Sean Knickerbocker is a cartoonist, illustrator, and printer. He graduated from the Center For Cartoon Studies in 2012. His comics have appeared in Ecotone, Irene, and the Nib among other publications. He is a native of West Valley, New York and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Rust Belt is a black-and-white graphic novel about the working poor, the unemployed, the underemployed, and the left behind of post-industrial cities and towns. Here are the people struggling to get by on low-paying service jobs if they can find a job at all, and coping with the toll of the grind in various ways, not all of them healthy. Raw, real, and unforgettable, Rust Belt is a sobering read, highly recommended.

– Midwest Book Review

It’s obvious Knickerbocker knows his subject matter well, and he’s skillful in the way he captures not only the experience of his central characters but the way they affect people around them. It’s a community that Knickerbocker is concerned with in Rust Belt and there is some interconnectedness with characters’ appearances in more than one story, but he’s also delving into the way personal experience can obscure a view of wider issues and obstruct the ability to create solutions for yourself. And it’s all rendered in a way that is far from depressing — it’s relatability is reassuring and its tone is even friendly, though moments can certainly jolt you in their honesty and stab you with your own recognition of them.

– The Beat

Taken in total, Knickerbocker paints a grim picture in Rust Belt, to be sure–but also an accurate one. And it amounts to probably the most savage and thorough-going critique of capitalism comics have seen in quite some time… …If the whole thing sounds too heavy for you, then fair enough, it probably is–and far be it from me to shame you if your reading tastes are primarily escapist in nature. But if hard (yet hardly heartless) looks at the world as it is, rather than as we wish it to be, are within your aesthetic wheelhouse, then Rust Belt will immediately leap to the forefront as one of the most vital, most accomplished, most unforgettable, and most absolutely necessary comics you’ll read this year
–perhaps even in the last several.

– Your Chicken Enemy

Overall, Rust Belt is a novel about humans just trying to survive in the modern world. None of these characters can be called “privileged” in any meaningful sense, as they have to transcend broken homes, poverty, addictions, and cynical exploitation in order to live decent lives. The fact that they fail is not a black mark against them, but rather a commentary on the inherent tragedy of life. Rust Belt is an undeniably sobering graphic novel that is as much journalism and sociology as it is fiction.

– New York Journal of Books

Rust Belt, as a collection, shows readers a part of America that many won’t necessarily want to see. I imagine the collection will be an upsetting read for some, much like Saint Cole was four years ago. The tragedy of Rust Belt is in its familiarity, and the understanding that, as Knickerbocker suggests, a lot of people are one good kick away from falling into the pit. These characters are all right on the edge. Knickerbocker applies the foot, and makes his reader watch them fall.

– Sequential State

Sean Knickerbocker’s stories are bleak. Characters in his comics become trapped with people they’d rather not know in places they’d rather not be, weighed down with memories they’d just as soon throw in a burn pit. So, in all this darkness, what sticks out about his illustrations is just how unassuming they are… …It’s grim yet graceful, apocalyptic yet nostalgic, dark yet deadpan.

– Fear No Lit

We’ve heard a lot this year about comics that capture the current MAGA-poisoned “cultural moment,” but for my money none succeeded so well as the fourth issue of Knickerbocker’s ongoing “solo anthology” series, as he casts his increasingly-sharp observational eye on the dual personalities of a guy who’s an average enough husband at home, and a rising right-wing social media “star” in his spare time. You know the people in this comic — and while that’s a damn depressing thing to consider, it makes for utterly compelling reading.

– Four Color Apocalypse 2018 Year In Review : Top Ten Single Issues

Rust Belt tells the story of David, a toe-haired fella who struggles with the bottle.
Um, that’s kind of it. And it works. How it works is by not adding any theatre to the
world of addiction. Everything about this comic is fairly ordinary and in this sense, it’s the
ideal presentation of an entirely unglamorous affliction… … It comes off
as highly relatable for anybody who’s ever had to grind through something and not crest on
any sense of sensationalism–good, bad or otherwise.

– Broken Pencil

Knickerbocker smartly writes stories about frustrated people in dead-end situations in Midwestern small towns. Most have been about younger people looking to leave town and improve their situations. This issue, “Internet Persona”, is an incisive look into the life of a small-town, alt-right type Trump supporter and his burgeoning internet fame. The thing that really stands out about this issue is the way that Knickerbocker resists turning the vlogger, Jason, into a caricature without making him a sympathetic character… …Knickerbocker has a wonderfully ratty line, and his design for Jason–a pickle nose, patchy stubble, and squinty eyes–is absolutely spot-on. The story is fascinating because what it’s really about the way that internet provocateurs take advantage of gullible dupes to further their own agendas (read: money and fame)… …Knickerbocker demonstrates just how easily a frustrated person can get swept up into this kind of rhetoric, no matter how extreme it might become.

– High-Low



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