Drawing Fatherhood: The Working Father Figure in the Autobiographical Graphic Novels of Guy Delisle

Roei Davidson

The oeuvre of the graphic novel author Guy Delisle provides a unique window into the relationship between work and personal life in graphic novel creation and in cultural work more generally. In two books set in two non-Western countries, Chroniques de Jerusalem (2011) and Chroniques Birmanes (2007), Delisle considers his experiences as an expat father and graphic novelist, while at the same time depicting daily life and political realities in fraught locations. In another series, Le Guide du Mauvais Pere (2013-15), he focuses more specifically on fatherhood.

Cultural Work

Leaving aside his fascinating depiction of how political power invades daily life in Jerusalem and Myanmar (Delisle and Verschuuren 2014), these books are an opportunity to consider the tension between private and work life which is a hallmark of cultural work and of late modern work more generally (Hochschild 2001). Often there is a tendency for cultural work to colonize private time (Davidson and Meyers 2016; Hesmondhalgh and

R. Davidson (H)

University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 131

C. Brienza, P. Johnston (eds.), Cultures of Comics Work,

Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-55090-3_9

Baker 2009). The intermittent nature of cultural work takes on addictive aspects (Rowlands and Handy 2012) and leads workers to forsake private obligations for work duties. Contemporary media industries make intense demands on workers to take constant risks to promote themselves and their workplaces (Neff 2012). Through his visual and written narratives Delisle’s captivating accounts suggest a way in which such tensions are experienced and navigated by one father who works as a cultural producer.

Creative work is often funded by alternative income sources. Poets devoted to their art must frequently work in other occupations to support themselves (Craig 2007). Several graphic novelists and comic artists also suggest that “a day job is necessary to provide stability and insurance” (Johnston 2013; see also Ware 2014). In a 2014 interview, Delisle suggests that he had unintentionally succeeded in turning graphic novel writing into his main occupation, allowing him to stop working in animation: “[W]hat I did for pleasure, that is books like Shenzen and Pyongyang, worked well, and what I did while telling myself that ‘I have to make a living’ didn’t work out at all. I therefore chose the first option” (Delisle and Verschuuren 2014). In addition, his graphic novels suggest that additional financial stability and the opportunity to focus his work on unique locations were provided by his partner’s work in a medical NGO. It is in this context of relative financial stability that these autobiographical narratives should be considered.

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