Robert Sergel was born in Boston, MA in 1982. He has a degree in Photo & Imaging from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In the mid-2000’s he was a member of the web comic collective TRANSPLANT. He now draws the Ignatz-nominated comic series ESCHEW, a portion of which was featured in the 2011 Best American Comics anthology. He currently lives in Cambridge, MA.
IN THE EMPORIUM
Rob’s comics can be found in the Secret Acres Emporium here.
Sergel’s visuals fall in the same school as Nick Drnaso and Chris Ware (simple lines, marginal facial detail), but he shies away from positioning his characters to directly face the reader, a device from talking-head-style documentaries. Instead, his framing concentrates on creative cropping: a close-up of a hand reaching out from water to suggest drowning, a shot of a coaxial cable connected to convey anticipation, a shoelace being stepped on so the protagonist notices his shoes are untied. Often, the narrative revolves around a single character, so this focus on details shows where Sergel’s attention is going, a method of communicating the subjectivity of experience without spelling it out. Form serves function beautifully.
– Paste Magazine, The 25 Best Comics of 2016 (So Far)
Robert Sergel’s tableau-like panels and high contrast, precise lines seem perfectly civilized on the surface, while ruthlessly recording the moments of discomfort, humiliation, disquiet, and awkwardness endemic to the human condition. By turns funny, thoughtful, poignant, and humane, his comics are a real delight to the eye, too.
– Rob Kirby, Rob’s 6th Annual Top 20 Comics List: The 2016 Edition
The naturalistic but deadpan drawings combined with the crisp and thin nature of Sergel’s line made for a “cool” reading experience in the McLuhan sense. The drawings are restrained in every way, especially emotionally, as Sergel forces the reader to pay close attention to what is being said and done in order to pick up cues as to what’s really going on. It’s a smart decision, because the strips in this book are actually packed with emotional trauma, anger, and bitter resentment.
It’s also frequently quite funny, like the strip where a guy eats lobster’s brains and says “I know things”. Another example is “The Talk,” where the book’s protagonist (as a kid) asks his father about sex. His father, watching a baseball game, doesn’t even bother looking away from it as he says “It’s when a man puts his penis into a woman’s vagina.” That’s followed by the boy asking his dad to explain the infield fly rule.
– Rob Clough, High-Low
The influence of films, newspapers, music, and social scenes take a strong position in Sergel’s work giving a sense of life lived and the detached moments that stay with us as a kind of narrative memory of ourselves. Sergel’s clear lines and frequent use of solid, dark backgrounds make for a refreshing read and also have an unassuming quality that draws the reader in to participate in the storytelling. Thematically, he also leaves unusual moments of contemplation in the character’s life open to interpretation, leaving the door open for big concepts to creep in.
– Hannah Means-Shannon, The Beat
“Eschew” means “to avoid,” but don’t you dare do that to Robert Sergel’s ESCHEW #2. This black-and-white anthology goes for the absurd, more often than not, starting with “Flying Squirrel,” in which a squirrel indeed flies, but unwittingly so. It’s wordless, save for one laugh-aloud line at the end. Two pages are devoted to people’s faces, under the heading “Sex Offenders Who Live Near Me.” In other pieces, the author recalls the history of “My Famous Grey Sweatshirt” and remembers a Super Nintendo-laden incident with a friend that ended with … well, you just have to see it. And you’re an asshole if you laugh. Like I did.
– Rod Lott, Bookgasm
– Rob Clough, High Low
I keep coming back to Sergel’s panel arrangements, those carefully crafted static images that meter out his stories with the precision of a metronome. The beauty of Sergel’s work lies in its careful use of layout and timing; in its formalisation of the everyday, transforming the mundane into a series of taught parallel lines and carefully crafted geometric forms…
It’s always a pleasure to see comics executed with this level of care and attention, and with Eschew Sergel has provided us with yet another fine example of their ability to communicate deep and meaningful experiences.
– Matt Dick, Exquisite Things
Robert Sergel’s comics always amaze me. For work that’s clearly so photo-referential, there’s still something in the form of the art that tricks my mind into thinking maybe it’s NOT photo-referential. The people and landscapes and interiors all look so real and well-proportioned, yet alive, as though there is a perfect cartoony version of our normal world out there and Sergel’s comics are more like a snapshot of that world than they are a reflection of ours. Perhaps this comes as a result of referencing a complete shot, instead of merely referencing a person in a shot, but whatever the method, I find the results truly lovely and unique.
– Sarah Morean, The Daily Crosshatch
I don’t know why this series and Robert Sergel aren’t catching more buzz! Or maybe they are and I am just not jacked in (possible but unlikely, as I have my finger on the pulse of today’s youth). Anyway, Eschew offers nice tidy art, nice dry humor, and nice dreary atmosphere. In return, I offer my full endorsement, whether or not that means anything to you.
– Minty Lewis, author of PS Comics
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