Adrian Tomine was born May 31, 1974 in Sacramento, California. His parents divorced when he was two years old. His father is Dr. Chris Tomine, Ph.D. and Professor Emeritus Environmental Engineering at California State University Sacramento’s Department of Civil Engineering. His mother is Dr. Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. and Professor Emeritus at California State University Sacramento’s School of Education. Tomine is fourth-generation Japanese American, and both of his parents spent part of their childhoods in Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during World War II.. He also has a brother, Dylan, who is eight years his senior.
After his parents divorced, Tomine moved frequently, accompanying his mother to Fresno, Oregon, Germany, and Belgium, while spending summers with his father in Sacramento. He attended high school at Rio Americano in Sacramento, where he started writing, drawing and self-publishing his comic Optic Nerve.
He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Sarah Brennan, a longtime New Yorker. On October 31, 2009, Tomine and Brennan welcomed their first child, Nora Emiko Tomine. As a young child, Tomine enjoyed Spider-Man and Indiana Jones comics. In an interview, Tomine said that “something about the medium just transfixed me at an early age” and that his influences include Jaime Hernandez and Daniel Clowes. He is also a fan of contemporary Chris Ware.
Adrian Tomine had something of a head start working in comics. At 16, when he was still in high school in Sacramento, Tomine started writing and drawing a combination of fictional and autobiographical stories, self-publishing them in his mini-comic Optic Nerve, which he sold through local stores and mail order. At 17, he was hired to produce a monthly comic strip for the Tower Records store magazine Pulse!
In 1994, at age 20, Tomine began producing Optic Nerve as a regular comic book series for Drawn & Quarterly . He won a Harvey Award for “Best New Talent” the following year. In 1995 his early mini-comics were collected in book form in the perennial fan favorite 32 Stories. In 1997, D+Q published Sleepwalk and Other Stories. Comprised of the first four D+Q issues of Optic Nerve, it remains a best-seller for the company.
In the midst of all this, Tomine continued to produce new issues of Optic Nerve, receive a degree in English Literature from the University of California at Berkeley, and even embark on a successful career in commercial illustration. Thanks to his cool, clean, and very distinctive style, Tomine quickly found himself in high demand and his work has graced numerous CD and album covers as well as magazines like The New Yorker, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Time.
In 2002 Tomine and Drawn & Quarterly published the second Optic Nerve collection Summer Blonde, including issues #5-8. The story “Bomb Scare” from that collection was selected by Dave Eggers for the 2002 anthology The Best American Nonrequired Reading (Houghton Mifflin). Summer Blonde has won wide critical notice from publications such as The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, The San Francisco Chronicle, and in a rave review by Nick Hornby in The New York Times Book Review.
In 2004, D+Q collected the complete run of strips that was originally published in Pulse Magazine, along with comics originally published in Details and a host of other magazines from the past decade, in Scrapbook. A large section of Scrapbook is dedicated to Tomine’s extensive illustration and design work, featuring his best material over the years from virtually every major publication in America including the New Yorker, Details, Esquire, and the late JFK Jr.-edited George. Tomine’s art has also graced popular album covers and posters for bands such as The Eels and Weezer and it’s all included in this beautifully packaged book.
From 2004 to 2007, Tomine completed his most lengthy story arc thus far, Shortcomings, originally serialized in Optic Nerve issues #9-11, excerpted in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #13, and published as a graphic novel in Fall 2007. The racially-charged, volatile dialogues delineated in Shortcomings are unlike anything in Tomine’s previous work or, for that matter, comics in general.
Adrian Tomine’s art is in precision. From the clean lines that create his work to the dialogue that speaks all too real to us. Real and precise in the sense that people in the real world don’t selectively choose their words but sometimes let the complete and painful truth slip out. This is the space where Adrian works. Painful truths and realities that find their way the surface without us expecting them. Often times, we jump into the middle of these characters’ lives and learn about them in the most minimalist of ways. A facial expression here or an off comment there. As the reader becomes enveloped in the story, Adrian ends it with the character at an emotional fork. Like the characters, we are left with our emotions at an odd place, like the point where an argument begins to subside. We start to understand what was really happening but still relish in the moment of it.