The title character, Asterios Polyp, is a professor and architect of Greek and Italian descent who teaches at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. After a lightning strike burns up his apartment, he leaves the city on a Greyhound bus and takes up employment as an auto mechanic in the town of Apogee (somewhere in America), the farthest point his money will take him. The novel is interspersed with scenes from his past (ostensibly narrated by his stillborn twin brother, Ignazio), including his childhood and troubled marriage; as well as dreams and allegorical sequences. Finally, he must confront not only his own flawed nature, but the implacable and amoral whims of the gods themselves.
In plot, structure, and design, this book seems to explore the idea of duality. Some of the false dichotomies touched upon are: Apollonian vs. Dionysian; reason vs. emotion; destiny vs. free will; and nature vs. nurture. Ultimately, the book raises questions about how a person becomes who and what he is. Asterios' Greek heritage is one of many allusions to the story of Orpheus and Euridice, a recurring theme throughout the book. It can also be related to the Odyssey, upon which the story is loosely based.
It was published as a hardcover, with an architectonic design that alluded to themes of form and function within the text, including a dust jacket shorter than the size of the book that revealed the structure underneath. Questioned about the impracticality of his design, Mazzucchelli joked that it was "the most frustrating package [he] could come up with".
The book has sold over 40,000 copies since its publication in July 2009; it is now in its fourth printing.
- Thomas, Jared (August 8, 2011). "Words & Pictures (for sub-literates): A Review of Asterios Polyp". Frontier Psychiatrist. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
- Walk, Douglas (July 23, 2009). "Shades of Meaning". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
- Shaw, part 1
- Showers, Squally (2009-07-17). "David Mazzucchelli at MoCCA". Retrieved 2011-06-10.
- Garrison, Jessica (April 24, 2010). "Rafael Yglesias’ ‘A Happy Marriage’ wins Times Book Prize for fiction". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 27 April 2010. Retrieved April 24, 2010.
- 2010 Harvey Award winners, www.comicsbeat.com, 30 August 2010
- Asterios Polyp at the Grand Comics Database
- Shaw, Dash. "TCJ 300 Conversations: David Mazzucchelli & Dash Shaw". The Comics Journal #300. Fantagraphics Books, December 2009. ISSN 0194-7869
- Review in New York Magazine
- Review in The New York Times
- Review in The Austin Chronicle
- McCloud, Scott (July 17, 2009). "Some Thoughts on Asterios Polyp". scottmccloud.com
- Asterios Polyp at the Comic Book DB
- (Video) Mazzucchelli talks about Asterios Polyp