essica Abel (Chicago, 1969) started making comics in college, at the University of Chicago. Her early efforts appeared in the student anthology Breakdown. After college, in 1992, she won the infamous "Stinky Date" contest in Peter Bagge's Hate comics, and, since she had arranged to meet the artist at the Chicago Comics Convention, she decided to put together a sampler of her comics to show him and his publisher, Fantagraphics. She printed 50 copies of Artbabe #1, but Fantagraphics editor Gary Groth, who claims not to remember this encounter, didn't take the bait. Four issues (and four years) later, she won a Xeric grant, put out the first full-sized and professionally printed issue of Artbabe, and thus finally appeared on Groth's radar. She began a new volume of Artbabe with Fantagraphics in 1997, and won the 1997 "Best New Talent" Harvey and Lulu awards. The second half of Artbabe Volume 2 was completed during the two years that Abel lived with her now-husband Matt Madden in Mexico City, 1998-2000.
Abel took time off from fictional comics in 1999 to complete a 32-page instructional/journalistic comic for This American Life, a Public Radio International program, written in collaboration with host Ira Glass called Radio: an Illustrated Guide. The year 2000 saw the publication of Mirror, Window, a collection of the second volume of Artbabe by Fantagraphics. Soundtrack, a compilation of early comics work, including much of the self-published first volume of Artbabe, was published by Fantagraphics in 2001. Her most recent comics work, a serialized thriller set in Mexico City titled La Perdida, won the 2002 "Best New Series" Harvey Award. La Perdida was published in individual issues by Fantagraphics and as a complete book by Pantheon in 2006. Abel is at work on a prose novel for teenagers, tentatively titled Carmina, and due out from Harper Collins. She is also co-writing a comics script with Gabe Soria called Life Sucks, a graphic novel that will be drawn by Warren Pleece, which is due to be published by First Second (Henry Holt) in early 2007. In addition, First Second has published a textbook on creating comics that Abel is writing with her husband, Matt Madden.
Abel has been teaching comics since 1998, and teaching in the Cartooning Department at the School of Visual Arts in New York since 2001. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
"Jessica Abel's comics offer a subtle anthropology of her own generation of socially audacious, mildly bohemian post-feminists. She uses comics like a tool, observing, documenting, examining the social dynamics of a free floating crowd of young, urban, pleasure seeking bar hoppers. Her writing, in combination with her crisp, precise, stylishly assured drawings, chronicle the shifting relationships between the young and unfocused; men and women who aren't necessarily what they would like to be and haven't quite figured out how to become it. She's a reporter of sorts, and emotional veracity is her beat. Her deft accumulation of the social details of these relationships, friendships and dubious one-night stands, can be seen as artful dispatches from a thoughtful correspondent on contemporary manners." – Calvin Reed, Publishers Weekly
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