cover image Fictional Father

Fictional Father

Joe Ollmann. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 trade paper (212p) ISBN 978-1-77046-463-6

Ollmann’s funny, faux-meta memoir follows Caleb Wyatt, the angst-ridden son of Jimmi Wyatt, a cartoonist whose treacly daily strip, Sonny Side Up, earned him the nickname “Everybody’s Dad.” But Jimmi’s actually an egomaniac with little time for his wife and son. By middle age, Cal is a recovering alcoholic struggling to launch his own art career. When Jimmi dies and bequeaths his strip to his son, Cal considers the proposition, to the surprise of his father’s staff—who reveal that assistants have drawn it for years—and Cal’s boyfriend, James, a Black flight attendant who’s had it with Cal’s spoiled-rich-kid ways. Cal hires a salty, sober editor-for-hire, whom he meets at a 12-step program, and she offers, “Do you think—in the present climate—that anyone wants to listen to a rich, old white man complaining about an older, richer white man?... Of course they do!” Cal takes this tough-love kick in the pants and “finds his voice.” Ollmann’s illustrations are ugly-charming, wrinkled and shadowed, but tinted in bright colors (with yellowed “vintage” cartoons a particular visual joy). The framing device, in which Ollmann wrestles with a story that has been told before—Cal’s life is reminiscent of the real Dennis the Menace—requires acrobatic parsing. The reward is a complex look at an artist’s evolving relationship to the past. (May)