What Am I Doing Here? is a startling masterwork by one of the forgotten innovators of American comics.
In 1945, after more than a decade as a commercial illustrator—drawing advertisements and cartoons for Life, Time, Esquire, Newsweek, and many other publications—Abner Dean invented a genre all his own: One might call it the Existential Gag Cartoon. He used the elegant draftsmanship and single-panel format of the standard cartoons of the day, but turned them to a deeper, stranger purpose. With an inimitable mixture of wit, earnestness, and enigmatic surrealism, Dean uses this most ephemeral of forms to explore the deepest mysteries of human existence.
What Am I Doing Here?, Dean’s second book and perhaps his best, depicts a world at once alien and familiar, in which everyone is naked but acts like they’re clothed—a world of club-wielding commuters and byzantine inventions, secret fears and perverse satisfactions. Through it all strolls (or crawls, or floats, or stumbles) Dean’s unclad Everyman, searching for love, happiness, and the answers to life’s biggest questions.
Hardcover | $22.95
Published by New York Review Comics Oct 11, 2016| 168 Pages| 6-3/4 x 9-1/2| ISBN 9781681370491
“Mr. Dean is a great man. He has adapted a modern pictorial form to satire which has the flavor of Hogarth and Rabelais, the implications of Tibetan mysticism, and the hilarity of James Thurber.” —Saturday Review
“Beautifully drawn, thought provoking works of art…For Dean, the combination of image and text could stimulate a wide range of intellectual and emotional responses: delight, frustration, provocation, bewilderment, sadness, or illumination. “ —The Comics Journal
“Whether Dean’s conceptions are readily seized is a question for the individual, who should have a good time finding out.” —The New York Times
“[Dean’s] best have a disturbingly haunting quality that one rarely finds in the more realistic captioned cartoons of the New Yorker school, and in fact are ‘funny’ only to the extent of making one giggle hysterically.” —Northrop Frye