems boundless in all the variations you present. I believe it’s one of the great achievements of contemporary comic art.—David Bordwell, Film Art (from personal correspondence, used with permission)
Read excerpts from the book here.
In 1998, I sent an invitation out to a group of cartoonist friends asking them to create their own one-page comic based on a short text description of the 99X scenario. It is with pleasure and gratitude that I offer you this international gallery of guest exercises in style.
99X in the classroom
99X is an outstanding resource for teaching about comics, literary point of view, visual rhetoric, or storytelling. I teach workshops at all different levels and I’m particularly interested in doing more teacher training workshops on how to use the principles of my book as tools for learning.
It’s a terrific way to think about comics-making from practice-based means. —Nick Sousanis, PhD, author of Unflattening
A good starting point is my blog post about using 99X in the classroom.
Ce livre est génial, il permet de révéler l’ampleur des possibilités de la Bande Dessinée à travers 99 exercices de style. Je m’en sers dans les cours de BD que je réalise à la MJC de Rodez pour expliquer la nécessité de savoir faire des choix avant de se concentrer sur la technique.—Ludovic Piquemal (France)
99X made me aware of Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature), the experimental literary group Queneau co-founded, and Oubapo (Workshop for Potential Comics) and eventually it made them aware of me. I am now a member of Oubapo and friendly with Oulipo, having been a guest at one of their famous monthly dinners in 2009. Learn more about all that on my Oubapo page.
Here are some reviews and interviews in various languages about 99X and related topics:
A review in the Guardian from 2006.
A fascinating analysis of and a treatise, of sorts, on language in comics. —Steven Heller, designer and author
An interview with Steven Heller from 2011.
Balances postmodern irony with genuine invention and amusement. — The Guardian
A thoughtful review of the book by Johanna Draper Carlson looking at its creative ambitions as well as its practical applications.
A sensitive essay (en français) written by my friend Yann Stevnen to accompany a small exhibit he curated in Douai, France in 2015.
a video review in Flemish (2008). Starts around 4:00.
An interview en español in El País on the occasion of the 2013 reprint of the Spanish edition, 99 Ejercicios de estilo (Sins Entido)