Arts preview: Cartoonist Noah Van Sciver
In despair over his failed writing career and the loss of a close friend, Fante Bukowski sets out from the cheap, dingy hotel he calls home to move somewhere where he "can breathe." But on the way to the mountains, Fante gets lost in the woods and realizes he's not an outdoorsman.
The story, essentially, ends there, the ultimate destination unknown. Though it's not explicitly clear in the graphic novella named after the fictional character, the book's author, Noah Van Sciver, said Fante's on his way to Columbus. In fact, the sequel to "Fante Bukowski" will largely be set here - a stake in the ground, of sorts, for Van Sciver.
"I have no apartment yet [in Columbus], so my main priority is to find a good place and settle in, and then establish myself in the city," Van Sciver said recently over the phone from the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, where he's been working as a Fellow for the past year. "But I'm already setting a lot of my stories [in Columbus], like, 'This is it. This is my town. I'm going to stick around.'"
One of Van Sciver's first cartoon-related acts here takes place on Tuesday, June 14 at Kafe Kerouac, where he will join another accomplished cartoonist, MariNaomi ("Turning Japanese"), for a reading.
Van Sciver is, perhaps, most known for his debut graphic novel "The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln," a nonfiction account of a 20-something Abraham Lincoln caught in the throes of depression. His most recent book, "Disquiet," is a series of short stories, many of which he's already posted on various social media channels.
But he's also equally adept at fiction, as evidenced by the aforementioned "Fante Bukowski" and the dark and emotionally moving "Saint Cole," a story about a down-and-out waiter struggling with the responsibilities adulthood has thrust upon him. Those latter two earned Van Sciver an Eisner Award nomination this year for Best Writer/Artist.
Aside from the award nominations, many consider Van Sciver one of the most acclaimed, interesting and prolific cartoonists working today, having released several books with the iconic alternative comic publisher Fantagraphics.
So, it could be argued, his arrival here portends yet even more promise for our city's still-burgeoning rep as a comics town, said Caitlin McGurk, library engagement coordinator at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.
"It marks what we hope will be a continuing migration of cartoonists to the city," McGurk said. "The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum has long been a mecca for artists the world over, and now we're seeing more and more of them recognize Columbus as an ideal location to work and live and establish roots due to its affordability and creative, collaborative and supportive spirit.
"Also, Noah is just extremely funny. Kafe Kerouac has been carrying his work for years; it already feels like he belongs here."
Prior to spending a year in Vermont, Van Sciver lived in Denver, where he largely established his rep as a cartoonist. But the city's rising cost of living and gentrification had started to wear him down. The fellowship inspired his move away from Denver, but the next step beyond that was unclear.
"I was looking for a place to go, and Caitlin McGurk was trying to convince me Columbus was a good city for creative people because the rent is still fairly cheap and there's a lot of cartooning going on there," Van Sciver said. "So it just seemed like, in a way, I'm getting in on the ground floor with something."
When we spoke recently, Van Sciver hadn't yet left Vermont for Columbus, but the Arch City has already bled into the cartoonist's life and work, whether he intended it to or not.
Just moments before our interview, Van Sciver was rereading "Bone," by Columbus resident Jeff Smith, a book he said he "grew up on." And in "Fante Bukowski," other Columbus-related references, like Bath & Body Works and R.L. Stine, pop up intermittently.
Over the years, Van Sciver's also become plenty familiar with the Billy Ireland ("I love it there; it's incredible," he said).
Most recently he visited in November, falling for the 19th-century humor magazine "Puck." But his visits can be traced back to at least 2012, when he was astonished by Winsor McCay's artwork, which he could only describe as "unbelievable." He's next looking forward to diving into Frank King's "Gasoline Alley" strips, and using the library's vast archives as inspiration.
And he's spoken to other cartoonists about Columbus, too, noting a conversation he had with "Hip-Hop Family Tree" creator Ed Piskor, who had a Graphic Novelist Residency at the Thurber House.
"Ed Piskor told me, 'Man, that shit is haunted.' If I had that residency I'd secretly have someone pick me up in the middle of the night and have somewhere else to sleep," Van Sciver said.
As it turns out, that won't be necessary - for him, or, potentially, other cartoonists either. This is now Van Sciver's city, and he aims to help build the cartooning community here.
"My apartment in Columbus will be the hang out for any cartoonists passing through town," Van Sciver wrote in a May 3 tweet. "I have a couch for you to stay on."
MariNaomi andNoah Van Sciver reading
7 p.m. Tuesday,
2250 N. High St.,