Nilsen, Anders 1973- (Abel Brekhus, Anders Brekhus Nilsen)

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Nilsen, Anders 1973- (Abel Brekhus, Anders Brekhus Nilsen)


Born November 14, 1973, in NH. Education: University of New Mexico, B.F.A.; attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1999.


E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, graphic novelist, and artist. Member of the Holy Consumption art collective, Chicago, IL.


Ignatz Award for outstanding story, 2005, for Dogs and Water; Ignatz Award for outstanding graphic novel, 2007, for Don't Go Where I Can't Follow.


Ballad of the Two-Headed Boy (comic), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1999.

Big Questions #1 (comic), 1999.

Big Questions #2 (comic), 1999.

Big Questions #3: Astrophysics (comic), 2000.

Big Questions #4: Asomatognosia (comic), 2001.

Big Questions #5: Nothingness (comic), 2002.

Big Questions #6: Anoesia and the Matrideicidic Theophany (comic), 2004.

Big Questions #7: Dinner and a Nap (comic), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2005.

Big Questions #8: Theory and Practice (comic), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2005.

Big Questions #9: The Lost and Found (comic), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2006.

Monologues for the Coming Plague (comic), Fantagraphics (Seattle WA), 2006.

Dogs and Water (comic), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2007.

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow (graphic memoir), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2007.

Big Questions #10: The Hand That Feeds (comic), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2007.

The End #1 (comic), Fantagraphics (Seattle WA), 2007.

Also contributor of cartoons to anthologies, including Mome, Kramer's Ergot, and the Drawn & Quarterly Showcase.


Growing up in Minneapolis, Anders Nilsen attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999 but dropped out after the third comic book in his series "Big Questions" was published. The immensely popular series revolves around a flock of birds that treat an unexploded bomb like a giant egg and have philosophical discussions about what it is.

A personal tragedy led Nilsen to write Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, which is about Nilsen's late partner, Cheryl Weaver, who died of Hodgkin's lymphoma. "Her absence is very palpable for me and probably will be for a long time," the author told Karl Allen in an interview for Contemporary Literature at "I can't talk about much without it coloring the conversation." Commenting on his book, the author noted: "It includes [sixteen pages of comics] and a set of drawings I did of her in the hospital, but is mostly writing and photographs, not comics." The author went on to tell Allen: "It's a memorial to her and a celebration of our life together. It's not the last thing I'll do with her in mind but it was very necessary."

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow contains many artifacts concerning the author's relationship with Cheryl, such as postcards they used to send to each other and a page from Nilsen's journal. The book begins as the two lovers send each other notes and postcards and plan their impending marriage. The next section is a twenty-one-page letter that the author writes to his sister about a camping trip that turned disastrous but reveals the personalities of the two lovers. The book continues with Cheryl's diagnosis and on through her death. It ends with an illustrated letter from Nilsen to Weaver that describes a memorial held for her. "Nilsen didn't originally intend the book to be seen by anyone other than family and close friends who wanted something to remember Weaver by," wrote Jessica Hopper on the Chicago Reader Web site. "He considered taking out a loan to pay for the printing himself, but the finished product was much longer than he'd anticipated, and the cost of doing it in color was too high."

Glen Gold David praised the memoir on the Los Angeles Times Web site. David noted: "This book subverts what we think a ‘graphic narrative’ is: We were just getting used to the idea of autobiographical comic strips, drawings on paper. But there is very little cartooning at first in Don't Go Where I Can't Follow." David called Don't Go Where I Can't Follow "both a tribute by a good artist to the life and death of a woman he loved and to the redemptive power of art."

Nilsen followed up the story of Cheryl's death and his grief in The End. "In the more analytical The End (2007), Nilsen explores the state of mourning and memory, in search of something approximating the cathartic," noted Matthias Wivel on the Metabunker Web site. Hopper wrote in the Chicago Reader that the book is "a bare look at his fragile emotional state."

Nilsen's graphic novel Monologues for the Coming Plague was called "hilarious, whimsical and heartbreakingly real" by a Publishers Weekly contributor. The book presents the author's drawings and thoughts about society and life, from topics such as terrorism to the eight-fold path to laundry detergent. "It's only to be expected that people will deal with this book with a certain number of erroneous attitudes triggered by its superficial characteristics," wrote Pedro Vieira de Moura on the Ler BD Web site. "But what apparently looks like last-minute thoughts or doodles over the phone, is actually something extremely purified." De Moura went on to write: "If I'm allowed a lousy metaphor, Monologues first half feels like a successfully played game of Tetris: each page is like a new ‘brick’, which adds a new element of signification to the whole, and after a certain while we realize a whole new layer of meanings that changes completely everything we had learned until that point." Other reviewers also had praise for Monologues for the Coming Plague. Ray Olson, writing in Booklist, noted that the author's "austere drawings and cinematic continuity make this simple, symbolic rite-of-passage tale rich and unforgettable."

Nilsen's graphic novel Dogs and Water tells the story of a young man and his teddy bear as they travel far from home and encounter everything from wild animals, including a kindly savage dog and a kindly wolf pack, to an oil pipeline, which leads them to witness armed confrontation. "When I started … it was a symbol of leaving school and being in the middle of nowhere but having this notion of childhood that I'm still carrying along with me," Nilsen was quoted as saying on the Read Yourself Raw Web site. "I'm using a childhood notion to navigate the world. I'm hanging on to this idea that I'm an artist, even though it's not an adult thing to do."

To illustrate his story, the author uses simple blackline drawings and a spare narrative of frustration and outrage. Dogs and Water received high praise from the critics. "In Dogs and Water, Nilsen creates an epic landscape of desolation and doubt," wrote a contributor to the Newcity Chicago Web site. The contributor went on to write: "Nearly all spare visuals, the book seems rather ghostly, a haunted setting of smothering whiteness, as its hero tumbles through a wasteland." School Library Journal contributor Heidi Dolamore commented that the author "conveys a sense of isolation, loneliness, and alienation within a loose framework that … [is] open to myriad interpretations."



Nilsen, Anders, Don't Go Where I Can't Follow (graphic memoir), Drawn & Quarterly (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2007.


Booklist, February 1, 2005, Ray Olson, review of Dogs and Water, p. 952; August 1, 2006, Ray Olson, review of Monologues for the Coming Plague, p. 61.

Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2006, review of Monologues for the Coming Plague, p. 57.

School Library Journal, July, 2007, Heidi Dolamore, review of Dogs and Water, p. 127.


Chicago Reader, (September 7, 2007), Jessica Hopper, "Anders Nilsen Dealt with the Death of His Fiancée the Best Way He Knew How: By Drawing Comics."

Contemporary Literature at (January 15, 2006), Karl Allen, "Big Questions: An Interview with Anders Nilsen."

Drawn & Quarterly, (January 26, 2008), biography of author.

Holy Consumption of Chicago, (January 26, 2008).

Ler BD, (January 11, 2006), Pedro Vieira de Moura, review of Monologues for the Coming Plague.

Los Angeles Times Web site, (January 26, 2008), Glen David Gold, review of Don't Go Where I Can't Follow.

Metabunker, (September 17, 2007), Matthias Wivel, "Anders Nilsen—The Metabunker Interview."

Newcity Chicago, (January 11, 2005), biography of author.

Read Yourself Raw, (January 26, 2008), biography of author.

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Nilsen, Anders 1973- (Abel Brekhus, Anders Brekhus Nilsen)

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