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Off Season

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  500 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Rage. Depression. Divorce. Politics. Love. A visceral story that you can see, taste, and feel.

How could this happen? The question of 2016 becomes deeply personal in James Sturm’s riveting graphic novel Off Season, which charts one couple’s divisive separation during Bernie Sanders’s loss to Hillary Clinton, Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, and the disorienting months that f
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published February 5th 2019 by Drawn and Quarterly
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  500 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Sam Quixote
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Mark is a contractor, father of two and estranged from his wife. In Off Season, we follow the trials and tribulations of being a father and the challenges of a working class man’s life in contemporary America. It’s set against the backdrop of the 2016 election though that’s incidental as it hasn’t got anything to do with anything. Ditto the fact that everyone’s drawn with animal heads.

Uh huh…? I really don’t know what the point of James Sturm’s latest comic was. I believe that it’s an accurate
Dave Schaafsma
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Off Season is a beautifully anguished story told with anthropomorphic animals about a man and woman with two kids who are separated, created by great comics teacher (who began the Center for Cartoon Studies) and artist in the heart of his career, and this is his most important and most personal/emotional work so far. Sturm is known for doing work for kids, works on historical figures and sports, and this is the first story like this from him that I have read.

The story gives us background on how
Rod Brown
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
The 2016 election of Donald Trump casts a pall over a marriage disintegrating under the weight of anger and depression. This oddly compelling domestic drama unfolds quickly with just two panels per page but captures the zeitgeist quite well. And despite the characters' dog heads, their humanity is quite evident.

Trigger warning: MAGA hat.
Chihoe Ho
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I wanted to hate Off Season off the bat as I thought that the backdrop of the 2016 US Elections was gimmicky and coloured commentary, but as the story went on, it actually felt like the right use and wasn't as big a focus as the beginning indicated.

Self-awareness ("using animals as human stand-ins is as old as storytelling" when the characters are all anthropomorphic), nuggets of wisdom ("maybe two people liking something for different reasons is only a fight that hasn't happened yet" in the con
Elizabeth A
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphix, 2020
Our beginnings don't know our endings, but our endings know our beginnings. I'm paraphrasing Don Winslow, and it's a line that has stuck with me since I read it.

This graphic novel is about the dissolution of a marriage. The story unfolds via episodic chapters, where we learn about the couple, their kids, their lives, and slowly understand some of what created their estrangement. Anthropomorphic animals stand in for the humans, and I really liked the art, and color palette used - the moodiness o
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This graphic novel shows a family of four (they are drawn as dogs but otherwise sure seem very human-like.) Lisa, the wife and mom, has moved out. After the election she has been shaken to the core and is rethinking a lot of things including her marriage. The story is told from the POV of the husband/dad. He works as a carpenter for a jerk who lies about work and paying him on time, his kids Suzie and Jeremy act out, and Lisa is alternately angry, withholding, and there are moments of tenderness ...more
Jul 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Sparse, dreary, and terrible.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Off Season, Mark narrates his daily struggles with his two kids, his soon-to-be-ex-wife Lisa, his somewhat dysfunctional family, and his irresponsible/uncaring boss against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential elections. In seemingly very little space, and stark, gray-toned panels, Mark's whole life unravels as he examines his anger, his failures, and the injustices others have inflicted on him. He recognizes that his anger and resentment are not just forgotten, but brewing inside as he goes ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Really enjoyed the story-telling and the drawings but was dissatisfied with the overall lack of story or ending. It had like a peak point or crux where there was an emotional high and I was very engaged with what was happening and all the characters, but seemed to fall off at the end, almost like it wasn't finished, or..I understand that this story is one that's still being told and is ongoing given that this horrible man is still president, but it didn't make for a fully satisfying read sadly. ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
This review can also be found on my blog:

Off Season is a book of its time, detailing the inner life of a working-class man with a crumbling marriage during the election season that put Trump in the White House. Despite the characters being anthropomorphic, Mark and his concerns were so very human.

Mark and his wife are separated, with Mark struggling as a building contractor, as his main client can’t or won’t pay him. He is barely covering the bills, compa
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it

“Maybe two people liking something for different reasons is only a fight that hasn’t happened yet.”

Strangely enough this happens to be the second graphic novel of 2019 that I have come across within the last 24 hours which has beasts as people. It's a curious enough technique and when done right it can be a provocative way of allowing us to see otherwise mundane people and settings in a new light.

With subjects of depression, anxiety, divorce and Trump this is certainly no rib tickler of a read
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Adults.
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
This is an excellent graphic novel - that mostly occurs within the psyche of the protagonist - the narrator, who is trying to cope with a precarious existence juggling on the fly catch as catch can jobs - practically odd jobs, although he is a skilled contractor, with split child care responsibilities with his ex wife. He is frustrated with a range of problems in his seemingly luckless life although he does catch a few breaks (for example, he, his kids and his car survive sliding off into a ditc ...more
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story is told in frames that are split between the protagonist’s thoughts on the top and the story below. He reflects on the action or discusses memories or narrates along. It was an interesting way of deepening the experience of the storytelling. Oh… did I mention the character’s are drawn as dogs? Yeah. I’m doing some thinking about that. Asking myself, why?

My heart was beating pretty hard while reading Off Season. Not because of the action on the page, but because of the tension built bet
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Personal and political, this graphic novel explores the implications of the Hilary-Bernie divide through a divorce. It's an intimate and sometimes painful look at work and divorce and depression and family. It feels very timely and relevant to many American experiences today. ...more
Matthew Noe
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Melancholy and rage, in panel form.

