Saturday, August 10, 2013


Like We Can Fix It!, this book is also combines elements of fiction and autobiography. It stars Joe Ollmann, an art director and cartoonist who has published two prior books, Chewing on Tinfoil and This Will All End in Tears. He has also done a short series of autobiographical comics posted at The Comics Journal. He has a blog where he posts various drawings and news, and he also has a site for his new book Science Fiction. He speaks extensively about Mid-Life and his career in these interviews, one with the Comics Reporter, the other at Robot 6.

The realistic bits in this book are that Joe has two adult-age daughters and a young son from a second marriage to a younger woman. Also, he worked as an art director for a magazine for a number of years. The rest of the bits are fictional flights of fancy or grotesque caricature. Consider how the author appears in a photo on the book jacket

compared to how he depicts himself in the book's only splash page illustration
Hey ladies!
The fictional version of younger Joe is caustic, full of vinegar

And age has mellowed him some

But still, he finds himself missing something in his life. That something seems to appear in the form of Sherry Smalls, a singer/children's performer who acts as the book's second narrator.

Sherry has her own set of problems. They include:
a troubled ex-boyfriend/bandmate who threatens her record deal,
a ticking biological clock,
and some boundary issues, particularly when it comes to older men.
When Joe hears Sherry's music on a promo CD, he is enchanted and becomes obsessed with her, looking up her information and past works. Then an opportunity to meet her arises and he seizes it, and of course sparks fly between these two troubled souls. Joe misrepresents himself to Sherry, and he is wracked with guilt on the front end of his "will he"/"won't he" dilemma

I found Mid-Life to be full of great observational humor, well defined characters and situations, and also grotesquely wonderful and visceral art. Ollmann's cartooning captures very real human thoughts and emotions, and even when things veer close to stereotypes and stock scenes they retain their own unique qualities. I very much enjoyed seeing the struggles and experiences of these characters, because the narratives and characterizations were so compellingly presented.

Reviews I have read of this book have been very positive. J. Caleb Mozzocco called it a "great" graphic novel, "deserving of that often meaningless and misapplied term." The Comic Journal's Tom De Haven wrote that "Ollmann has made a huge leap forward as a stylist and as a storyteller," and added that "Mid-Life is a major and wonderful piece of work." Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and concluded, "Readers of any age who pick up this gem will find it impossible to put down."

Mid-Life is published by Drawn & Quarterly, and they provide a preview here

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