Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Anders Nilsen  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Other

Born: 1973 New Hampshire



Illinois Connection

The author studied at the School of the Art Institute before working on comics full time. Nilsen still lives in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Big Questions
ISBN: 1770460446

Drawn and Quarterly. 2011

A New York Times Notable Book of 2011, included on, Publishers Weekly, and NPR'S Best Comics lists

A haunting postmodern fable, Big Questions is the magnum opus of Anders Nilsen, one of the brightest and most talented young cartoonists working today. This beautiful minimalist story, collected here for the first time, is the culmination of ten years and more than six hundred pages of work that details the metaphysical quandaries of the occupants of an endless plain, existing somewhere between a dream and a Russian steppe. A downed plane is thought to be a bird and the unexploded bomb that came from it is mistaken for a giant egg by the group of birds whose lives the story follows. The indifferent, stranded pilot is of great interest to the birds―some doggedly seek his approval, while others do quite the opposite, leading to tensions in the group. Nilsen seamlessly moves from humor to heartbreak. His distinctive, detailed line work is paired with plentiful white space and large, often frameless panels, conveying an ineffable sense of vulnerability and openness.
Big Questions has roots in classic fables―the birds and snakes have more to say than their human counterparts, and there are hints of the hero's journey, but here the easy moral that closes most fables is left open and ambiguous. Rather than lending its world meaning, Nilsen's parable lets the questions wander where they will.

Dogs and Water
ISBN: 1897299087

Drawn and Quarterly. 2007

Dogs and Water chronicles a piece of a lonely journey, without origin or destination. A young man wandering a nameless path has only a stuffed bear as a companion, which inertly endures his desperation, anger, and musings along the way. The landscape is cold and bleak with few landmarks, and offers only precarious encounters with animals and armed men. These interactions are rife with instinct, the drive for survival, and human ethics concerning the killed and injured. He finds acceptance with a pack of dogs, though their nature is wild and their potential threat is as unsettling as the sudden presence of a massive pipeline on the horizon. In a dreamlike state, the endless land becomes a vast body of water where his boat is destroyed and his body floats in a subconscious space. On land, the road disappears and only blind circumstance remains. All is uncertain and all can be lost, but he continues on regardless.

Monologues for Calculating the Destiny of Black Holes
ISBN: 1560979801

Fantagraphics Books. 2009

An experimental collection of art, humor and philosophy. Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes takes up where the artist's first volume, Monologues for the Coming Plague, left off. Like the Coming Plague, the Density of Black Holes is a creatively experimental laboratory, comprising a collection of free flowing stream-of-consciousness gags, strips, and drawings that slowly coalesce into an unexpectedly compelling and complex narrative. The hints of story that came together in Coming Plague are extrapolated and expanded upon and grow to incorporate some of Nilsen's other outre strips from the anthology MOME, two of which are reprinted here in expanded form. The book is an audacious investigation into the rhythms of storytelling, the blurring of media, and an exercise in reconciling contrasts. It is playful, provocative and serious all at once - another tour de force by Anders Nilsen, impeccably and uniquely designed, in black and white and color.

Monologues for the Coming Plague
ISBN: 1560977183

Fantagraphics Books. 2006

An original graphic novel from one of the most exciting young voices in comics.

Monologues for the Coming Plague is the longest and most ambitious work to date by Anders Nilsen, the talented young cartoonist who has appeared in a variety of prominent comics anthologies over the past few years as well as in his own self-published comic, Big Questions, and has emerged as one of the most critically acclaimed cartoonists of his generation.In 2003 Nilsen went on a signing tour with several other artists for the book Kramer's Ergot 4. The enthusiasm of his fellow artists for drawing in their sketchbooks proved infectious, and he decided to employ the same spontaneous method for a finished book."I've always worked in sketchbooks," said Nilsen, but I had lost the habit and my way of working had become very slow and deliberate. While waiting in the airport in New York, after the tour, I found myself absorbed in a series of one panel gags about a woman feeding a bird, brainstorming captions and watching ideas follow."Taking a cue from the school of Automatic Writing, an aesthetic mode championed by Andre Breton at the beginning of the 19th century that became the foundation of the Surrealist Movement, Nilsen began work on Monologues for the Coming Plague. The process is born out of a stream of consciousness followed by limited editing and rearranging.The book ranges playfully from riffs on the gag cartoon to paranoid soliloquies of a surrealistic apocalypse, with references to contemporary politics, pop culture, and religion, plays on language, and sequential abstractions. Stories intertwine, branch off, dead end and double back. These are experimental, absurdist art comics, but the book is a page-turner, and some of it is laugh-out-loud funny. Reading it is not so much like reading comics as it is watching the artist make connections between ideas, find patterns, and set down the story as it happens. It's a tour de force, beautifully and uniquely packaged, in black and white and color, by one of the most fascinating new cartoonists of the decade.

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow
ISBN: 1894937937

Drawn and Quarterly. 2007

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow is a tender collection of letters, photographs, and drawings Anders Nilsen has compiled in memory of his fiancee, Cheryl Weaver, who died of cancer in November 2005. It is an appreciation of the time they shared together, and a heartbreaking account of the progression of her illness. Including early love notes, simple and poetic postcards, tales of their travels together in written and comics form, journal entries and drawings done in the hospital during her final days, and a beautifully rendered tear-jerking account of Weaver's memorial, Don't Go Where I Can't Follow is a deeply personal romance, and a universal reminder of our mortality and the significance of the relationships we build.

The End, Vol. 1 (Ignatz)
ISBN: 1560978147

Fantagraphics Books. 2007

by Anders Nilsen
A collection of short strips about loss, transformation, waiting, and paralysis. It is a concept album in different styles, a meditation on paying attention, an abstracted autobiography, and a travelogue, blending Nilsen's disparate styles, from the iconic simplicity of his Monologues for the Coming Plague to the finely rendered Dogs and Water and Big Questions.

Big Questions #11: Sweetness and Light
ISBN: 1897299826

Drawn & Quarterly. 2008

Acclaimed cartoonist Anders Nilsen continues his surrealist trek through the queries and conundrums of life that plague the minds of reptile, fowl, and mammal alike. In the eleventh issue of Big Questions, Nilsen's detailed yet minimalist visual style continues to grow in answer to the complexity of the concepts he addresses in his writing. It begins at the dead of night. The Idiot sleeps, the Pilot dreams. He seems to wake momentarily, sleepwalking out into the night on a curious errand. One injured bird also wakes after days of unconsciousness and leads his protector, the reluctant Louis, on a slow crawl toward the site of the explosion that wounded him. Philo shares a late night conversation and midnight snack with a crow. The dogs squabble.

Big Questions #8: Theory and Practice
ISBN: B001L288AA

Drawn and Quarterly. 2005

Back issue comic.