print this page

The Language of Comics - Original Drawings from
Jessica Abel’s La Perdida and Matt Madden’s
99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style

March 26 — May 2, 2007

La Perdida Book Cover

La Perdida tells the story of a young woman's misadventures and her desire to live an authentic life. Carla, an American estranged from her Mexican father, heads to Mexico City to "find herself." She crashes with a former fling, Harry, who has been drinking his way through the capital in the great tradition of his heroes, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Harry is good-humored about Carla's reappearance on his doorstep — until he realizes that Carla, who spends her days soaking in the city, exploring Frida Kahlo's house and learning Spanish, has no intention of leaving.

Jessica Abel, The Tourist
When Harry and Carla's relationship of mutual tolerance reaches its inevitable end, she rejects his world of Anglo expats for her own set of friends: pretty-boy Oscar, who sells pot and dreams of being a DJ, and charismatic Memo, a left-wing, pseudo-intellectual ladies' man. Determined to experience the real Mexico, Carla turns a blind eye to her new friends' inconsistencies. But then she catches the eye of a drug don, el Gordo, and from that moment on, her life gets a lot more complicated, and she is forced to confront the irreparable consequences of her willful innocence.

99 Ways to Tell a Story was inspired by Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, in which he spun ninety-nine variations out of a basic, two-part text relating two chance encounters with a mildly irritating character during the course of a day. He told the story in every conceivable tense, then in free verse, as a sonnet, as a telegram, in pig Latin, as a series of exclamations, in an indifferent voice… you name it, he did it.

Template from 99 Ways to Tell a Story

"In my book, each comic presents the same story — recounts exactly the same events — but takes a different approach to telling the tale. You will find varying points of view, different styles of drawing, homages and parodies, as well as interpretations that may challenge your idea of what exactly a narrative is. For example, can a map tell a story? How about a full page of advertisements? I'm not suggesting that there's a definite answer, only that it's exciting to consider how many different ways a story can be told, how art and text interact, and how these comics relate to other visual and narrative media."

—Matt Madden

Jessica Abel is the author of Soundtrack and Mirror, Window, two collections of stories and drawings from her comic book, Artbabe. Her graphic novel La Perdida won the 2002 Harvey Award for Best New Series and was nominated for an “Essentiels de la BD” award at the 2007 Angoulême Comics Festival in France. She is currently collaborating on another graphic novel, Life Sucks, and is finishing up a textbook about making comics with Matt Madden. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Matt Madden started self-publishing minicomics in the early 1990s. He has created two graphic
novels, Black Candy in 1998 and Odds Off in 2001. Matt teaches at the School of Visual Arts and reviews comics for Bookforum. His latest comics appear in A Fine Mess, a series published by Alternative Comics. 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style was published in 2005 by Penguin Books.