From Blondie to Doonesbury, comic strips have been a mainstay of the newspaper industry for the better part of a century. Now, Department of Writing professor Lee Henderson has crafted an insider’s look at the world of comics in his highly anticipated new novel The Road Narrows As You Go (Penguin/Random House).
Henderson will be launching the book locally at a special event: 7:30pm Saturday October 4 at Munro’s Books, 1108 Government Street. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
A young woman growing up in sleepy 1970s Victoria dreams of becoming a successful cartoonist like Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, and when she winds up in hedonistic 1980s San Francisco she finds herself competing for newspaper space with the likes of ‘80s stalwarts Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes—even Peanuts itself. But is US President Ronald Reagan really her father? Henderson deftly explores all this and much more in a book that he also rounded out by illustrating his main character’s fictional comic strip, Strays.
“The way it started for me is just living out a vicarious dream that I had when I was a kid in the eighties to be a comic-strip artist,” says Henderson in this Globe and Mail interview. “As soon as I knew that my next book would be about a comic-strip artist, [I had] the idea that I would learn how to draw them at a professional level. It was an ambition to take [on] something I did as a kid.”
Named one of “the 25 most anticipated Canadian books of 2014” by the National Post, The Road Narrows As You Go is the follow-up to Henderson’s BC Book Prize-winning novel The Man Game—which he also illustrated. A two-time Journey Prize nominee, he is also the author of the short story collection The Broken Record Technique.
Henderson will also be teaching a special Writing department course in January 2015: “Inside the Comic Artist’s Studio,” an in-depth and insider’s look at how comics and graphic novels are made. A study of the early stages on sketchbook with pencil to final inked pages laid out as digital files, the class will look at the unique challenges and opportunities for comic artists when telling a story using sequential illustrations. Not just superheroes, the semester will focus on a range of comics including Chris Ware’s groundbreaking graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.