Dakota Morgan
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Off Season is the kind of book you finish reading and exhale hard: "Ooooof"

Mark's marriage is falling apart, his contractor boss isn't paying him, and his two young kids are a lot to handle. In cold, black-and-white panels, James Sturm illustrates a year in Mark's life, from one downer moment to the next. It's artfully done and never less than fascinating, but it does not leave you with a good feeling. In fact, it's safe to say that Off Season is going to leave you with a bad feeling.

There's so
Sara Woodbury
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book deserves wider attention, including a cover image on this social networking site and more copies in libraries. Strum’s drawings capture the emotions of the narrator in his roles of father, estranged husband, employee, and son during and after the 2016 presidential election outcome. Billed as a love story of our times, it offers a glimpse into the mind and life of a man who seems to question his own political leanings after his boss cheats him just as he is embarking on single parenthoo ...more
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Riveting and heartbreaking story about a man struggling through a rough patch in his life: his boss owes him thousands of dollars, he is separated from his wife, and his elderly mother is sick.
Jul 03, 2019 added it
Shelves: graphic-novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Schlatter
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
Three observations:

1) My previous exposure to James Sturm has been through his fiction comics with a historical setting (e.g., early twentieth century Europe in Market Day or nineteenth century America in Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight), so seeing a graphic novel set in 2016 middle America was a bit of a switch. So also was his use of anthropomorphic characters (ala Maus). It's effective cartooning, with an unchanging grid of two panels per page, but not quite what I was expecting.

2) I saw a lo
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Off Season is about blue collar troubles in an economy that offers blue collar workers far less security than it once did (gigs and contracting as opposed to secure and/or unionized employment, as well as the breezy carelessness of the upper class that utilizes said workers) and a political climate that does not seem keenly interested in ameliorating those troubles. Political anxieties compound far more personal anxieties; this is the story of how we all, in our own lives, our own families, find ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
James Sturm does a lot right in Off Season. The primary thrust of the story follows Mark, a carpenter, as he copes with his impending divorce from Lisa and figures out how to handle their two kids on his end of their shared custody. The emotional beats, particularly the way small (and one very large) frustrations pile up, are handled with real sensitivity, and Sturm imbues the characters with plenty of emotive heft. Off Season does have a couple bits that didn't entirely work for me - the anthro ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was an unsettling story, and it sort of gave me insight into the "Bernie Bros" who didn't get over the 2016 Democratic primary process but it didn't make me care. Maybe because of my personal political persuasion and positions, I just couldn't get beyond frustration with the protagonist Mark and the rigid self-centeredness of his perspective. I had sympathy for him to an extent, but another part of me was, like, "dude, get over your damn self -- there is more at stake to this world, to your ...more
Tom Hill
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel, 2019
"Maybe two people liking something for different reasons is only a fight that hasn't happened yet."

This is moving exploration of anger during the 2016 election, but it's not a broad, sweeping story of national events, it's a more personal story about the anger that led to Trump's victory, and the anger and helplessness people felt and still feel in its aftermath. It's a story about one family, and the election exists kind of adjacent to the main story. More than one factor led to the 2016 electi
Feb 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Published in Feb 2019, the “poor me” divorce story from the male perspective feels dated and cliche. Money troubles? Check. Family drama? Check. Nagging wife? Check. Trying to be a better dad but feeling guilty about falling short? It’s all here—and it feels like you’ve read it all before.

My biggest issue with the book is how the wife is drawn. All the characters are anthropomorphized animals, usually dogs. Lisa is noticeably the least animal-like in appearance, veering uncomfortably toward a c
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best graphic novels I have read in a long, long time! Sturm brilliantly captures the anger, frustration, confusion, and pain so many of us felt (& possibly are still feeling) following that awful night of November 8, 2016. His expressive B&W drawings act as a perfect stand-in for those dark days following that election. Call me a triggered snowflake, but I nearly lost it when Mark's father happily placed his other son's Christmas gift on his head...a "Make America Great Again" hat.

Aug 30, 2019 added it
I saw this at the library, and read the back cover, which included a mention of masculinity.

The book immediately starts with a mention of the 2016 election, and knocked me a bit back. I do think this books examines masculinity. There is some mention of class, but not as much. The main character hits all the demographic markers that it should. Part of me questions whether Sturm is the correct person to write a book like this. Is this authentic, or a person's guess of the struggles that white work
Jun 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Mark, a construction worker who wanted Bernie to win the election, struggles through day-to-day life with his newly divorced ex-wife and two children.

This is an odd graphic novel. There's no large overarching theme. There's not much story development. What there is, though, is hard to put down. This is actual life. It's not pretty, and it's not exciting, and many times it's depressing. Some times you wonder what makes the main character act that way - it's not logical. But neither is life. I'm n
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, read-2019
The split that threaten to break one's man heart is one that goes through a family, through a love relationship and through society as a whole. Life can be challenging and hard and nothing's gonna soften it but carrying on. All in all: an excellent read for grown-ups.

It's a shame we only get new work by Sturm once or twice per decade. This man is a master of the medium. Already a strong contender for best comic of 2019.
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James Sturm is the author of several award-winning graphic novels for children and adults, including James Sturm’s America, Market Day, The Golem’s Mighty Swing and Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow. He is also the founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies and the National Association for Comics Art Educators. He created Adventures in Cartooning with collaborators Alexis Frederic-Frost and Andr ...more

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