Seth is the pen name of the Canadian cartoonist Gregory Gallant, and I think he’s a genius ... nothing could have prepared me for Clyde Fans ... There is a kind of magic in this one. For a long time – it runs to almost 500 pages – you think you’re reading the story of two elderly brothers. It’s a terribly sad story, but it also feels quite small and clenched and familiar. Only when you finally put it down, do you realise you were utterly wrong. Out of the particular springs the universal. What Seth has given us is nothing short of the story of mid-20th century capitalism: of all that it promised, and all that it failed to deliver ... Seth draws in shades of blue and black – the colours of melancholy, and of (to me) smoky jazz – and he pays special attention to things like advertising hoardings, rotary telephones and greasy diners. The look of Clyde Fans like all his books, is nostalgic without being sentimental. But it’s his extraordinary empathy that marks this one out: the way he depicts the queasy churn of his characters’ emotional lives; their delusions and missteps and repressed rage ... It opens with an interior monologue that runs to almost 100 pages, something that should be practically illegal in a comic, but which, in his hands, makes you feel as if you’re sitting in a theatre, watching some brilliant actor perform Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams. Truly, it’s a masterpiece.
Clyde Fans, is a brilliant trip that also plays tricks on you, slowing down, speeding up, going backward, creating endless loops ... Seth draws time out, both literally and metaphorically. It took him over 20 years to finish this book ... His drawing style changed over those years. It’s as if Clyde Fans itself is a monument to passing time ...Open Clyde Fans and let Seth take you into his time machine. The technology is relatively simple: cardboard, binding, glue, thread, paper and ink, words and pictures. Most of the drawings are in black and blue, as if the entire novel were composed of bruises. Perhaps we’re being reminded that the past can be a painful place to visit. There’s no room for nostalgia in Seth’s vision. The past is as sharp and painful as the present. In fact, the past is the present, conjured in words and pictures, existing in the spaces between what’s said and unsaid, what’s seen and unseen. It’s in these spaces where Seth knows alchemical reactions occur. In the end, as we close the pages on Simon and Abe and step back into our own lives, we might feel — even for just a moment — that we finally know what time looks like.
[Seth] calls it 'the biggest book I will ever make'. This collected edition pulls it all together for the first time. It is a deeply realised labour of love ... Clyde Fans is packed with affectionate detail: models of fans, contemporary adverts, wonderfully realised street scenes and re-creations of the hokey 20s postcards that Simon collects ... The result is a sad symphony in blue and grey, drawn in a style that harks back to postwar newspaper strips. Thick lines form expressive faces and art deco facades, and panels linger on shadows, empty streets and daily rituals, lending the graphic novel a gentle but compelling rhythm ... This is a book about nostalgia and regret, but it finds magic in all manner of places ... This artful and heartfelt book balances rosiness and realism, making precious fiction from the stuff of ordinary lives.
I read the entire thing in one sitting ... And let me just tell you, it’s a masterpiece beyond words ... Seth creates a lived-in world which feels real. What he does with his work is he focuses on the details. He may tell us the complete story of a toy that’s on a shelf for instance and how it got there. He might focus on the different parts of a made up city. It all lends itself to the narrative and is intertwined in the story in a brilliant way ...This book meant a lot to me personally. I started reading this book before I had met my wife and before I had a family. To be able to see this work to fruition and to read the whole story finally? That’s amazing. It’s a very personal story that Seth tells and to me I related to every panel and every line. This book proves why Seth’s work is up there with such comic book luminaries as Charles Burns or Chris Ware. I waited a long time to read it in full. And you know what? It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and it was completely worth the wait.
The cartoonist Seth appreciates the allure and poignancy of his country’s past and its citizens’ vanished lives through what is left behind, often blurring true historical contexts with persuasively plausible nostalgia for 'Canadiana' ... Clyde Fans is Seth’s magnum opus ... Every element is thoughtfully considered, from the introductory suite of foreshadowing images ... The visual nature of comics makes them less linear than pure prose and permits a more exploratory and navigable experience of attentive looking as well as reading, to connect the cues and clues woven throughout.
Clyde Fans tells two stories simultaneously: it's a story of capitalism in the 20th century and a story about the complicated and bristly relationship between two brothers. They are intertwined seamlessly in ways that directly affect and inform one another, while also seeming quite separate at other times. It's one of Seth's gifts (and a gift of the medium) that he's able to immerse the reader so completely in the details of the story such that it feels as full and accomplished in any one of its five parts as it does as a completed story ... There is little in Seth's work that does not evoke feeling. Oftentimes that feeling is melancholic or bittersweet, but it can also inspire joy and tenderness. That there's so much nostalgia present shouldn't be mistaken for an absolute yearning for the past; rather, as an understanding of its importance and the weight it presses upon the lives of the Matchcard brothers ... Clyde Fans achieves in not only telling a story rife with poignant and memorable moments, but it also conveys with sophistication a depth of feeling. There is sentimentality without cloying emotion, just as there are bitter shame and remorse without devolving into a depressive tome. It is Seth's ability to balance the beautifully minimal yet precise grays and blues of his art with the interior and exterior lives of his characters that makes them so unforgettable.
