Fictional Father

The first graphic novel nominated for the Governor General Literary Award!

Caleb is a middle-aged painter with a non-starter career. He also happens to be the only child of one of the world’s most famous cartoonists, Jimmi Wyatt. Known for the internationally beloved father and son comic Sonny Side Up, Jimmi made millions drawing saccharine family stories while neglecting his own son.

Now sober, Caleb is haunted by his wasted past and struggling to take responsibility for his present before it’s too late. His always patient boyfriend, James, is reaching the end of his rope. When Caleb gets the chance to step out from his father’s shadow and shape the most public aspect of the family business, he makes every bad decision and watches his life fall apart. Is it too late to repair the harm? Are we forever doomed to make the same mistakes our parents did?

Joe Ollmann is a master at portraying inner torment. His characters vacillate and sob and rage. His furrow-browed and deeply-lined cartooning has never been more expressive than in Fictional Father. Caleb storms around and slumps in equal measure as he tries to figure out who he is beyond the neglected son of a famous man. In addition to being a devastating portrait of the Wyatt family, Fictional Father is a hilariously sardonic interrogation of art-making and cartooning in particular.

"Though no one does galumphing human failure better than Ollmann, thankfully his tongue is also ever in his cheek."—Rachel Cooke, The Guardian Best Graphic Novels of 2021

"Ollmann’s true talent is drawing and painting faces that demand attention."—Literary Review of Canada

"Ollmann is a master craftsman who has given us a mid-pandemic treat in Fictional Father. He is an artist at the height of his powers..."—London Free Press

"[Joe Ollmann is] Canada’s master of humorous discomfort."—Toronto Life

"Portraying the aimless, alcoholic son of an aloof, philandering cartoonist, Ollmann blends jovial grotesquerie with a surprising generosity of spirit."—The Globe and Mail, Best Books of 2021

"There is such a pleasurable discomfort in reading Joe Ollmann's blundering-heart characters. They are resentful, petulant, ashamed, earnest, contradictory—eternally their own worst enemies. In other words, they are us. Fictional Father does not miss a single wrinkle."
—Hartley Lin, cartoonist of Young Frances and Pope Hats

"I love Joe Ollmann. His stories are page-turners, gut busters and tear jerkers. He’s the last of the great funny/sad underground cartoonists. A National Treasure."
—Seth, Clyde Fans

"Joe Ollmann is a master at blending comedy and empathy in stories about mid-life ennui."
Quill & Quire, 2021 Spring Preview

"Don't worry, my father is not really like this." —Sam Ollmann-Chan

"Ollmann’s funny, faux-meta memoir… is a complex look at an artist’s evolving relationship to the past."— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Ollmann explores dysfunctional family dynamics and the sometimes complex motivations behind artistic expression with incredible empathy. An absorbing, enthralling work."
Library Journal, Starred Review

"Ollmann... has been a well-kept secret of comics for too long. Hopefully, this will blow his cover."
Booklist, Starred Review

"Readers—especially those with a keen interest in the history and mechanics of comics—will appreciate Ollmann's formal playfulness and emotional honesty." —Shelf Awareness

"Intergenerational angst and imposter syndrome feature in this tragicomic “memoir” by Caleb, a middle-aged recovering alcoholic and painter who inherits his late cartoonist father’s syrupy but hugely popular newspaper strip based on a father-son relationship nothing like their own. Features cameos by Canadian comic luminaries Seth and Chester Brown." —The Globe and Mail

"Fictional Father explores family, regret and what it means to make art." —CBC Books

"Are we destined to turn into our parents ... This is the central theme of Ollmann’s book and one our hero must wrestle with until the ultimately life-affirming final pages. Before he arrives at his destination though Cal must run a gauntlet of indignities, humiliations, heartbreaks, and poor decisions (many of his own making), but thanks to Ollmann’s confident, assured storytelling it’s a journey well-worth taking." —The Comics Journal

"Joe Ollmann is the cartoonist’s cartoonist." —The Toronto Star

Joe Ollmann is the cartoonist’s cartoonist.

The Toronto Star



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