Saying Optic Nerve is a comic you should be reading is kind of like telling someone they should be listening to The Beatles. If you have been in a comic book store or glanced at the cover of The New Yorker in the last twenty years, you most likely have seen some of Adrian Tomine’s incredible work. The title itself has been in on-again/off-again publication since 1991. Based on real life situations which start out on basic themes, the stories often focus on realistic characters and in-depth character development as opposed to contrived and complicated twists and turns. The concept itself isn’t incredibly original, but it is in stark contrast with the fantasy-adventure titles that are constantly being shit out of the major publishing camps, and it easily becomes a beacon of hope for diversity in an otherwise diluted market. For more of Keith’s comic book recommendations, head over to No Morals Anymore. Continue reading for the rest of his overview of Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve.
The American Splendor influenced comic strip style—which doesn’t waste a whole page on a single panel one-liner—is packed with content. The stories are interesting, well thought, and relatable. There are no gimmicks or stunts. Tomine has a satirical style reminiscent of Charles Bukowski (minus the degrading attitude towards women). This alone would be enough to pick up the latest issue, but in addition to the quality of each segment’s storylines, Adrian Tomine has a legendary drawing style that is detailed, polished, playful, yet simple. He is quite adept at giving a character personality, expression, and emotion in even the simplest of frames. This quality is what has allowed Tomine to have his art featured in most every major publication in the last twenty years. Much of his published work can be found in his New York Drawings and Scrapbook collections, both of which were released by Drawn and Quarterly (in 2012 and 2004, respectively) and are currently available at most major bookstores and comic book shops.
The ongoing title, Optic Nerve, was first self-published by Tomine at the age of 16. In 1994 it was picked up by Drawn and Quarterly. In the course of those nineteen years, it has been produced sporadically and recently released Issue #13. All but the latest two issues have been collected into graphic novel form and remain in publication. 32 Stories features an edition of the pre D+Q Optic Nerve that Tomine created early in his career. Sleepwalk and Other Stories makes up issues #1-4 of the D+Q published books, Summer Blonde consists of issues #5-8, and Shortcomings is made up of issues #9-11. Optic Nerve Issue #13 should currently be available at your local comic book store, so head over there and get it!
The featured image for this post actually isn’t from Optic Nerve at all. Rather, it is a work titled “Missed Connection” that was originally published in the November 8, 2004 issue of The New Yorker. Aptly-named, it depicts two people with a similar interest exchanging a glance as their subway cars temporarily pause at a stop. It is also the cover image for New York Drawings. I like to think that they are both reading Optic Nerve. A print of the work can be purchased here on Tomine’s website.