Lutes, Jason (Haynes) 1967-
LUTES, Jason (Haynes) 1967-
PERSONAL: Born December 7, 1967, in Philipsburg, NJ. Education: Rhode Island School of Design, B.F.A. (illustration), 1991.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Drawn & Quarterly, P.O. Box 48056, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2V 4S8.
CAREER: Freelance graphic artist. Fantagraphics, Seattle, WA, artist; The Stranger (newspaper), Seattle, former art director; Seattle Institute of Fine Arts, instructor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Xeric Foundation grant for Jar of Fools; Harvey Award nomination, 1996, for best graphic album/original material, for Jar of Fools.
Jar of Fools (collection of comic strips from TheStranger), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2001.
Berlin: City of Stones (first volume of a planned trilogy), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2001.
Creator of "Jar of Fools" comic strip, published weekly in The Stranger.
SIDELIGHTS: Graphic artist Jason Lutes told Barb Lien in an interview for Sequential Tart online that he began copying comic books when he was very young, assisted by his mother, who would help with the lettering. When Lutes was eight, the family traveled to France, where he was introduced to European comics such as "Tintin" and "Asterix". Upon returning to the United States, he renewed his interest in comics while he attended schools in Missoula, Montana and in California. When he enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design, Lutes vowed to pursue serious art but was drawn back to his first love when he read the comics of Raw magazine, edited by Art Spiegelman, and realized the potential of the medium. He began a student comic book and edited comics for a newspaper put out by his school's students and those at nearby Brown University.
Lutes moved to Seattle, where he worked for Fantagraphics for a year. There he was contacted by Seattle's alternative paper, The Stranger, to draw a comic strip for them, and he began "Jar of Fools," which Lutes later turned into a book of the same name. He eventually became art director at the paper and worked there for more than two years before quitting and going freelance.
Jar of Fools, which focuses on the adventures of former magician and nursing-home escapee Al Flosso and his former protege, Ernesto "Ernie" Weiss, received considerable praise. Print contributor Daniel Nadel called it a "little gem of magic realism in comics form," and Tom de Haven in the New York Times Book Review noted that he chose the book from a multitude of possible titles to include on the syllabus for his college course on the graphic novel. Jar of Fools, de Haven wrote, is a "lovely" work that explores "the tenacious bond between an alcoholic stage magician and his cranky mentor."
Darren Schroeder interviewed Lutes for Silver Bullet Comic Books online and asked about his reaction to the positive reception accorded Jar of Fools. "The book was an experiment for me, sort of like a high school project in my ongoing comics education," said Lutes. "I think it was well-received partly because I set out specifically to tell a story that could be picked up and read by people who did not usually read comics, and partly because the reader could in some way participate in the same process of discovery I went through in its creation."
Berlin: City of Stones is the first volume of a planned trilogy. The book begins in Weimar Germany in the period immediately preceding the Nazi rise to power. The central protagonists are Kurt Severing, a cynical, middle-aged journalist; Marthe Muller, a young art student with whom Severing has an affair; and Gudrun, a factory worker whose marriage suffers when she and her husband lose their jobs.
Jim Feast noted in American Book Review that Lutes "uses these two couples to exhibit how the different classes love. The relationship of the mother, Gudrun, with the leftist agitator who befriends her is taken up with getting her a job (in road building), finding her a cheap lodging, and participating in political rallies. The love affair of Severing and the artist Marthe Muller is given over to artistic activities (such as her sketching him), humourous banter, and their observing of political rallies."
According to Bradford W. Wright in the Washington Post Book World, "the real star of the novel is the city itself, rendered in marvelously clean detail from bird'seye views to cobblestone street level." A Publishers Weekly contributor said Lutes "thoughtfully renders" Berlin's "cabarets, parlors, plazas, alleyways, and citizens in a clear, evocative, black-and-white line style." Evan Sult, reviewing the book for The Stranger Web site, explained that the Berlin presented in the book "is a texture and a tension that exists between the tenements, government buildings, students, newspaper vendors, bakers, public squares, maimed veterans, tourists, journalists, street corners, and bridges of the city." Sult called Lutes' art "lush, just not in ways you'd think to look for: It's approachable, inhabitable." "Lutes' clean drawings have an elegant European flair reminiscent of 'Tintin,' and depict a Berlin with all sorts of inhabitants," added Daniel Nadel in Print. "It is a satisfying, often moving project. We should be grateful Lutes took up the challenge."
A Kirkus Reviews writer, noting that Lutes "captures the time and place with a historian's precision and a cinematographer's skill," called Berlin "an original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent." In a Quill & Quire review, Mark Shainblum dubbed Lutes' work "deliciously satisfying examples of comic art."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, May, 2001, Jim Feast, review of Berlin: City of Stones, p. 3.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2001, review of Berlin, p. 624.
New York Times Book Review, May 31, 1998, Tom de Haven, "Comics," p. 9.
Print, May, 2001, Daniel Nadel, review of Berlin, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, October 22, 2001, review of Berlin, p. 56.
Quill & Quire, August, 1996, Mark Shainblum, review of Jar of Fools and "Berlin", p. 26.
Washington Post Book World, August 12, 2001, Bradford W. Wright, review of Berlin, p. 9.
Sequential Tart,http://www.sequentialtart.com/ (June, 1999), Barb Lien, interview with Lutes.
Silver Bullet Comic Books,http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/ (February 6, 2001), Darren Schroeder, "Jason Lutes in Conversation with SBC."
The Stranger,http://www.thestranger.com/ (April 19, 2001), Evan Sult, review of Berlin: City of Stones.*