Abel, Jessica 1969-

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Abel, Jessica 1969-


Born November 15, 1969, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Dominick Abel (a literary agent) and Nancy Ethiel (a writer and editor); married Matthew J. Madden (a cartoonist), July, 2000. Ethnicity: "European-American." Education: University of Chicago, B.A., 1991. Hobbies and other interests: Building, gardening, cooking.


Home—Brooklyn, NY. Agent—Mary Evans Inc., 242 E. 5th St., New York, NY, 10003.

E-mail—[email protected]


Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, assistant to the director of publications and external affairs, 1992-94; School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, assistant to the associate dean and the graduate and undergraduate chairs, 1994-97, instructor of undergraduate course called "Comics and Graphic Narrative," January, 1998; Savannah College of Art and Design, guest artist, February, 1998; School of Visual Arts, instructor in comics storytelling and cartooning. Lecturer at Wexner Center for the Arts at the University of Ohio, Institute of Contemporary Arts (London, England), Syracuse University, Parsons School of Art, and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival.


Comix Decode (founding member), National Association of Comics Art Educators.


Xeric Foundation grant, 1995, to support printing of Artbabe; Chicago Artists Assistance Program grant, City of Chicago, 1996; Chicago Artists International Program grant, City of Chicago, 1997, for exhibition in Brighton, England.


(With Ira Glass) Radio: An Illustrated Guide (nonfiction), Artbabe Army Publishing/ This American Life/WBEZ (Chicago, IL), 1999.

Mirror, Window (collection), Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2000.

Soundtrack: Short Stories, 1989-1996 (collection), Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2001.

La Perdida (graphic novel), Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2001.

(With Gabriel Soria and Warren Pleece) Life Sucks (graphic novel), First Second (New York, NY), 2007.

Creator of Artbabe comic book series. Contributor of comic strips and illustrations to periodicals, including New York Times Book Review, Village Voice, Action Girl Comics, Biff Bang Pow, Breakdown Comics Magazine, Duplex Planet Illustrated, Flying Saucer Attack, International Cowgirl, LA Weekly, New Art Examiner, NewCity, On Our Butts, Playboy Online, Pulse!, Rocktober, and Spin.


Writer and illustrator Jessica Abel is best known for her creation of "Artbabe," a comic book series that has been collected and published in book form, and for her graphic novel La Perdida. Abel began making comics in 1989 while in school at the University of Chicago.

Radio: An Illustrated Guide was written with Ira Glass, host of This American Life on National Public Radio. Radio was originally available as a pledge premium from public radio stations. Abel said one of its purposes was "to instruct non-professionals in the basics of making radio." The guide provides the reader with instructions on storytelling, interviewing, taping, editing, and home equipment. Radio will "inspire you to take radio into your own hands," according to Lyssa Mudd in Whole Earth.

Mirror, Window is one of two collections of Abel's "Artbabe" stories. It is about a group of characters who work day jobs, hang out at bars, and aspire to artistic success. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that Abel's stories accurately portray "the emotional texture of the lives of the young and unfocused." The stories "Châiné" and "Goddamn Hollywood" document the obstacles female characters face in their relationships with other women. Gordon Flagg in Booklist stated: "Abel has staked out narrow but rich territory for her insightful stories." He also called Abel "more a short-story writer than a cartoonist," while the Publishers Weekly reviewer claimed that her "black and white drawings are as assured, sensitively rendered and delightfully personal as her prose." A Booklist critic called Abel "a graphic storytelling talent to watch." Earlier work on the "Artbabe" series was published in Soundtrack: Short Stories, 1989-1996.

Reviewing Abel's graphic novel La Perdida in the New York Times, John Hodgman found that "the book jolts from quotidian travelogue into thrilling adventure story." Carla is an American woman from Chicago who is half-Mexican, but knows no Spanish. She is drawn to Mexico, and moves there to live with Harry, a wealthy friend in Mexico City. The story examines Carla's relationships with other expatriates and with the locals, as well as the internal conflicts she experiences. According to a Kirkus Reviews writer, a "stunning" twist of events leads to a "dramatic conclusion" that is convincingly portrayed as an "inevitable result of Carla's northern naivete."



Booklist, October 15, 2000, Gordon Flagg, review of Mirror, Window, p. 402; September 1, 2001, Gordon Flagg, review of Soundtrack: Short Stories, 1989-1996, p. 30; March 1, 2006, Gordon Flagg, review of La Perdida, p. 78.

Entertainment Weekly, April 7, 2006, review of La Perdida, p. 66.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2006, review of La Perdida, p. 16.

New York Times, June 4, 2006, John Hodgman, review of La Perdida.

Publishers Weekly, January 8, 2001, review of Mirror, Window, p. 49; January 16, 2006, review of La Perdida, p. 42.

Whole Earth, spring, 2000, Lyssa Mudd, review of Radio: An Illustrated Guide, p. 94.


Fantagraphics Books Web site,http://www.fantagraphics.com/ (September 4, 2006).

Jessica Abel Home Page,http://www.jessicaabel.com (August 28, 2006).

National Public Radio Web site,http://www.npr.org/ (August 28, 2006), Alan Cheuse, review of La Perdida.

P.O.V.,http://www.pbs.org/pov/ (August 28, 2006), Rebecca Bengal, interview with Jessica Abel.

Wizard Entertainment,http://www.wizarduniverse.com/ (June 20, 2006), excerpts of question-and-answer session with Jessica Abel at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival.