I’m a cartoonist and teacher best known for my playful experiments with comics form, a practice that lead Ed Park of The New York Times to dub me “the stuntman-philosopher of American comics.”
The book that put me on the map (and on the path to that sobriquet) is 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (Penguin), a comics adaptation of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. Thanks to that project I was made the U.S. Correspondent of Oubapo, Workshop for Potential Comics, and later a French knight in the Order of Arts and Letters. In addition to my personal work I have written two textbooks with my wife, Jessica Abel, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics, (First Second). We were also series editors of The Best American Comics (Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt) for six years.
I speak French and Spanish fluently (and muddle my way through a few other languages). This interest in foreign languages has allowed me to travel and meet artists outside the English-speaking scene. It has also lead to an important sideline to my personal work as a translator from French and Spanish to English. My translation from the French of Aristophane’s The Zabîme Sisters (First Second) was a YALSA book of the year in 2011. I have translated several short stories and excerpts of longer works for Words Without Borders and other venues. My translation of Edmond Baudoin’s Piero was published by New York Review Comics in the fall of 2018, followed by Blutch’s Mitchum in 2020.
I was born in New York City and lived in Paris for five years when I was young (perhaps it’s the root of my interest in France and in foreign language and culture generally). I’ve lived in Michigan, Texas, Mexico City and Brooklyn, picking up friends, recipes, languages and influences along the way. From 2012 to 2016 I did an extended residency at La Maison des auteurs in Angoulême, France. Since the end of 2016 I’ve been living in Philadelphia where I’m working as a part-time cartoonist and full-time dad. My new book, Ex Libris, came out to from Uncivilized Books to rave reviews at the end of 2021.