I just finished rereading the graphic 475 page graphic novel “Clyde Fans” by the one named cartoonist Seth. It was back in 1997 that I read the first chapter of “Clyde Fans” in issue #10 Seth’s “Published Three Times a Year” comic book that was called “Palookaville.” At that time I never dreamed the story wouldn’t be finished until 2017 in issue #23 (they did not get out three issues a year). According to the author’s notes in the back of this book Seth never dreamed it would take him that long either.

It took until 2019 for the book’s publisher, Drawn & Quarterly, to get the complete “Clyde Fans” out in a single volume. A thick hardcover volume that comes in a slipcase. Despite this being one of my favorite comics of all time I didn’t buy the collected edition when it came out. Instead I took it out of the library to read. And read it then I did.

Now it’s almost two years later and I finally decided to get that volume. One of the things that made me wait so long was that I hated the die cut cover book design. There is a rectangle cut out of the center of the cover (after you take it out of its slipcover) designed to mimic a window. It looks nice enough but also makes it harder to hold the book and read it. My fingers go right through the window as I try to read. It’s annoying. But it looked like the hardcover was going out of print so I thought I’d finally buy a copy for myself.

“Clyde Fans” is one of my favorite comics but it’s not for everyone. It’s a comic that’s about life, loss, introspection, nostalgia, time, and place. And that’s among other things. If you read comics for escapist adventure this one might not be for you. But if, like me, you like the contemplation of existence and whether life has a point or not then this one might be for you.

Seth is one of my favorite cartoonists. I like his drawing a lot and I like the way he tells a story. His drawing style is stripped down and simple but in the kind of way that takes a lot of work. I know he must spend a bit of time searching for just the right line because he often manages to find it. That doesn’t happen by accident. His compositions always work and he picks and choses his panel layouts in both straight-forward and imaginative ways. Since it took him 20 years to complete his drawing style changes over the years but not so much that it doesn’t fit together well.

“Clyde Fans” is the story of two brothers. Abe and Simon. At first it seems to only be about one brother as he dominated the story and storytelling in the first part of the book but then the second brother enters the picture and we learn about him. Clyde Fans is the name of the Canadian business that was started by the father of the brothers in which they both worked at most of their lives.

They story takes place mostly in three eras. It starts in 1997 (when Seth started working on the book) with Abe being retired and telling us about his life as a salesman and businessman running Clyde Fans. He has a realist’s view of life and can see where he failed and would have been better off if he made different choices but he knows it’s pointless to worry about such things now. He gives us his wisdom and tries to be helpful as he tells his story.

The second bit of the story takes place in 1957 during “The Sales Trip.” This is when the fan business is at its height and the younger brother, Simon, decides to throw himself 100% into the family business and make a go of it. Abe sets up the trip for Simon but he doesn’t have much faith in its success. The rest of this major part of the story is all about Simon. His heart was never really in the trip in the first place and we see and contemplate his struggles with him as he fails just like he and his brother expected him to. Yes, even though Simon insisted he should take this big sales trip to really learn the business he never thought he had any chance of succeeding.

The third part of the book takes place in 1966 and also features Simon living with their deteriorating mother in the apartments above the Clyde Fans store. The business is starting to go downhill on them and Simon has been a failure since the big sales trip. He never went out on one again and has been doing his best working in the office since then. He contemplates his life with his mother and why he never seems to want to leave to comfort of the building. It’s the only place that seems real to him.

In the fourth part of the book we go to 1975 and the final days of the business. It’s mostly about Abe, Simon, their relationship, and their relationship with their parents. Their father is mostly defined by his absence as he ran out on them after getting the business up and running back in the early 1950s. No one knows what ever happened to him. Abe must have been about 25 and Simon about 20 when their father took off. It was, of course, a defining moment in their lives. Both brothers spend a lot of time alone thinking about their lives rather than talking with each other.

In the last part of the book we get Abe trying to connect with a woman from his past but not succeeding at it and they he writes it off. He’s not even sure why he tried to. We then go back to the big sales trip with Simon and visit a dreamlike state that he got caught up in. Simon ends up contemplating the fates of a lot of the people in the town that he’s in and that gets him to think about his own fate. That’s kind of what this book is all about. The fate of two brothers. Was it fate or was it their choices?

Overall this book really resonates with me. It asks big questions about life and our place in it. It doesn’t have any answers for us but there are no answers anyway. Only decisions and choices. A lot of the story is about examining our choices and how they make us end up where we end up. Or how sometimes we don’t even have a choice. Circumstance might choose for us. If that’s the sort of thing that sounds interesting to you then give “Clyde Fans” a read.