...years and years of effort have now been gathered together into one chunky, beautifully designed volume weighing in at the best part of 500 pages ... it’s a typically Sethian universe that’s conjured up in these pages: a world of big cars, old buildings, salesmen doing cold calls, Bakelite phones and a sense of quiet desperation ... This is a story that plays with nostalgia – the way things once looked and felt – but also investigates the very idea of it ... You may find that authorial voice too insistent; it’s a book of monologues for the most part after all. But that’s a reflection of the strength of Seth’s imagining. This is his world we have entered. Leave your own at home. And in the end, once you have slowed down to the book’s pace, what is thrilling is the silence, the space, the moments of peace. We can’t live there. That’s the shame of it, for Seth as much as anyone, I imagine. But we can linger.
...a poignant meditation on memory and family over 20 years in the making ... Clyde Fans is fixated on the characters’ internal lives, using copious narration to get into the brothers’ heads and explore their anxieties and obsessions. With a pale monochromatic coloring ...and artwork that falls on set panel grids...it has a uniform aesthetic and a tightly controlled pace that changes to illuminate mental shifts ... The emotions in Clyde Fans mostly fall on the downer side of the spectrum ... Clyde Fans acknowledges the ways that white people feed a system that keeps marginalized communities down and prevents society from making positive changes for all.
Readers will be dazzled by this impressive graphic novel, 20 years in the making, of the Matchcard brothers and the business that bound them together ... This is an operatic story, as rich in intimacy as it is breathtaking in scope. Splendor and tragedy lurk in the visual details ... Seth...employs 1950s-style cartooning, with its pools of black and clean lines, to undercut even the most pleasant scenes with cool blue tones and deep-set facial features. There are, perhaps, moments of overindulgence—this is a book a little too given to monologues—but they are dwarfed by the immensity of Seth’s achievement. This isn’t just a story, or even, as it terms itself, a 'picture novel'—it is a brilliant journey into the heart of midcentury darkness
The reviewer’s folly in trying to capture what Seth’s Clyde Fans is about: it’s about what cannot be captured ... In keeping with much of Seth’s work, everything in this graphic novel reeks of the dull pain and sharp pleasures of nostalgia ... If you’re familiar with Seth’s work, one fascination of the book is a subtle shift in his drawing style over the twenty-five years of the book’s creation that to me is reminiscent of one of his influences, Charles Schulz, towards a more iconic sureness of line and impressionistic rendering and framing ... Along with those art shifts, the narrative style also seems to age with Seth, as poetic longing and rhythmic rumination marks the movement from an Abe-framed view of the world to a Simon-sounding reverie ... What the complete Clyde Fans gives us is the prospect of the narrative Seth has always meant to tell, through the portions we saw in drips and drabs in Seth’s Palookaville but revised substantially and made into the whole that is closer to Seth’s intent ... To me, it’s an open question whether Seth’s theme of restless longing, that obsessive itch of nostalgia and its lifetime fallout, means the same thing to a comics readership of 2019 as it did to one of 1997. Seth seems to know this, too.
How to approach a book with so much flop sweat swirling around it? I must first make it clear that I treat this book coarsely because I take it seriously. It is not the work of a beginner, but of a particular kind of cartooning master. Seth's skill and talent is not up for debate any longer ... Clyde Fans states that it is not about nostalgia, not about sentiment. This is a book about nothing less thanreality itself ... Clyde Fans is an expression of Seth's mind ... As seen with Simon's response to his mothers knickknacks or Abe's attitude to his employee's, Clyde Fans agrees with, perhaps unawarely, Simon's narrowness. The book, and Seth's art, is closed off from the world, but not gleefully and proudly. Rather, it is on the defense. And the chosen form of this defense operates with the books theme as its primary cudgel: mental isolation, imbedding within its pages bafflement towards any possible attack. I look forward to the next book. There, I hope to see Seth's conviction and skill crystalized into the 'beyond reality' metaphysical fantasy epic he sketches out here.
Finally completed, the finished work is a quietly tragic family saga told with a reflective deliberation befitting its two-decade gestation ... Seth’s masterly two-color graphics, with their thick, expressive brushstrokes, lovingly evoke the brothers’ bygone milieu. Seth’s masterwork is an eloquent summation of his career-long themes: stultifying nostalgia for an irretrievable past and an equally crippling alienation that leads to tragic isolation.