Jessica Abel in April 2011
|Born||Jessica Courtney Clare Abel|
|Area(s)||Cartoonist, Writer, Artist|
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures
Radio: An Illustrated Guide
|Awards||Xeric Award, 1995|
Harvey Award, 1997, 2002
Jessica Abel (born 1969) is an American comic book writer and artist, known as the creator of such works as Life Sucks, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, Soundtrack, La Perdida, Mirror, Window, Radio: An Illustrated Guide (with collaborator Ira Glass), and the omnibus series Artbabe.
Abel was born in 1969 in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in the Chicago metropolitan area. She graduated from Evanston Township High School. She attended Carleton College for in 1987–88, and then transferred to the University of Chicago, where she published her first comics work in 1988, in the student anthology Breakdown. Additionally, she worked for three years in the administration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She graduated with a BA degree.
Abel started in the world of minicomics, self-publishing the photocopied, hand-sewn and embellished comic book Artbabe in 1992; four annual issues followed, with Abel having won a Xeric Foundation grant to self-publish and distribute issue #5. This was the first professionally printed Artbabe, and was subtitled The Four Seasons. She appeared as a character in the back-cover story of Hate #10 (Fall 1992) by Peter Bagge. Abel has stated that her major work Artbabe is not autobiographical.
With the publication of the Xeric issue of Artbabe, Abel came to the attention of Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth, who offered to publish Artbabe. Each issue of Artbabe contained one or more complete stories; Abel did not begin any longer sequential work until La Perdida in 2000. The character Artbabe, who appears on every cover, does not actually appear in any of the stories.
In 1998, Abel moved to Mexico City with her boyfriend, now husband, comics artist Matt Madden. She went on hiatus from Artbabe in 1999. From 1996–2005, Abel did a series of one-page journalistic comics for the University of Chicago Magazine, and also embarked on Radio: an Illustrated Guide for the radio program This American Life. This book depicted how an episode of the show is made, with behind-the-scenes reportage and a how-to guide to creating a radio show at home.
After two years in Mexico City, Abel moved to Brooklyn, New York. Abel created the five-issue, 250-page series La Perdida. Published by Fantagraphics Books between 2000 and 2005 as a five-part mini-series. Abel revised the text for its compilation and publication in 2006 as a hardcover volume by Pantheon Books. The book has received a positive critical response. The central character is a Mexican-American woman, Carla, raised by her Anglo mother, who moves on a whim to Mexico City to search for her identity.
In 2008, Abel and Madden produced Drawing Words and Writing Pictures for First Second Books. The book is a product of the years Abel and Madden have spent as teachers, and is a comprehensive manual on creating comics. That same year, Abel also collaborated on Life Sucks, written with Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece.
Abel and Madden produced a second comics teaching textbook together called Mastering Comics, a sequel to Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, published in May 2012. Abel and Madden then both moved to France for a one-year artists’ residency at La Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême in 2012, that became an extended 4-year stay.
In 2015, Abel published a sequel to her 1999 comic Radio: An Illustrated Guide called "Out On The Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio".
Abel's one-person exhibitions include "Corridoio Altervox" in Rome, the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton; the Oporto International Comics Festival in Portugal, Viñetas desde o Atlántico in A Coruna, Spain, and the Naples Comicon.
Her group exhibitions include the Jean Albano Gallery in Chicago, Athaneum, Stripdagen, in the Netherlands, the Davidson Galleries in Seattle, the Forbes Gallery at the Hyde Park Art Center, in New York, the Regina Miller Gallery and Vox Gallery in Philadelphia, Centre National de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image in Angoulême, France, and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Politics and feminism in her work
Abel affirmed during an interview on Swedish TV with her partner Matt Madden and Fredrik Strömberg that she, and her work is "implicitly feminist, but not explicitly political". Her stories tend to depict the lives of female and minority characters including at times aspects that could be considered political, but she seldom goes out of her way to make that the main thrust of the work, treating it instead as simply a natural aspect of life.
Awards and honors
- Abel, with Ira Glass, Radio: An Illustrated Guide, (WBEZ Alliance, 1999) ISBN 978-0-9679671-0-3
- Soundtrack: Short Stories 1989–1996 (Fantagraphics Books, 2001) ISBN 978-1-56097-430-7
- Mirror, Window: An Artbabe Collection (Fantagraphics Books, 2000) ISBN 978-1-56097-384-3; compilation of Artbabe Vol. 2, nos. 1–4 (1997–1999)
- La Perdida (Pantheon Books, 2006) ISBN 978-0-375-42365-9; a revised compilation of La Perdida nos. 1–5 (2001–2005, Fantagraphics Books)
- Illustrations by Abel, edited by Carrie Russell, Complete Copyright: An Everyday Guide for Librarians (American Library Association, 2004) ISBN 0-8389-3543-5
- Life Sucks (with Gabriel Soria and Warren Pleece, First Second, 2008) ISBN 978-1-59643-107-2
- Abel, with Matt Madden, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, (First Second, 2008) ISBN 978-1-59643-131-7
- "INTERVIEW: Jessica Abel on Intersection of Comics and Radio and the Limitations of Art". The Beat. 2015-10-19. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
- Biography page at Jessica Abel's official site
- "Who is Jessica Abel?". www.jessicaabel.com. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
- "Jessica Abel". School of Visual Arts. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
- Press, Joy. "The Further Adventures of Artbabe". Villagevoice.com. Retrieved May 9, 2007.
- "La Peridida by Jessica Abel". Powell's City of Books. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- Ruiz, Gina (April 10, 2007). "Graphic Novel Review: La Perdida by Jessica Abel". Blog Critics. Archived from the original on October 8, 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
- Bello, Grace (February 14, 2012). "Jessica Abel and Matt Madden: Back to Being Comics Artists". Retrieved February 24, 2012.
- "entrer à la maison des auteurs - la Cité internationale de la bande dessinée et de l'image". www.citebd.org.
- "Cartoonist Jessica Abel Turns Her New Book Into a Podcast". Observer. 2015-09-15. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
- "Jessica Abel - Huge news: I've accepted a position as... | Facebook". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2016-06-12.
- "PAFA Announces Jessica Abel as Illustration Program Chair | PAFA - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts". www.pafa.org. Retrieved 2016-06-12.
- "Feminism, radiomagi och sci-fi". urplay.se (in Swedish). Archived from the original on July 1, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
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