Eisner-winning cartoonist Asaf Hanuka chronicles his life as an artist, father, and Israeli citizen in The Realist: Last Day on Earth, the third and final collection of his acclaimed weekly autobiographical comic. Publishers Weekly praised the previous two collections as having “all of the warmth, humor, tragedy, and profundity of the best cartoonists” and The Realist as “a diverse and fascinating portrait of what life truly makes us.”
In Last Day on Earth, Hanuka expresses his interior life alongside daily experiences on the streets of Tel Aviv in richly illustrated, endlessly imaginative one-page comics. Translated from Hebrew by Yardenne Greenspan, The Realist: Last Day on Earth is published in English by Archaia, an imprint of Boom! Studios.
Hanuka was working as an editorial cartoonist and illustrator when he started drawing The Realist to fill an empty page in the back of the Israeli newspaper Calcalist. Drawing a weekly strip taught him the art and language of comics. “I found my voice, my visual language, I learned how to write stories,” he says. In The Realist, Hanuka’s head transforms into confused scribbles and a mushroom cloud to illustrate his emotions, his body unzips to reveal the child within, and he purees his brain and heart in a blender as a metaphor for his creative process.
Hanuka finds inspiration for autobiography in the “shadow,” the parts of his life that make him uncomfortable. “When I’m facing a problem I don’t know how to solve,” he says, “my first instinct is to make a nine-panel grid in my sketchbook.” He also finds humor in mundane moments, “like being in a supermarket and imagining all the potatoes have my face. I’m not sure what it means, but once that thought popped into my head I had to put it on paper.” For him, the biggest challenge of drawing an autobiographical comic has been the loss of intimacy that attends making his family life public. As his children have gotten older, he’s taken care to depict his family with sensitivity.
This installment of The Realist focuses less on Hanuka’s family life than previous volumes and more on the political turmoil around him. “Israel has changed,” he says. “The extremists became more powerful, and I felt my way of living and my values were under threat. Metaphorically speaking, I felt I was writing about what happens in the apartment while the building was burning. So I started writing about the building.”
After 12 years of drawing The Realist, Hanuka has decided to move on—to work on other comics and focus on his position as the head of visual communication at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art. He hopes that shaking things up will keep his work from getting stale. “For me,” he says, “creating these one-page stories was like doing magic tricks. I realized I need to find new tricks and work on something different.” Appropriately, for the very last Realist strip, Hanuka drew himself as a magician on a stage.
The Realist: Last Day on Earth is the third of Hanuka’s books published by Archaia, but it won’t be the last. In October, Archaia will release I’m Still Alive, a collaboration with Roberto Saviano, a journalist who has written about the Neapolitan Mafia. I’m Still Alive is the story of Saviano’s run-ins with the Mafia, from his early days in Naples to his current life under constant threat.
Saviano chose Hanuka to illustrate his life story because he wanted to incorporate the same imaginative visual metaphors that Hanuka employs in his comics. “Saviano’s story,” Hanuka says, “is an unbelievable story of courage, regret, and death… the complete opposite of mine.”
I’m Still Alive is available for preorder now, and The Realist: Last Day on Earth published on Aug. 9, 2022.