Comics

Purveyors of Electric Fans

Michael Hayward

Clyde Fans (Drawn & Quarterly), a graphic novel from Canadian writer and graphic artist Seth, tells the story of two brothers, Abe and Simon Matchcard, who have inherited a business founded by their father, Clyde: a storefront which began selling oscillating fans on Toronto’s Queen Street West in 1939. The story opens in 1997, and Clyde Fans has fallen on hard times, a victim of technological change: in the era of air-conditioning, oscillating fans are no longer in demand. The Queen Street store has closed, and Abe, the elder brother, lives alone above the shop, wandering among the bric-a-brac and memorabilia of a lifetime, talking to himself. Abe is the classic salesman; in his eyes the only true mark of success is one’s ability to close a sale. His younger brother Simon, therefore, has been a source of disappointment. Simon is a dreamer, a collector of novelty postcards; he is completely unsuited to a life in sales. Reading Clyde Fans, I became completely absorbed by the interior lives of these two characters—their thoughts and feelings, their dreams—and by the complexities of their relationships. What more could one want from a novel, graphic or otherwise, than to look up from the page and find that time has passed, and that you’ve been transported? Seth is a master of this hybrid form, blending the visual and the literary arts, and using techniques borrowed from cinema: close-ups, dream sequences, varying camera angles, and the cut to black. Seth’s Clyde Fans is a powerful demonstration (to anyone still in doubt) of the full potential of the graphic novel form.

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