Jessica Abel

Jessica Abel

Jessica Abel in April 2011
Born Jessica Courtney Clare Abel
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist, Writer, Artist
Notable works
Life Sucks
La Perdida
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures
Radio: An Illustrated Guide
Awards Xeric Award, 1995
Harvey Award, 1997, 2002

Jessica Abel (born 1969) is an American comic book writer and artist, known as the creator of such works as Life Sucks, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, Soundtrack, La Perdida, Mirror, Window, Radio: An Illustrated Guide (with collaborator Ira Glass), and the omnibus series Artbabe.

Early life

Abel was born in 1969 in Chicago, Illinois,[1] and raised in the Chicago metropolitan area.[2] She graduated from Evanston Township High School. She attended Carleton College for in 1987–88, and then transferred to the University of Chicago, where she published her first comics work in 1988, in the student anthology Breakdown. Additionally, she worked for three years in the administration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She graduated with a BA degree.[3]


Abel at Delcourt Festival in Paris, France in 2006.

Abel started in the world of minicomics, self-publishing the photocopied, hand-sewn and embellished comic book Artbabe in 1992; four annual issues followed, with Abel having won a Xeric Foundation grant to self-publish and distribute issue #5. This was the first professionally printed Artbabe, and was subtitled The Four Seasons. She appeared as a character in the back-cover story of Hate #10 (Fall 1992) by Peter Bagge.[3] Abel has stated that her major work Artbabe is not autobiographical.[4]

With the publication of the Xeric issue of Artbabe, Abel came to the attention of Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth, who offered to publish Artbabe. Each issue of Artbabe contained one or more complete stories; Abel did not begin any longer sequential work until La Perdida in 2000. The character Artbabe, who appears on every cover, does not actually appear in any of the stories.

In 1998, Abel moved to Mexico City with her boyfriend, now husband, comics artist Matt Madden. She went on hiatus from Artbabe in 1999. From 1996–2005, Abel did a series of one-page journalistic comics for the University of Chicago Magazine, and also embarked on Radio: an Illustrated Guide for the radio program This American Life. This book depicted how an episode of the show is made, with behind-the-scenes reportage and a how-to guide to creating a radio show at home.

After two years in Mexico City, Abel moved to Brooklyn, New York.[2] Abel created the five-issue, 250-page series La Perdida. Published by Fantagraphics Books between 2000 and 2005 as a five-part mini-series. Abel revised the text for its compilation and publication in 2006 as a hardcover volume by Pantheon Books. The book has received a positive critical response.[5][6] The central character is a Mexican-American woman, Carla, raised by her Anglo mother, who moves on a whim to Mexico City to search for her identity.

Abel taught an undergraduate cartooning courses at the School of Visual Arts for a number of years, and gave workshops at other locations, such as Ox-Bow Summer School of Art.

In 2008, Abel and Madden produced Drawing Words and Writing Pictures for First Second Books. The book is a product of the years Abel and Madden have spent as teachers, and is a comprehensive manual on creating comics. That same year, Abel also collaborated on Life Sucks, written with Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece.

Abel and Madden produced a second comics teaching textbook together called Mastering Comics, a sequel to Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, published in May 2012.[7] Abel and Madden then both moved to France for a one-year artists’ residency at La Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême in 2012, that became an extended 4-year stay.

In June 7, 2016 Abel announced[8] that she is returning to the US, to accept a position as chair of the brand-new illustration department at PAFA, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.[9]


Abel's one-person exhibitions include "Corridoio Altervox" in Rome, the Phoenix Gallery in Brighton; the Oporto International Comics Festival in Portugal, Viñetas desde o Atlántico in A Coruna, Spain, and the Naples Comicon.[3]

Her group exhibitions include the Jean Albano Gallery in Chicago, Athaneum, Stripdagen, in the Netherlands, the Davidson Galleries in Seattle, the Forbes Gallery at the Hyde Park Art Center, in New York, the Regina Miller Gallery and Vox Gallery in Philadelphia, Centre National de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image in Angoulême, France, and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.[3]

Politics and Feminism in her work

Able has recently affirmed during an interview on Swedish TV with her partner Matt Madden & Fredrik Strömberg that she, and her work is "implicitly feminist, but not explicitly political".[10] Her stories tend to depict the lives of female and minority characters including at times aspects that could be considered political, but she seldom goes out of her way to make that the main thrust of the work, treating it instead as simply a natural aspect of life.

Awards and honors

Personal life

Until summer 2016, Abel and her husband, Matt Madden, lived in Angoulême, France, with their two children.


See also


  1. Biography page at Jessica Abel's official site
  2. 1 2 "Who is Jessica Abel?"; Accessed September 5, 2010
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Jessica Abel at the School of Visual Arts; Accessed September 5, 2010
  4. Press, Joy. "The Further Adventures of Artbabe" Retrieved on 05-09-07
  5. "La Peridida by Jessica Abel". Powell's City of Books. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
  6. Ruiz, Gina (April 10, 2007). "Graphic Novel Review: La Perdida by Jessica Abel". Blog Critics. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
  7. Bello, Grace (February 14, 2012). "Jessica Abel and Matt Madden: Back to Being Comics Artists". Accessed February 24, 2012.
  8. "Jessica Abel - Huge news: I've accepted a position as... | Facebook". Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  9. "PAFA Announces Jessica Abel as Illustration Program Chair | PAFA - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts". Retrieved 2016-06-12.
  10. "Feminism, radiomagi och sci-fi". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2016-06-12.

External links

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