Glenn Head on Chartwell Manor and Being a Voice for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Chartwell Manor by Glenn Head

EDITOR’S NOTE: The New York Post headline says it all, Sex Abuse Rituals at NJ Boarding School Exposed — in Cartoons by Survivor. The newspaper does an admirable job of describing the nuances of graphic novels and Glenn Head’s new book, Chartwell Manor. And The New York Post has no qualms about laying it out as it is: “Don’t let that whimsical cover art throw you: Head’s unflinching book recounts his two years at the now-defunct Mendham, NJ, boarding school run by headmaster “Sir” Terence Michael Lynch — a serial sexual abuser who manipulated young boys into “cuddling sessions” after fondling and beating their nude bodies.” The New York Post also provides an outstanding public service by underscoring the fact that survivors of Chartwell Manor still have time to file a suit against the Chartwell administration of aiding and abetting Lynch, and others, in the abuse of children. Time is running out for Chartwell Manor victims to join those who’ve already filed claims against surviving Chartwell administrators accused of letting Lynch — and other accused faculty — cultivate a culture of abuse. The deadline to file is November 30, 2021. Contact Jeff Anderson & Advocates law firm today.

I’ve been writing about comics and creating comics for many years now–and loving it. In the very near future, I hope to have some news about a book of my own. For now, I want to keep my nose to the grindstone and this is one very special reason to do so. This is an interview with master cartoonist Glenn Head. For those of you familiar with comix, especially those chock full of underground comix DNA as I just talked about in my last post, then this will be a welcome treat. Maybe you’ve gotten a chance to check out Head’s new book, Chartwell Manor, about the abuse that Head experienced at the boarding school, but just as important, the aftermath. Well, this interview helps to put things into further context from the standpoint of Glenn’s previous graphic novel, Chicago, as well as his career as a whole.

CHARTWELL MANOR sample page: Parental Denial

The above sample was our starting off point for discussion. I wanted to dig deeper into the things that are left unsaid in comics, the ways that comics can evoke an eerie quality, depict a certain vibe or emotion. Two characters are in conversations but are they speaking to each other or directly past each other? Is it possible they are living two completely separate realities? Maybe they said something to each other that we somehow missed? What we know for sure is there is some major disconnection going on and we’re intrigued to see what happens next.

CHARTWELL MANOR: Sex

The three big glorious milestones of youth: Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Whatever your situation, you will have confronted this one way or another. For the sample I label as “Sex,” we initially see Glen, our main character in Chartwell Manor, lost amid the lurid peep show haunts of some seedy part of NYC. But there’s more to it than first meets the eye. Head has peppered his tableaux with various symbolic icons, like a copy of Charles Bukowski‘s 1975 novel, Factotum, a masterfully vivid evocation of slow-paced, low-life urbanity and alcoholism. This symbolized for Head a moment of truth. Was he going to continue to revel in a Bukowski-like decadent lifestyle–or was he going to seek out something better?

CHARTWELL MANOR: Drugs

For the “Drugs” sample, again, there’s more than might first meet the eye. Yes, it’s definitely psychedelic. But, beyond the drug reference, it symbolizes a pursuit of a free-spirited happiness, something that had been violated and left uneven from Glen’s experience at Chartwell Manor.

CHARTWELL MANOR: Rock ‘n’ Roll

For the “Rock n Roll” sample, this is a recurring motif in the book, The Rolling Stones 1969 album, Through the Past Darkly. It was an album that Glenn got just before he became a student at the notorious boarding school. It was the first time Glenn had heard the album’s hit song, “Jumping Jack Flash.” All too aware of the school’s reputation for unbridled corporal punishment, the lyrics to the song were certainly not lost on young Glenn: “I was ruled with a strap right across my back.”

Chartwell Manor is published by Fantagraphics. Visit Glenn Head here.

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Filed under Comics, Comix, Fantagraphics, Glenn Head, Interviews

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