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Dealing with life crises in comic form

by The Concordian March 22, 2011
Dealing with life crises in comic form

Sometimes, even serious life changes can be made funny. Graphic novel enthusiasts can experience twice the fun and twice the life experience with the double launch of Pascal Girard’s Reunion and Joe Ollmann’s Mid-Life at Drawn and Quarterly next week.

Girard and Ollmann are presenting the D&Q double launch as part of their small North American tour. Both books are semi-autobiographical and deal with similar themes, but Ollmann stresses that each of their stories come from different places in life. “Pascal is young and messed up and I’m old and messed up,” said Ollmann. “It made sense to put us on the road together.”

Ollmann promises impressive presentations by himself and Girard with talks about truth versus fiction in their respective books. “We are frantically scrambling to prepare multimedia extravaganzas to amuse and titillate the masses who show up,” said the Mid-Life author.

Ollmann and Girard are both Montreal-based cartoonists. “I’ve only known Pascal a short time,” said Ollmann. “But I knew I would love that guy the moment I read his book, Nicolas.”

Nicolas was Girard’s first graphic novel to be translated from French to English and tackles the different aspects of mourning.

Reunion, Girard’s latest book, deals with the anticipation surrounding a high school reunion and is highly inspired by Girard’s own experience. The reader follows Pascal in his quest to lose 50 pounds in an attempt to impress his high school crush Lucie. The hero also cherishes the dream to be part of the “winner” group at the reunion, but is afraid that because of his weight, he might end up being in the “loser” gang. However, the more he talks with his former classmates, the more Pascal’s fantasies about them are shattered.

Ollmann’s Mid-Life tells the story of a 40-year-old man who has recently had a child from his second marriage with a much younger woman. John Olsen, Ollmann’s alter ego in the book, already has two adult daughters. While taking care of his newborn, Olsen falls for a children’s performer he sees singing in one of his son’s DVDs. He is going through a midlife crisis, which makes him bitter and angry at the world.

“It’s also largely about a guy realizing that his bourgeoisie whining is tiresome and that he’s actually incredibly lucky and should be immensely grateful, which he does realize eventually,” explained Ollmann.

Olsen is Ollmann, “except for the fictional affair business,” as mentioned by the author. The inspiration for Mid-Life came from Ollmann’s own personal experience with midlife crisis. “Getting old is a big mental adjustment,” stated Ollman. “But accepting the inevitable is so much more dignified than the leather pants and sports car path.”

Mid-Life is not just an amusing novel; it deals with universal themes that even students can relate to, not just middle-aged men. “I think it’s a fairly well-realized portrait of a bunch of people going through some serious changes in their lives and how they react to them,” said Ollmann.

The double launch for Reunion and Mid-Life will be held on March 23 at Drawn and Quarterly, 211 Bernard West.

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