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Off the Cuff by Mark Huebner  

A hilarious wordless cautionary tale about a resourceful jobseeker with a golden opportunity who discovers that quick fixes can have long-lasting consequences.


Niko doesn’t just need a job. He needs this job. Fresh out of school and living with his parents, two younger siblings, and a few cats in suburbia, he dreams of life in the city ... if only he can land a coveted position at an illustrious downtown firm. But a dodgy breakfast burrito on the morning of his interview triggers a chain of calamities that compromise the flawless impression he’d hoped to achieve. As the missteps mount, the mess spreads, and panic sets in, Niko must do some quick, off-the-cuff thinking if he has any chance of salvaging the interview and landing the job of a lifetime.

Mark Huebner flexes his comedic muscles in this wordless graphic novel that explores the competitive job market many young people face—and the unexpected lengths to which they’ll go to launch a career.

Excerpt from book

Preface by Warren Clements

This is a story without words. But is it? There are words throughout—in the frantic conversations as our hero prepares for his interview, in the clatter of discussions that must surely be going on as he walks toward his moment of reckoning, and, of course, in the climactic encounter.

But you have to imagine the words, and it is Mark Huebner’s skill not only as a draughtsman/engraver but as a storyboard artist and storyteller that lets the reader fill in the missing bits. Whereas his wordless novel Let Go was a dramatic evocation of a fellow losing his job and recalling how he got to that point, here Mark is exercising his comic muscles. You can sense the hero’s panic as one thing after another goes wrong—small missteps, but anyone who has splashed coffee on their shirt before an important meeting or torn something vital at precisely the wrong time will wince, sympathize and, since it is happening to our hero and not to them, laugh.

The ultimate laugh comes with the payoff at the end, which of course I would not dream of revealing here. But when you get to the interview, note the inventive way in which words that are truly important are conveyed with a speech balloon that substitutes a drawing for the missing sentence(s). And then note the way in which that drawing morphs into a different one a page or two later. (Obscure enough for you? It won’t be.)

Mark has to juggle several balls in the air—the forward motion of the story, the need to make sure the reader grasps what is going on, and the inclusion of minor details that flesh out the panel or increase the reader’s amusement. And did I mention he doesn’t use words? Talk about a tightrope walk.

The reader has to play a part in this: to pay attention, to adapt to this form of storytelling. It is a wonderful art, practiced over the past century by such masters of the form as Lynd Ward, Frans Masereel, Milt Gross (now there was a comic artist), Laurence Hyde and George A. Walker (those last two, like Mark, working in Canada), but it makes its demands. Books of this type are not to be skimmed through; every picture tells you one important thing and possibly many other things. Happily, if you miss a connection you can go back and revisit the drawing that leads into it. Books are handy that way. And since Mark is a nifty artist, the journey is a pleasure.

[Continued in Off the Cuff]


Credit: Matthew Plexman Photography

Mark Huebner is a Canadian advertising copywriter and commercial illustrator. After studying film directing and screenwriting at New York University, Oral Roberts University, and University of Winnipeg, Mark started his career in film production before discovering that copywriting provided a broader channel for his compelling narratives. He is the author of Sports Bloopers: All-Star Flubs and Fumbles (Firefly Books, 2003), a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, as well as Let Go, his first published wordless novel (Porcupine’s Quill, 2021). He lives in Toronto.

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.

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ISBN-13: 9780889844766

Publication Date: 2024-02-28

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 176

Price: $24.95