Episode 439 – Glenn Head

Virtual Memories Show 439:
Glenn Head

“My whole interest in comics and autobiography is to show the dirt that’s under everyone’s fingernails, to capture that and not look away from it.”

With his new graphic memoir, Chartwell Manor (Fantagraphics), cartoonist Glenn Head returns to the scene of the crime: the boarding school where he and his fellow students were sexually and emotionally abused in the 1970s. We talk about why the toughest challenges of the book were artistic and not emotional, why he was just as unsparing in depicting himself as an adult, why the trauma of his time at Chartwell doesn’t provide him a get-out-of-jail-free card, and why it wasn’t exactly cathartic but was definitely empowering to draw and tell this story. We also get into why memoir is like striptease, the influence of the Patrick Melrose novels on this book, Glenn’s lifelong debt to the great Underground Comix artists, his drive for personal exposure, why his wife is his best editor (and only reader), the next book he’s working on, and more. Give it a listen! And go read Chartwell Manor!

(Also, go listen to my 2016 podcast with Glenn, where we talked about his previous memoir, Chicago!)

“I’m not the hero of this book. I wanted to bury and forget the scandal of what happened, but the corpse seemed to reanimate itself every so often.”

“I owe everything to the underground cartoonists, because they showed you what it means to be willing to dig around and see what’s inside and hold it up to the light.”


“One of the best things about any kind of recovery situation is to really find that you’re not alone.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Born and raised in Madison, NJ, Glenn Head fell in love with underground comics while attending boarding school and has been involved with them ever since. He is a Harvey- and Eisner-nominated editor of two comix anthologies, Snake Eyes (co-edited with Kaz), and Hotwire. His solo work includes Avenue D and his graphic memoir Chicago, both published by Fantagraphics. His new book is Chartwell Manor.

Follow Glenn on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Glenn by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

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