Welcome to the world of Nick Maandag in “The Follies of Richard Wadsworth”

The Follies of Richard Wadsworth

Nick Maandag, 152 pgs, Drawn and Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $24.95

Ribald humour, surreal levels of despair, and a dedication to skewering sacred cows — welcome to the world of Nick Maandag.

This first book by Toronto-based Maandag is a complete, riotous success. As with his previous work, published in single edition comics, we are introduced to random guys struggling to fit in and get (or not get) laid. These are your classic, clueless doofus types, and we have no business caring about them. But we do. We love these guys!

Take the main character, Wadsworth, from the title story, “The Follies of.” Wadsworth, a Chester Brown doppelgänger, is a failing philosopher clinging to one last tenuous academic appointment. He’s also a socially awkward freak who shows up at a student’s house party and keeps confusing his boss, the dean, with the department’s janitor. He does everything wrong, including a gross sexual encounter with one of his students, but somehow remains nearly likeable. That’s a testament to Maandag’s capacity as a story-teller. Somehow, through it all, we still feel for this guy and want him to, if not exactly succeed, at least go down fighting.

Heartfelt cruelty, the trademark of a true artist — and just wait until you see what happens to the hypocritical monk and the clueless fireman!