Asterios Polyp

I first heard of David Mazzucchelli from my painting and drawing professor at RISD, David Frazer. Frazer had Mazzucchelli as a student at RISD years ago, and he pulled me aside one day to show me his work. Frazer lent me his copies of Rubber Blanket for a week, and I pored over them, thoroughly studying every aspect of the anthology. Rubber Blanket was Mazzucchelli’s first foray into independent comics, a self-published anthology that resulted in three issues.

Rubber Blanket ultimately led me on a path back to comics and creating comics – I was an avid collector as a kid, but I did not have that much interest or experience with independent work until then. I took Mazzucchelli’s RISD class my junior year (It was competitive – I had to draw straws to get in since I was a Printmaking Major, not Illustration). It was no surprise that his class was amazing and life-changing.

So I was more than excited when Mazzucchelli’s graphic novel, Asterios Polyp, came out earlier this month. The book is amazing. It is, as New York Magazine raved, “a cartoonist’s cartoonist’s masterpiece.” It plays with form, with color, with the telling of the story. It is a story that can only be told through the medium of the graphic novel, and no other way.  In the most general sense, the plot follows the main character Asterios through a reflection on his life, past and present, and the characters within it. It takes time to read, and I recommend reading it multiple times. Study each panel and each spread. Then study the story as a whole. Everything that is depicted is done so with a thought-out purpose. I don’t want to say too much or spoil anything, but one of my favorite details: every character “speaks” with a different hand-lettered font and balloon shape. Asterios Polyp is easily one of the best graphic novels of our time.

I am not the best writer or reviewer, so once you have read the book and re-read the book, be sure to check out Scott McCloud’s analysis here.

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