The Millions

Always Make it Personal: The Millions Interviews Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine was a teenager when his self-published comic Optic Nerve first received attention, and in the years since he’s carved out a career as an illustrator, occasional New Yorker cover artist, and one of the great cartoonists of his generation. So much of his work revolves around silence, unexpected encounters, characters grappling with time and change. Tomine has made short nonfiction projects before, but his new book The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, which is designed to look like a journal, with pages in a simple grid layout, is as revelatory and complex as anything he’s ever made.

The book consists primarily of awkward moments, slights, humiliations, uncomfortable scenes that have stayed with him over the years. At the same time, Tomine drops the reader into each scene, jumping ahead months or years, his circumstances changing sometimes radically with few clues as to the details. The book, like in all his work, focuses on small moments and interactions that so often define our lives, and we see in these pages how Tomine thinks about and sees the world. It’s a moving portrait of the passage of time, the struggles of the artistic life, and the joys of fatherhood.

The Millions: You’ve made nonfiction comics before, but this is a very different kind of book for you. What made you interested in making something so different?

Adrian Tomine: For that very reason. Since around the time of my book I started trying to make each subsequent book in response to the previous one. Not wanting to repeat myself, at least in terms of form or tone. I felt like after finishing which was fiction, full color, short stories—this seemed like the natural alternative to that.

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