Nick Drnaso: ‘Something about comics attracts people who have anxiety’

The literary cartoonist talks about taking graphic novels mainstream, his feelings of imposter syndrome, and processing his darkest childhood memories in his latest book

Nick Drnaso finds himself in a disconcerting position. His hobby has become his job. He is still struggling to get used to a world in which it makes more financial sense for him to sit at his drawing board from the moment he wakes up until 2am. He feels, he admits when he speaks to me from his home studio in Chicago, like an “impostor”. Until 2016 he was working behind a pressing machine in a factory that made tin badges. “You would kind of assemble the pieces. It just felt like cartooning,” he says, “problem solving and repetitive motion and working delicately with your hands. So I loved it.”

The mundanity of ordinary work, and its way of anchoring people in their lives, is a theme that runs through his new book, Acting Class. As well as the button badges, Drnaso, 33, has done nine-to-fives as a janitor, and painting slogans on to dolls at “a weird ornament company” – both jobs that are faithfully (and wanly) reproduced on the page.

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