Saturday, May 5th, 2012 | No Comments

By This Shall You Know Him

Ever get the feeling that your life, the universe, and everything are just a big cosmic snafu? That all the mesmerizing complexity of creation doesn’t make any more sense as you see the bigger picture?

Anyone who’s ever pondered the meaning of existence through philosophy, religion, evolutionary theory, astrophysics, or reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation will definitely enjoy By This Shall You Know Him.

Written and drawn by the crazy-talented artist Jesse Jacobs, the story follows the birth of life, humanity, and good and evil, as the unintended side effects of a game of show and tell between squabbling, god-like celestial beings.

Much like his previous book Even The Giants, the story and art do double duty, at once profound, meditative, but also gross and funny.

Cleverly structured and beautifully rendered in 2-tone blue and purple, the larger book format really brings out the trippy detail in Jesse Jacobs’ artwork.

More about By This Shall You Know Him on superstar Toronto publisher Koyama Press’s website!

Jesse Jacobs Contest

Congratulations to @petehamilton – winner of an autographed copy of By This Shall You Known Him!

Jesse Jacobs Interview

Q. Everything about this book is gargantuan! The story touches on everything from the nature of the cosmos, the origins of life and humanity, to the struggle between good and evil… Seems like you had a lot on your mind when you were writing this! You start the book with the Don Delillo quote “The spectacle of the unmattered atom.” What inspired this story?

I draw a lot of weird doodles on scraps of paper and in sketchbooks and I wanted to create a story that allowed me to freely showcase all of the random things that I most enjoy drawing. The idea of featuring characters that can conjure an infinite number of shapes and patterns and creatures meant that I could work pretty much anything I wanted to draw into the project. Initially I was intending to make more of an art book, with separate stand-alone drawings, but as the pages evolved I ended up working a lot of the random stuff together into a cohesive narrative. This comic is a collection of my drawings over the last year couched in a familiar creation-story.

My sketchbooks are full of a lot of my own writing along with stuff I hear on the radio, in podcasts, or read in books. When I was looking though it for ideas I saw that line about the unmattered atoms and drew it into the opening page. After a google search I saw I must have written it in there when I was reading Underworld, which I enjoyed all right but isn’t one of my top books or anything. I just think that line works really well with the overall sprawl of the story and imagery- just a bunch of weird stuff floating around.

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

Q. Lots of great creatures in this book! What are the 2-legged dog-like beasts called? Were they modelled after your dog?

Thanks. I really tried to balance the geometric shapes with looser more organic characters. Those dog guys were coming out a lot in my drawings. Where they came from and what they’re called I’m not exactly certain. I guess they’re just prehistoric dogs. I wish my dog had such strong hind legs as those guys. I did draw my dog in the comic but she’s really small and you wouldn’t know her to see her among all the other animals. I probably referenced Desmond when drawing those doggy creatures at some point, I’m sure.

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

Q. The tone of the title is fairly Judeo-Christian, but really the whole thing feels kind of Greco-Roman (where humans are the playthings of a rather dysfunctional family of very flawed celestial beings). Was it tricky blending the scienc-y perspective with the philosophical side of the story?

I won’t say some parts were not difficult, but the making of this comic was very enjoyable. Probably due to the lack of restrictions I had given myself. If a certain scene was becoming boring to draw, I would just move onto something else and return to it later. Like the blending of the animal and nature drawings with the geometric shapes and patterns, the story itself is kind of an assortment of a few approaches. The celestial beings are so different from the early humans that it was almost like drawing two different stories. Generally I had a lot of fun drawing all the stuff. I had the loose idea for the story, and from there the drawings guided much of it.

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

Q. 88 pages is huge! How long was the whole process of making this book end to end? (We feel like we saw some of the art for this a year ago at the last TCAF). Will you be taking a vacation, or are you already onto your next endeavour?

I started drawing it a little over a year ago, and you did see that screen print I did last year, featuring that weird wormy character encased in the chamber. That was one of the first images I made for the comic, and that thing pops up throughout the book. That character takes longer to draw than any other, and that says a lot because most of them took a long time. All the patterns on the beings are hand drawn, which was time-consuming but satisfying to do. I picture those blue patterns flowing and moving on their “skin”, kind of like Rorschach’s mask. So I guess it took me about a year to complete, though I had huge breaks where I did other stuff as well. There were times when the narrative kind of slid away and I edited a lot of pages out of the book that afterwards seemed unnecessary. Anne Koyama was a big asset in helping with the editing.

I’ve been thinking about and sketching another comic that is still in its early stages. I’ve also got a few other small projects on the go. It’s gardening season so we’re getting into that now. It’s always easier to be productive in the winter, I find. Koyama is bringing me to CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo) next month and I’m looking forward to that.

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

Q. The book will be launching this weekend at TCAF! What are you most looking forward to at this year’s event? What other Jesse Jacobs goodies can we snag at your table?

I’m really excited that Gabriella Giandelli will be in attendance, and I plan on catching her retrospective exhibit. I love her comics so much.

I wish I could say I had a bunch of stuff to sell, but this year I’m really just focusing on the book. I’m actually in the middle of doing some more skateboards with Homegrown, with imagery loosely based from By This Shall You Know Him. They will be finished for CAKE, and I’ll make sure to hang onto a print for you guys.

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

Page from By This You Shall Know HHim by Jesse Jacobs

S&TM: Huge, huge thanks to Jesse Jacobs for taking the time to do this on the eve of TCAF!

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