CBC Digital Archives

The world according to Seth

From the wholesome wartime heroics of Johnny Canuck to the exploits of a three-foot-tall aardvark named Cerebus, Canadian comics are anything but dull. Though comics got their start south of the border, Canada has become home to an eclectic roster of cartoon talent from the Pulitzer Prize-nominated strips of Lynn Johnston, to the world-renowned comic art of Seth and the multi-media phenomenon of Todd Mcfarlane's Spawn. The CBC Digital Archives takes an in-depth look at the history of our homegrown comic strips, comic books and graphic novels.

With the arrival of the 1990s came a new, more literary approach to comic storytelling. One of the more promising cartoonists of this movement is Seth, a single-monikered Toronto artist with a flair for autobiographical narratives and a penchant for the past. This clip from CBC Television catches up with Seth in his cramped Toronto apartment, where he talks about the medium of alternative comics and his new title Palookaville
. Seth was born Gregory Gallant on Sept. 16, 1962, in Clinton, a small town in southwestern Ontario. The youngest of five children of John and Violet Gallant, he grew up mostly in a nearby town called Tilbury - though his family moved regularly.
. Growing up, he was obsessed with comics - either reading them or creating them. In a January 2006 magazine profile in Toronto Life, his father said his son was about six years old when he began drawing his own comics.

. In the same article, Seth described his childhood self as "a crybaby, a mama's boy, picked on, someone who took a long time to learn socialization skills. A typical comic book kid, over-sensitive, not good at sports, without many friends, so I spent a lot of time by myself."
. Seth enrolled in Toronto's Ontario College of Art in 1980. While there he discovered 1960s underground comics and the work of alternative cartoonists, such as the Hernandez brothers.

. Seth soon combined the likes of Robert Crumb, Edward Gorey and New Yorker cartoonist Whitney Darrow Jr., with his childhood love of Charles Schulz and superhero artist Jack Kirby, to develop his distinctive and highly recognizable style.
. It was also during this time that he adopted his pseudonym "Seth", which was inspired in part by the Egyptian god of chaos of the same name.
. His friend and fellow student, Maurice Vellekoop described the original incarnation of Seth in Toronto Life. "He wore lots of leather and silver, had bleached-blond hair, wore makeup."

. After a stint drawing the Canadian comic book Mister X in the late 1980s, Seth refocused his creative energies. Motivated by the autobiographical comics of Joe Matt and Harvey Pekar, Seth released his own comic book series in April 1991.
. Published by Montreal's Drawn and Quarterly, Palookaville began as a platform for personal stories from Seth's past. Within a few issues he began serializing what would become his first graphic novel, It's A Good Life, If You Don't Weaken (1996).

. Seth continues to publish issues of the comic, in which he is currently serializing the graphic novel Clyde Fans which tells the intertwined stories of two brothers running a fan business in Toronto.
. In addition to his career in comics, Seth has developed a successful livelihood as an illustrator with his work appearing in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Post, Spin, and the New Yorker. He has also penned two covers for the prestigious magazine.

. In 2003, he lent his singular design sense to the first of the 25-volume Complete Peanuts. In 2004 he designed Bannock, Beans & Black Tea, a memoir of his father's childhood growing up in Prince Edward Island during the Great Depression.
. Seth has also worked with The Vinyl Café's Stuart Mclean, designing his books and stage shows.

. In June 2005, Seth became the first cartoonist in the 105 year history of the Art Gallery of Ontario to get his own solo show as part of the gallery's Present Tense series.
. As of 2006, Seth is working on a animated documentary about the 1930s for the National Film Board of Canada, and a retrospective of Canadian cartoonist Doug Wright.
. Diana Tamblyn, who sings the praises of Seth in this clip, has since become a respected cartoonist of mini-comics such as Duty Must Be Done: The Story Of Frederick Banting and There You Were.
Medium: Television
Program: Cityscapes
Broadcast Date: Nov. 14, 1994
Guest(s): Seth, Diana Tamblyn
Reporter: Beth Harrington
Duration: 4:43

Last updated: January 18, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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